James 5:16 says that the fervent and effectual prayers of the righteous availeth much. That’s pretty great if you understand what it means. And it is even better if you apply it. Here is what I discovered about that verse, and the text surrounding it that might be helpful to you.
First things first, if you want your prayers to avail (which simply means to be of use), you have to be righteous. The prayers of the unrighteous won’t work. This doesn’t mean that you can’t miss the mark sometimes because as humans, we all fall short in some areas and by His grace we can work to improve. What this does mean is that the prayers of those living in sin, who sin willfully, repeatedly without remorse…these are prayers that won’t do any good. They will be in vain and to none effect. The only prayer God will hear from these individuals is the prayer of repentance. And once they come to Him and believe that He is who He says He is, they are counted as righteous due to their faith and then their prayers can come into effect. So, the first thing you must know is that if you or someone you know wants their prayers to work, they have to be righteous.
Side note: God hears all prayers. When I said “hear” I meant that He does not respond to the prayers of the unrighteous. They go out of their mouths but don’t achieve anything.
Secondly, I think that in order to appreciate this verse of scripture in the correct way, we must know that prayer is powerful. I am sure that in your life, you have seen the power of prayer in one way or another. Maybe you saw someone healed from an issue or illness that doctor’s said was incurable. Maybe that person who you thought would never come to Jesus or get their lives together has begun to make a change for the better. Maybe you have personally experienced God changing your mindsets, health, beliefs. Prayer is important and we can’t afford to minimize the necessity and the gravity of prayer in the Christian’s life. Without prayer, we wouldn’t have a way to connect to the Father. We can’t go back under the law, you know. Ephesians tells us that prayer is so big that it can do amazing things. It can forgive sins, it can stop rain and start it back up again.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Prayer gave Jesus strength in the garden (Matthew 26:46). And all throughout scripture, we see prayer at work. Without prayer, we cannot be efficient Christians. After all, how can you learn and grow from God if you never talk to Him? This may sound ridiculous or just plain simple, but if you want your prayers to work, the first thing you have to do is pray.
Saying grace before a meal or reciting “Now I lay me down to sleep” isn’t going to cut it. And thanking God for waking you up in the morning is a good start, but that is just a start. You have to go deeper. That’s where the “fervent and effectual” part comes in.
Fervent means intense, enthusiastic. Effectual means valid, binding, capable of producing intended effect.
In order for prayer to be fervent and effectual, it must first be consistent. You shouldn’t come to God as though He is a magic genie, approaching Him with a wishlist of things you want. You shouldn’t come to Him like David did sometimes either, asking Him to curse and cut down people you don’t like for generations or generations. But that’s another story. Prayer is a conversation between you and God. How would you feel if someone you loved only talked to you when they wanted something from you? It wouldn’t feel good and eventually, you’d probably stop wanting to talk to them altogether. (This is where you can thank God for never getting tired of us!)
Once you begin to come to God on a consistent basis, it begins to feel more organic, more real and that’s when you can really be vulnerable and deep in your prayer. The Father knows when our hearts aren’t in our prayers. He knows when we are coming to Him only out of a sense of obligation. And that won’t cut it either! That is why we have to be enthusiastic about prayer. We should come to Him because we want to! We want to talk to Him, ask Him questions, get to know Him better. And that is what prayer is for, it’s all about getting to know the lover of your soul. We should prayer with enthusiasm. Enthusiastic (fervent) prayers are the ones that come to pass.
But here is another thing that you should grab hold to, not all prayers are effectual. So how can you know that your prayers are valid? Pray God’s will.
If you need help, use the prayers in scripture as models and examples. Think about what God wants for you (peace, joy, salvation, hope, love, power, prosperity, health) and pray for those things. And if there is something in your life is preventing you from having any of those things, pray that God have His way and that those things have no victory over you. That is the first step, but it is a crucial one.
I hope that you take this and share it with someone who needs it.