When scripture talks about the power in the prayer of a righteous person, we inadvertently misunderstand that the prayers of the sinners are powerless. When we receive answers to our prayers, we think that we are righteous and are overwhelmed with joy and embrace pride. We attribute our righteousness as the sole cause for the answers we have received. On the other hand, if someone else’s prayer is not answered, we think they are unrighteous. Are we not forgetting the parable that Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) and how keen God is to hear and answer the prayers of sinners.
Prayer of Elijah
We often pray to God to punish the sinners and spare us. However, the scripture tells us that Elijah prayed to God to stop the rain and was ready to face the consequences along with the sinners. To revoke the ban on rain, Elijah asked the people to focus on the one and only God and motivated them to come to God in one accord. Then he repaired the altar in front of the people to sacrifice the offering to God. We confess our sins in private as we do not have the boldness to confess our sins publicly. We attempt to receive personal healing and salvation without asking forgiveness for our sins. Scripture talks about forgiveness first and then about prayer and its power.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16
As soon as Elijah repaired the altar, he expected fire from heaven to consume his offerings. Confession prepares our hearts to receive forgiveness. A forgiven child of God always protects others from succumbing to the wages of sin. Elijah showed his concern for people and secured them from the consuming fire of God, till their repentance, by digging a trench around the altar and filling it with water. Then he asked God to answer his prayer to show the people that he did everything according to His instructions.
In other words, Elijah knew that his prayer would be answered by God only when he followed His commands. When people see God forgiving our sins, they will understand the power of God and come to Him. When the people witnessed the fire that consumed the offering, they came to God.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”1 Kings 18:39
It is not the answer to their prayers that drew them to God, but the forgiveness of their sins. God accepted the repaired altar and the offering and that was what drew the people near Him. Our answered prayers do not fetch people to God but it is the transformed life that brings people toward Him. We start our prayers as sinners, but afterwards, His forgiveness makes us righteous. People who come to God by seeing the answers we received, have faith based on evidence and will not retain it. However, the prayer that comes out of a salvation experience will never fade away.
Prayer of a Righteous Person
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”1 Kings 17:1
Though there were no direct instructions from God to stop the rain, Elijah’s prayer was aligned with the desire of God that no soul should perish and each person should be saved. While the whole nation had misunderstood the cause of the famine as the desire of Elijah to kill them, he prayed to God to open the eyes of the people to understand the true reason for the famine. It was not for their destruction but for their re-construction according to the will of God. We should not be satisfied with our born-again experience but should strive to bring that experience in the lives of the people around us. If we confine ourselves only to our born-again experience, then we have not received our salvation.
If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,Proverbs 28:9
even their prayers are detestable.
To pray according to His instructions, we need to know His Living Word, as our prayer begins when we read His Word. Reading His Word, understanding His teachings and then applying them, is the correct sequence in which one should pray. The prayer becomes powerful and active when we receive His forgiveness and pray to God to forgive others.
The Role of Faith in Prayer
Prayer transforms our human minds to understand the heart of God. Elijah understood that God wanted to correct His people and could foresee the power of the fire that fell from heaven. Finally, when God accepted Elijah’s offering, he was the only one who heard the sound of the rain.
And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”1 Kings 18:41
While God answers our prayers, the devil tries to prevent us from receiving His answers. Elijah sent his servant to see the rising clouds, but the servant only found clear skies. Elijah asked his servant to go back and look for the cloud seven times as he knew what God was about to do. Then why did Elijah send back his servant seven times? Was it the sound that Elijah heard in advance that kept his faith alive? More than anything, it was the fire that consumed the offering that kept his faith alive. Do we have that fire in our hearts to keep our faith alive?
Learn to ignore the feedback of people who discourage us by pointing out that our prayers are not answered. Do not rely on the circumstances but rely only on the fire that led us to pray in the first place. We may continue to suffer despite continuous prayer and medication as chronic diseases seem to destroy our life day by day. But we must keep acknowledging the incomparable power of God that saved us from eternal death. That will invoke the fire from heaven to come down and we will be relieved from our pain and struggle. As we grow in His love each day, His love will outweigh our earthly struggles.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.2 Corinthians 4:16-17
The scripture says that when sin increased, grace increased even more. Because of our iniquities, diseases have increased but God pours out His grace and helps us invent medicines for our ailments so that we might live. But there is no other medicine for our sins except the blood of Jesus that was poured out for us on the Cross. When the blood of Jesus can remove the stain of sins, how much more will His stripes heal us. Our prayers will become powerful and active when we realize the power of God all around us.
Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?Matthew 9:5
Our merciful God cleanses our sins with His Son’s blood to make our prayer powerful and active. Let us not spoil His plans by rejoicing in the answers that we receive for our petty issues but rejoice in the power of God that has redeemed us. When our prayers are powerful and active, only then can we pray for the salvation of our fellow beings.