"How Is Prayer Powerful?"

Preached by on April 30, 2017
— From the series,

We all say we believe in prayer, yet some feel their prayers are either not heard or that God doesn't care. How can prayer be powerful and effective?

How is Prayer Powerful?

(James 5:13-18)



A.  For some people prayer is the greatest test of faith.  For a person to believe that there is a God and then to believe that this unseen being interacts on a personal level with all humanity defies their human logic.  Prayer becomes for that person an exercise in proving what they already believe – that either God does not exist or that prayer has no effect.  So for some people prayer is test of God.  “God, do as I say or I won’t believe in you.”

B.  For other people, they don’t feel righteous enough to ask for God’s intervention.  They look at themselves, see their own sin, and think that God wouldn’t answer their request because they are such a spiritual failure.  The problem here is that they are already believe God won’t answer so they prove their thought by not asking or asking thinking God will say no.  When what they pray for doesn’t happen, they tell themselves how bad they are and live unfulfilled lives.

C.  Preachers and Bible teachers often stand before people telling them to pray more, to draw closer to God, to have a deeper faith – and it sounds good, except for the people who “tried” and found prayer to be unhelpful.

D.  How can prayer be powerful?  James makes a statement that we want to believe, but have a difficult time putting into practice.  In our text we read (vs 16b).  Here is it in several translations.  However you translate this verse, it appears that prayer is powerful when the right person is praying with the right faith.  But that is nothing new.

E.  Listen to Heb. 11:6-7.  Think of the faith it took for Noah to build an ark.  According to the Bible we have not seen rain or flooding to this magnitude.  The question Moses had to ask himself is, “Do I believe what God promises?”  It is that same question that we must ask ourselves when it comes to prayer and the power that is at work through prayer.


I.  The Context of the Passage

A.  Look at the context of the passage in James that we have before us today.  James has already told his readers that Christians don’t have because they don’t ask God, or they ask with selfish motives.  That type of prayer should get you nothing.  It is the type of prayer that “puts God to the test” that Jesus told Satan he would not do.

B.  These readers are told to be patient in times of suffering and to develop a type of patience that does not grumble or complain against others.

C.  Now we are told that when we suffer – and it could be any type of suffering:  persecution, sickness, spiritual – we are to pray.  Just like when we are happy to we are to sing.  Singing is a natural response to joy, and prayer is a natural response to suffering.

D.  The next idea is that when we are sick we seek our spiritual leaders to pray FOR us.  Sick and suffering are not always the same thing.  Even in this passage James doesn’t tell us if the sickness is physical, spiritual or a mix of both.  We are left with the thought that when we face a sickness we do so with prayer, but this time BY someone besides ourselves.  We “call for” or “ask” the elders of the church to come and pray over us, anointing us with oil in the name of the Lord.  (We will deal more with is Wednesday night)

E.  Based upon all this talk of prayer, James now says in verse 16 to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  His conclusion is, “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  All that sounds great, but how can I be that type of person?


II.  The Righteous Person

A.  I want to ask you consider the word “righteous.”  It is not dealing with a perfect person, but the person who seeks and does God’s will in their normal everyday walk.  Joseph was a “righteous” man and wanted to not humiliate Mary.  Cornelius was described to Peter as a “righteous man.”  Paul says the “righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

B.  A righteous man is not to be understood as a special type of person whose prayer is more effective than others. Rather, this person is someone who is faithful to God and living in harmony with God’s will, and therefore his prayer is indeed effective. It is the person whose life matches what he says.

C.  It should be definition of every Christian.  If you are not righteous then what are you?  An unrighteous Christian?  Your prayers are powerful when you live by faith, walk by faith, and let the light of God shine through you to others.  So don’t say that your prayers are not effective, believe in the you that God has made, not the “you” the devil wants you to see.

D.  So James gives us a wonderful story to help us see both righteousness and powerful prayers.  It is the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18.  It starts with Elijah coming before King Ahab and telling him that he, Elijah, stood in the presence of God (1 Kings 17:1 – it means Elijah talked with God, prayed).  Elijah told the king that there would be no dew or rain in Israel.  Think of the famine, the hurt that would bring to a country.  Think of the people that would die from this.

E.  But now think about why.  The people of Israel had turned aside from God, they worship the Baals and did evil in the sight of God.  This pain and suffering was an appeal for them to turn back to God, but they did not.

F.  Then, on Mt. Carmel, 3 ½ years later, Elijah and the prophets of Baal build altars and pray to their gods.  After praying to Jehovah, God sent down fire from heaven to consume everything on that altar.  Was his prayer effective?  Now understand Elijah and you are the same, not different.



A.  Prayer opens the heavens 2 Chron. 7:14.

B.  Jesus drove out the money changers and said, “My Father’s house is a house of prayer.”  This is a praying church.  We pray for God to open hearts so that those who are unsaved will be drawn to the Savior.  We pray for those who are hurting to be healed.  For those who need to experience God do so with our hands.  Can we pray for you?