I’ve been thinking a lot lately about prayer. In particular, the Lord has led me to take a closer look at my own prayer life. And in doing so, he brought James 5:16 to mind. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I realized that if I was going to take this examination seriously, I needed to ask myself some pointed questions. Let’s start here: am I righteous? (are you?)
What Determines Or Defines “A Righteous Man”?
Do you and I fit the bill? Well, according to the bible, I am righteous because I am in a “right relationship” with God. Knowing I am a sinner, by faith, I simply and humbly receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ and all he made available for me on the cross. I choose to live uprightly before the Lord, to submit to him and his will, and to lay my life down and allow Jesus to live in, and through me. Therefore, I can conclude that, yes, I am righteous. Not because of me or anything I’ve done, but because of Him and who he is.
Are My Prayers Fervent?
In Romans 12:9-12 Paul instructs us to “abhor evil and cleave to what is good.” He says we are to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, continuing instant in prayer.” (KJV) A simpler version puts it this way: “pray at all times.”
I discovered that I haven’t always prayed fervently. And from that conclusion, I then had to ask myself, “why not?” Let’s revisit Paul in Romans 12. He says to be fervent in spirit, yes. But he also says, “don’t be slothful.” Simply put, don’t be lazy. Ouch!
As I read Matthew 26:36-45 my heart breaks. Here we see Jesus and three of his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. They had just left the supper table and Jesus specifically called these three to go with him. He tells them how sorrowful he is, so sorrowful that he could die from it. He tells them of the anguish that he is in. Clearly, he wants their support and prayer. He instructs them to “stay here and watch with me.” We see that Jesus went to pray and returned three times to check on his friends. And all three times he found them sleeping. All three times he wakes them and says, “can you not watch with me for just one hour?” But the third time he wakes them and tells them, sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” The simplest way to put this is “it’s too late.”
Would The Scene Have Played Out Differently If The Three Disciples Had Prayed Fervently For Jesus?
Perhaps. We’ll probably never know for certain, but I suspect that at least some of the details of that night would have been altered. If nothing more, Jesus would have had their support instead of their abandonment and not felt alone in his battle. I’d like to be able to say that I can’t imagine how they must have felt. But, brokenheartedly, I confess that I can. Countless times I have done the same thing, fallen asleep, not able to watch for one hour while praying for my friends. Would the details of their situations be different if I had prayed fervently like Paul told me to?
According to James 5, they would. Because he said that when we pray fervently, great things happen!
“ If we decide to go on sinning after we have learned the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins. There is nothing but fear in waiting for the judgment and the angry fire that will destroy all those who live against God. Any person who refused to obey the law of Moses was found guilty from the proof given by two or three witnesses. He was put to death without mercy. So what do you think should be done to a person who does not respect the Son of God? He looks at the blood of the agreement, the blood that made him holy, as no different from other men’s blood. He insults the Spirit of God’s grace. Surely he should have a much worse punishment. We know that God said, “I will punish those who do wrong. I will repay them.” And he also said, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those days in the past when you first learned the truth. You had a hard struggle with many sufferings, but you continued strong. Sometimes you were hurt and persecuted before crowds of people. And sometimes you shared with those who were being treated that way. You helped the prisoners. And you even had joy when all that you owned was taken from you. You were joyful because you knew that you had something better and more lasting.
So do not lose the courage that you had in the past. It has a great reward. You must hold on, so you can do what God wants and receive what he has promised. For in a very short time,
“The One who is coming will come.” (Hebrews 10:26-35)
Will you and I be ready?