Dec 14, 2012
Tuesday afternoon I was discouraged, because I faced a problem with no good solution.
As a result, my heart was heavy with fear, sadness, and hopelessness — like a backpacker with a 300-pound backpack.
But it was the time in the afternoon when I pray.
So as usual I grabbed my stack of memory verses (to strengthen my faith for prayer), and read the one on top —
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (Jam 5:16-18)
Perfect. Exactly what I needed. So I read it over, more slowly —
“The prayer of a righteous person…”
So — am I a righteous person?
Earlier James quotes Gen 15:6, which says Abraham was counted righteous by faith (Jam 2:23). So through faith in Christ I am a righteous person.
But the discouragement showed that my faith was weak. So, to regain full assurance of righteousness, I prayed —
I turn to you, Jesus Christ. I confess that I feel discouraged, which shows I am not trusting Your promises.
Forgive me for my unbelief. I want to trust You fully. Thank You for paying for my unbelief on the Cross.
I trust You to forgive me, to help me, to strengthen me, to deliver me. Thank you.
As I trusted Christ I was assured that His perfect righteousness covered my sin.
Which meant that I was righteous — and what James says about prayer applies to me —
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
This is a promise. God promises that my prayer will have great power.
Not no power (like a dead battery).
Not a little power (like a tiny 9-volt battery).
But great power (like a massive megawatt-battery).
What does that mean?
To answer that, James tell us about Elijah —
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours …”
So Elijah was no different than us.
True, he was an Old Testament prophet. But James wants us to understand that when it came to his relationship with God, he was just like you and me.
So what Elijah experienced when he prayed is what we can experience when we pray.
And what did he experience when he prayed?
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”
Whoa. Elijah prayed fervently, and the rain stopped for 3 1/2 years. Then he prayed again, the rain started back up.
That’s what James means when he promises that our prayers will have great power.
When those who are righteous by faith in Christ pray fervently, their prayer will change things.
This is not because of anything in us — it’s only by God’s mercy.
It’s only because God, in His mercy through Christ, has chosen to have our prayers move Him to change things.
This convicted me, because although I had thought about my problem, worried about my problem, stressed about my problem —
I had not prayed about my problem.
At least — not very fervently. Not with earnestness. Not with expectation that my prayer would change things.
So — I prayed
I prayed about what was discouraging me.
I asked God to do what I thought would be best; what I thought would bring Him the most glory.
I listed reasons why this is what I thought He should do.
I asked Him fervently — earnestly — expectantly.
And then, as I prayed, something happened. I started to see Him–
- All-powerful over my problem.
- Perfectly good in my problem.
- Flawlessly wise concerning my problem.
I saw that in this problem He was rejoicing over me to do me good with all His heart and soul (Jer 32:41).
This was deeply encouraging.
But I knew that sometimes God does not give exactly what we ask, because He wants to give something even better — something that will bring us even more joy in Him.
So I prayed that if God chose to not do what I was asking, that He would take care of all the details, and that He would strengthen me, guide me, and satisfy me fully in Himself.
I prayed for this earnestly. Persistently. Fervently.
And as I prayed — I saw that whatever God did, it would be good. He would take care of everything. And that whatever happened — a river of His joy was on its way.
And then I noticed — my discouragement was gone.
I felt strong. At peace. Full of hope.
What made the difference?
Four things —
- Reading James 5:16-18. Once again the Holy Spirit used His sword (Eph 6:17) to kill unbelief.
- Coming to Jesus as I was, confessing my unbelief, trusting Him to forgive me, change me, help me.
- Pondering the promise that the prayer of a righteous person has great power.
- And praying about what made me feel hopeless — both for what I hoped would happen, and for what else God might do — trusting that either way my joy in Him would increase.
Comments? Feedback? Questions?
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful —
How You Can Escape The Giant Of Despair (from John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress")
Are You Discouraged In Prayer?
How David Brainerd Overcame Discouragement
How One Word Removed Discouragement
How God Helped My Hopelessness
(Picture is by Gustav Dore and is in the public domain.)