“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16b
I used to think that the effectiveness of my prayers somehow depended on me. If I was living “righteously enough” or if I had been following God’s Word closely enough, then my prayers would be “powerful and effective”. I knew that God always heard my prayers, but for some reason I though that the effectiveness of my prayers was basically tied to my good works and avoiding sin. I wouldn’t have said that out loud necessarily, but it was how I prayed and what I expected to happen after I prayed.
If I had fallen into sin in some way recently, even if I was repentant and had confessed my sins and received forgiveness, I thought that somehow my prayers were not as powerful. I didn’t think that God didn’t hear me–though I know some people struggle with that thought as well–I just thought He was less inclined to answer my prayers or I was less in tune with God and therefore wouldn’t be praying what God willed.
Though I knew the truth about my own righteousness before God, that I was not the source of it in any way, somehow this thought got into my thinking about prayer. At some point, I finally connected right thinking and theology regarding my righteousness before God with the verse above.
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-24
In essence I was thinking about the effectiveness of my prayers as if I was living under the law. However, the truth is that through believing in Christ I stand perfectly righteous before God, “justified freely by His grace”. It is “apart from the law”, separate from my works and any “righteousness” I’ve tried to earn.
Through Christ, I am righteous. Therefore, I am a “righteous person” and my prayers are “powerful and effective”. I pray under and through Christ’s righteousness.
When I finally connected these truths, my prayers became much more bold. I didn’t have to feel like God wasn’t going to answer my prayers because I hadn’t been good enough or lived faithfully enough to His Word. I didn’t have to worry that God’s answer to my prayers was dependent on my own “righteousness”.
If God doesn’t answer my prayers in the way that I expect or in the timing that I want, I don’t have to wonder if it is my fault or because of my failings. Rather the truth is that God’s perfect will and timing is different from what I think or see. But I can know that God is at work and is not delaying.
I can boldly approach the throne of God and pray knowing that I have the righteousness of Christ and therefore my prayers are powerful and effective. It really has nothing to do with me or my good works. God doesn’t owe me when I’ve been good and doesn’t ignore me when I’ve failed.
Dear believer, pray as the righteous person that Christ makes you and know that your prayers are powerful and effective.