************ Sermon on James 5:16b ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 6, 2007

James 5:13-18
James 5:16b
"The Prayer of a Righteous Man"

The child of God knows that the blood of Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to the Father. We do not need sacrifices and priests to get to God as the Old Testament people did. The blood of Jesus has opened the doors of heaven. The blood of Jesus has established a direct line between us and God so we get a real live person.
Topic: Prayer
Subtopic: Heard
Index: 2821
Date: 3/2000.101
Title: God's Voice Mail

Have you ever been stuck in what is called "voice-mail hell." You go round-and-round-and-round and never once get a real, live person. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if God decided to install "voice mail?" I imagine praying and hearing something like this:
Thank you for calling our Father's House. Please select one of the following options:
Press 1 for Requests
Press 2 for Thanksgiving
Press 3 for Complaints
Press 4 for All Other Inquiries

So you make a selection and then you hear the following message:
I'm sorry, all of our angels are busy helping other sinners right now; however, your prayer is important to us and will be answered in the order it was received, so, please stay on the line.

If you would like to speak to:
God, Press 1
For Jesus, Press 2
For The Holy Spirit, Press 3
If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm while you are on hold, please Press 4 ...

I The Prayers of the Righteous
A When it comes to prayer, James tells us that prayer works. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Who is James talking about? James is talking about everyone leading us in prayer this evening as we observe the National Day of Prayer. James is talking about everyone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. James is talking about you and me. We must not forget that everyone who is in Christ is righteous (Rom 4:24). We all are the righteous men, women, and children whose prayers are powerful and effective.

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Who is James talking about? James is talking about Elijah, David, Abraham, Job, Jeremiah, Peter, John, Paul, and every other righteous saint in Christ.

B "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). James is not saying you need to be an extra special Christian before your prayers are effective. James is not saying you need to measure to a certain set of standards before your prayers will be heard. Each and every person who trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord can approach the throne of grace with confidence. The prayer of every true believer is "powerful and effective."

C The prayer of a righteous man, woman, or child is "powerful" in that it can accomplish great things. Through prayer and by God's grace, situations change. Healing becomes real. Hope appears and grows. Forgiveness is given and accepted.

The prayer of a righteous man, woman, or child is "effective" in that what is truly needed is provided, what is truly desired is what God wants to provide, what is asked for is what God wants us to ask for.

II Elijah
A "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). As an example of the truth of this principle, James points us to Elijah, the great prophet of Israel during the days of King Ahab. Five of Elijah's prayers are recorded in Scripture, and each of them was powerful and effective.

The first one is the prayer for no rain. When we look at 1 Kings 17 it is not obvious that Elijah prayed for a drought:
(1 Ki 17:1) Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."
It seems that Elijah simply announced the lack of dew and rain. However, James tells us Elijah "prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years" (James 5:17). Talk about a prayer that is powerful and effective.

Next came the prayer that God would give back the life of the little boy in Zarephath. Listen to this incident and prayer:
(1 Ki 17:17-23) Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. (18) She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" (19) "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. (20) Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" (21) Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!" (22) The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. (23) Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"
Here is another prayer that is powerful and effective.

Elijah's third prayer is for fire to come down from heaven to burn up the sacrifice he had prepared on Mount Carmel:
(1 Ki 18:30-38) Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. (31) Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." (32) With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. (33) He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." (34) "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. (35) The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. (36) At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. (37) Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (38) Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Another prayer that is powerful and effective.

Later that day, Elijah prayed for rain to fall again upon the land:
(1 Ki 18:41-45) And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain." (42) So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. (43) "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." (44) The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" (45) Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.
When Elijah prayed, "the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops" (James 5:18). Talk about another prayer that is powerful and effective.

And then there is Elijah's last prayer. At first glance it is anything but powerful and effective. It is a strange prayer, even a depressing prayer Elijah prayed for death:
(1 Ki 19:1-9) Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. (2) So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them." (3) Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, (4) while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." (5) Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." (6) He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. (7) The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." (8) So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. (9) There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Elijah prayed for death. But what did God do? God provided Elijah with what he really needed food and rest and the prophet Elisha as his successor. So, again, Elijah's prayer was powerful and effective.

B "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). By using Elijah as an example, James is telling us that Elijah was a "righteous man." This does not mean Elijah was better than we are. This does not mean he was more holy than we are. This does not mean he reached a level of faith that is beyond our reach. All this means is that he, like us, was a man of faith, a man who believed God and was committed to God (cf Gen 15:6). Don't forget that in Christ we too are considered righteous.

James also makes us a point of telling us that "Elijah was a man just like us" (James 5:17). For years, Elijah has been an idol of mine, someone I try to imitate, someone I look up to. Yet, he was no better and no worse than you and I. He was a sinner like you and I. He had his struggles and trials and doubts like you and I. He had his failures, shortcomings, and weaknesses, like you and I. He was, just like all of us, a mere human being.

Elijah was righteous; we are righteous. Elijah was a man just like us. I am sure you see the point James is making. If Elijah's prayers were powerful and effective then our payers are too. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). The prayers of those leading us tonight are powerful and effective. The prayers of every Christian parent for their children are powerful and effective. The prayers of every pastor for the sheep in his flock are powerful and effective. The prayers of God's people for the lost are powerful and effective. The prayers of the elders and deacons for peace and unity are powerful and effective. Our prayers for crops, business, country, community, military, and churches are powerful and effective.

C When we talk about prayer that is "powerful and effective," we need to remember what James said earlier (he keeps bringing up the same topics, doesn't he?):
(James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Elijah, obviously, asked with the right motives. In his prayers it was Elijah's desire to glorify God. Why did Elijah pray for drought? Why did Elijah pray for the raising of the little boy of Zarephath? Why did Elijah pray for fire from heaven? Why did Elijah pray for rain? Elijah was not selfishly asking for himself. He wanted God's name and God's kingdom to flourish.

What about Elijah's fifth prayer, his prayer for death? Wasn't this prayer rather selfish and self-centered? Not at all! Elijah prayed for death because he was frustrated. He was frustrated that he could not remove the worship of Baal from Israel. He was frustrated that people remained in their sin and did not change their lives. He was frustrated by the sins of God's people. How I wish that all of God's servants and minsters were like Elijah. Even in this fifth prayer Elijah intensely desired God and His kingdom to reign supreme over all.

When you pray, is it your heart's desire to glorify God? Are you seeking first the kingdom and its righteousness? Are your prayers for your children selfish or are they God-glorifying? Do you pray for the lost because you want God's kingdom and church to grow? Are your prayers filled with "I," "me," "mine," or are they filled with God?

D When we talk about prayer that is "powerful and effective," we also need to remember what James said earlier about praying for wisdom:
(James 1:6) But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
All of our prayers, and not just our prayers for wisdom, must be made in faith, with total dependence upon God.

Elijah, obviously, asked in faith, boldly, and with total dependence upon God. And, we must pray the same way. We can't be like Israel on Mount Carmel with one foot anchored upon God and the other foot anchored upon Baal. The people of Israel were trying to stand in both the believing and unbelieving camp at the same time. That is what James is warning us against. James is warning us against looking to God sometimes and to ourselves at other times. We cannot depend on God sometimes and on some other god at all other times. Because when we do that, we are showing that we don't really think God is necessary for all of life.

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). The prayers of every man, woman, and child who believes in Jesus are powerful and effective. Let's remember this as we approach the throne of God in prayer.
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