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The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Dear Lord Jesus, my prayer life, like most other parts of my discipleship, suffered the damaging effects of bad teaching through the years. This one verse in James used fuel my pride or my shame, dependent upon the quality of my prayer life. First of all, I used to assume that the only “powerful and effective” prayer was one to which you said “Yes!”, and secondly, I thought the health of my prayer life was directly related to my maturity as a Christian.

I thought the more righteous I was, the more inclined you’d be to answer my prayers; and if I wasn’t getting my prayers answered, it was probably because of un-confessed sin in my life or a lack of effort on my part. What a horrible misunderstanding of prayer, and self-centered approach to discipleship. No wonder it was easier for me to talk about you, rather than to talk to you.

Thankfully, the gospel has been deconstructing and rebuilding my prayer life. Jesus, I now understand that you are the “righteous man” whose prayers are powerful and effective. You are our great prayer warrior—ever living to pray for us and ever so graciously, purifying our prayers as they rise to heaven. We don’t have any righteousness except the righteousness which we have freely received in the gospel. We are perfectly righteous in you—can’t add to it or take away from it. Hallelujah!

Because our lives are now hidden in you; because of our unbreakable union with you, Jesus; because our permanent address is “in Christ,” we’ve been set free to pray with palms-up boldness. You are the sovereign King who is reigning over all things, not a computer waiting to be programmed by us. You are our great Bridegroom who enjoys communing and fellowshipping with us in prayer, long before we even ask anything of you. Oh, the joy of knowing your good answers to our prayers include “Yes,” “No, “Maybe,” “Not yet,” “I’ve got a better answer,” and “Not telling you.”

Because the gospel is true, we will dance before you when you choose to release Peter from prison in answer to our prayers (Acts 12:5-17), and we will seek no less to delight in you when James is beheaded in prison, even as we plead otherwise (Acts 12:1-2). Throughout eternity our testimony will be, “You have done all things well.” Why pray? Because you are God and we are not. Why pray? Because you command it, commend it, and commune with us through it. So very Amen we pray with joy, in your high-priestly and most trustworthy name.



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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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