My Prayers Matter
‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us.’ James 5:16-17
My prayers matter because God decided, from the creation of this world, that he would work through human beings and not independent from them – even at the cost of becoming one to provide for our salvation. ‘God does nothing on the earth save in answer to believing prayer’ (John Wesley).
‘A righteous man’ can seem to rule out each of us and our poor prayers as being effective. Hence James gives Elijah as an example and stresses that he was a man just like us: one who vacillated between the heights of bold faith and the depths of fearful despair; between daring leadership and woeful self-pity. Elijah’s righteousness was based on his covenant relationship with almighty God.
Were Elijah’s prayers answered? YES – His prayers caused the rain to cease for over three years and then he prayed again and the heavens gave rain. He called on God to send fire on Mount Carmel and fire fell. NO – Elijah prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19:4). God over-ruled his request – instead he was carried to heaven in a whirlwind! Many of us can gladly echo C S Lewis: ‘IfGod had granted all the silly prayers I’ve made in my life, whereshould I be now?’ (‘Letters to Malcolm’, p.28).
At heart, all prayer is active co-operation with God’s will, which is why the promise in John 15:16 – that the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name – is given to friends, those who understand what the Father is doing.