“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Jam 5:16
All of us want to pray so that our prayers will avail much. There are three adjectives the Holy Spirit used in this verse in James: effective, fervent, and righteous.
Righteousness is the first qualifier, so that our prayers will avail much. I used to think that this just meant that if a person was in right- standing with God, i.e., his sins were covered by the blood of Jesus, that the man was righteous and his prayers automatically availed much.
And our right standing before God is one aspect of righteousness. That is the inward aspect of the heart. There is another aspect — the outward aspect of the life, which, in biblical thought, is to proceed from the inward aspect of the heart. Only in worldly thinking, are the thoughts of the mind or the actions of the body divorced from the nature of the heart. It is this worldly thinking that allows us to believe that we can be one nature of the heart inwardly (the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus) and live another nature of the body outwardly (lie, cheat, steal, covet, murder and do all manner of unrighteousness). Worldly thinking deceives. The truth is, we cannot be schizophrenic like that. We are one or the other.
The word “righteous” in Greek is Strong’s G1342, dikaios, which means, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, observant of divine law; a righteous man is one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. This word is from the Hebrew, qdx, tsadaq, Strong’s H6663. It means, to be correct, right, or straight. In Hebrew it specifically means one who is obedient to the Law of God, since God’s Law is the only straight measuring line.
“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous (tsadaq), and His ears are open to their cry.” Psa 34:15
God’s ear is open to the cry of the righteous – the cry of the one who has been made righteous in his heart, and is allowing that righteousness to manifest itself outwardly so that his life has become straight; his feet are walking in the straight path. He is submitted, conformed, and observant of divine law, the measuring line which describes “straight.”
What does it mean to have the ears of YHVH open to our cry? If we read the entire Psalm 34, it means that when we cry aloud to YHVH with our voice (prayer), He hears us, and because He hears us, He acts. He delivers, He saves, He encamps all around, He provides for needs, His face is toward us for good, He redeems, He is near.
If we want our prayers to avail much, we need to be seeking at all times and in all places, to learn what God’s straight measuring line instructs us in, and then adjusting our lives, our inward thoughts and our outward actions, to it, so that our lives align with its straightness. We need to guard against the thinking that says that the straight measuring line can be ignored because Jesus has died on the cross. Jesus has died on the cross, and now our inward heart is righteous, so that our outward life can also now bear the fruit of righteousness.
“Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.” 2 Chr 24:20
And here it is implied, that if we do not ignore God, He will not ignore us when we cry out to Him. That is the value of the prayer of a righteous man.