“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b)
Prayer is a privilege and blessing which Christians treasure, but if they are honest, at times also struggle with.
What is your reaction when you read our verse for this week? Do you feel your prayers are powerful? Do you feel your prayers are effective? Christians’ reactions to those questions very likely vary depending on circumstances and situations in life. When your prayer is answered in the way you want and on the schedule you want, you would likely say “Yes, my prayers are powerful and effective.” However, when a loved one suffers for years or months or when that family situation goes from bad to worse, then you might wonder if God is listening to your prayers and if he is even considering answering them.
There are a number of principles and facts regarding prayer which we need to remember and strive to put into practice in our own prayer life.
God hears and answers every single prayer of a Christian. Let’s look at two aspects of that statement.
God hears every single prayer of a Christian. How many times have you heard people respond with the seemingly cliche statement “Thoughts and prayers for ………” I am not questioning the sincerity of this statement, but we need to remember that the right and privilege to pray is something which only Christians can do.
Just like you are likely the one who feels most comfortable going to your dad for just about anything, Christians are the ones who have the right and privilege to talk to their father in heaven about absolutely anything in their lives from the seemingly most insignificant matter to the largest and seemingly most overwhelming thing. To put it simply, prayer is something which only a Christian can do because it rightly comes from a heart of faith which trusts in God.
God answers every single prayer of a Christian. Any Christian who is totally honest will admit that there have been times when they have questioned or even doubted that statement. When you have prayed hard, that is boldly, unselfishly and from a heart of trusting faith and your prayer doesn’t seem to be answered anywhere remotely close to what you asked, it might cause you to wonder.
There are some things which we need to remember about God’s answers to our prayers. There are three answers which God can and does give to our prayers: yes, no or wait. Yes – God may answer our prayer in the way we asked, but perhaps not on the timeline that we asked or envisioned. God may say no to our prayer, just like our earthly father says no to a request, because God in his almighty knowledge knows that what we asked for may not be the best for us. Wait was in a sense explained above. God may say yes, a partial yes to our prayer, but not at the time that we asked or expected, because, again, in his almighty knowledge, he knows that an alternative timing is better for us.
I have often asked fellow Christians to look back at requests which they have made in prayers in the past and to reflect on prayers which have been answered in a different way or on a different timeline than they asked or expected and in 20/20 hindsight, they have almost always been able to see and agree that the way God answered their prayer was best, even if wasn’t what or when they asked for.
When you put all of this together, you see the wisdom James’ words in our verse for this week. Prayer is truly powerful and effective when you submit your prayers to the will and knowledge of your heavenly Father. With that knowledge and confidence, pray hard!
Posted by Joel Gaertner
Rev. Joel Gaertner is The Lutheran Home Association Vice President of Ministry and National Director of Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM). He provides spiritual guidance to our entire organization and develops and guides JCM programs in congregations. Pastor Gaertner and his wife, LuAnn, live in Cudahy, Wis., and have two adult children. Outside work, he enjoys golf, walking and watching just about any sporting event, especially the Green Bay Packers.