The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
— James 5:16 NLT
Some might think that our verse for today implies that in order to get good things from God we must search for a righteous person and convince him or her to pray for us. From this point of view, the only prayers that have great power and produce wonderful results are the prayers of someone who lives as close as possible to sinless perfection. From this point of view, people who still sin need a “holy man” or a “holy woman” to pray for us if we want good results. After all, isn’t that why James referenced the prophet Elijah as an example of a righteous person in the verses that immediately follow our verse for today?
This interpretation, however, rests upon a misunderstanding of what it means to be righteous from the biblical point of view. From the Bible’s perspective, it is not the self-righteous who are righteous in God’s eyes. Indeed, the Bible teaches that no one is righteous in that way (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10), not even Elijah. Instead, the righteous are those who have been made righteous by the blood of the Lamb. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ has been “made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Given the righteousness that we have in Christ Jesus, anyone in Christ may come before God in prayer with a clear conscience and without fear of condemnation. In point of fact, anyone in Christ may come before God with the expectation of good results. Hebrews 4:16 says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” We don’t have to grovel before God or get someone better than us to get what we need. Every Christian may come before Him with great confidence.
James referenced Elijah not as a holy man who was more righteous than anyone else, but as a mere man who was as “human as we are” (James 5:17). Elijah is not an example of holy self-righteousness, but an example of the righteousness that comes from God. It was for this reason that his prayer that it would not rain was powerful and effective.
Although it’s always good to gather in prayer with others (Matthew 18:20), you don’t have to find an Elijah to pray for you, or hold off on your prayers until you reach Elijah’s level.
Your prayers can be powerful and effective today.