This Sunday I will begin preaching through the book of James at my church. The following verse in James has always captivated me:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power (5:16)
Prayers have power. But, according to James, only those prayers prayed by those right with God have great power. I don’t think James has in mind here the prayer of the desperate sinner crying out to God for help. Those prayers are powerful, too. What James has in mind here is prayers of intercession. These are prayers for others.
The power of my prayer for others, and the power of your prayer for others, seems to be contingent upon the content of our hearts.
This ought to arrest each and every one of us.
I remember when this hit home for me in the most personal, gut-wrenching way.
I was about 2 months into my time at Pure Life Ministries (see my testimony for more on that) when I got an emergency call at work from my counselor. He was calling to inform me that my 5 year old son, Brody (the one with glasses), had told his Kindergarten teacher that he was planning on going home and killing himself with a knife. His mom, my wife, was called immediately and quite naturally she was scared and heart-broken. This news, that my precious little boy was experiencing something so painful, rocked me to my core. I was 5 hours away and wanted nothing more than to hold him tight and tell him how much I loved him.
I knew in my spirit that what Brody was experiencing was some sort of spiritual oppression. Satan was working hard to divide our family and give me any reason to leave Pure Life before my time there was finished. I also knew that my sinful choices for many years had opened the door for such oppression and that my prayers to defend Brody were little more than hail marys. My family was left unprotected for years because whatever prayers I offered for them came from an unrighteous man.
I don’t know for certain whether these prayers lack power because the pray-er lacks the boldness they need to approach God because they know they are unrighteous (Heb. 4:16) or because God simply will not listen to them (Psalm 66:18). There seems to be evidence for both in Scripture. I know that when I am harboring sin in my life I am unable to pray with much authority. I also believe God has no obligation to lift a finger.
Whichever the case, knowing that the power of my prayers for others – such as my family, or those who are lost, those who are hurting and in need of healing – hinges on my rightness before God causes me to be walk in humble fear of God. I desire to root out any known sin in my life that would inhibit my prayer life. Peter says this:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7).
Husbands, did you know that the way you treat your wife directly impacts the way your prayers are received by God?
I don’t ever again want to be the one who opens the door for Satan to get a foothold in my home, or on my wife or my children. Not on my watch. Recognizing this has helped to make me all the more vigilant in my pursuit of holiness, and I hope it does for you, too. I don’t want to offer up limp, lifeless prayers, but potent, powerful ones which move mountains for you and others. Thank you, Jesus, for your desire to do so!
(for more on this you can read When God Doesn’t Listen)