James 5:16-18 Powerful Prayer! 


What makes an ordinary obscure person a powerful weapon in the hands of God? Prayer.

J.C. Ryle wrote: "Prayer is the simplest of acts. It is simply speaking to God. It needs neither learning nor wisdom nor book knowledge to begin it. It needs nothing but heart and will. The weakest infant can cry when he is hungry. The poorest beggar can hold out his hands for alms and does not wait to find words. The most ignored man will find something to say to God, if he only has a mind. "

Andrew Murray:

"The powers of the eternal world have been placed at prayers disposal. It is the very essence of true religion the channel of blessing, the secret of power and life. "

John Blanchard:

'Prayer has divided seas, rolled up flowing rivers, made rocks gush into fountains, quenched flames of fire, muzzled lions, disarmed vipers and poisons, marshaled the stars against the wicked, stopped the course of the moon, arrested the sun in its rapid race, burst open iron gates, released souls from eternity, conquered the strongest devils, commanded legions of angels down from heaven. Prayer has bridled and chained the raging passions of man and routed & destroyed vast armies of proud, daring, blustering atheists. Prayer has brought one man from the bottom of the sea and carried another in a chariot of fire to heaven. What has prayer not done?'

Charles Spurgeon:

"Prayers are the believer’s weapons of war. When the battle is too hard for us, we call in our great ally, who, as it were lies in ambush until faith gives the signal by crying out, ARISE a LORD!!"

Prayer works! Or, to put it more accurately, God works through prayer

“Prayer is the slender nerve, which unleashed the muscles of an omnipotent God!”


As James brings us to the close of his letter – he brings us to the subject of Prayer

A) James is going to tell us 3 things about the kind of Prayer that accomplishes great things for God


A) We want to pick up in the 2nd half of v.16

 RD James 5:16-18



The fact that James using Elijah as his example of an effective prayer warrior at first glance might seem discouraging to most of us.

A) Elijah is one of those guys who seems larger than life.


B) He ministered at a time when Israel under the leadership of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel had led the nation into gross immorality.



C)The immorality centered around the worship of the pagan god Baal

1) Baal was regarded as the god who controlled the rain and fertility.


D) The worship of Baal was not only idolatrous, but immoral, with temple prostitutes.


The First time we meet Elijah in the OT in 1 Kings 17 He marched in before the wicked, powerful King Ahab and announced that it would only rain by his word.

A)His word came true it didn’t rain in Israel for 3 ½  yrs 


B)During that time of drought he was miraculously fed by the ravens. during the drought.


C) He miraculously enabled the widow of Zarephath’s flour and oil to be replenished through-out the drought.

1) He raised her son from the dead.

2) He called down fire from heaven to consume his waterlogged sacrifice in front of the 450 prophets of Baal.


D) Then he ordered the execution of them all.

1) Later, he called down fire to consume two groups of soldiers that were sent to arrest him


2) He parted the Jordan river to walk across. His final act was to be taken to heaven without dying in a chariot of fire.


           That’s the stuff legends are made of!

That is what would make a man like Elijah more of a hindrance to my prayer life than an encouragement, A)because I could think that he’s in a totally different league than I am.


B) That is why James tells us that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.

1) Elijah was 100% human – not superhuman

Same feelings / emotions / struggles


C) See although Elijah moved in the miraculous, he was a man who showed great faith and boldness

          { Radical Highs in the Lord}


He was also a man who experienced extreme lows

A)After his big victory over the 450 prophets of Baal on MT carmel – Elijah became afraid of a woman – Queen Jezebel


B) He was ready to quit the ministry – He ran away from God’s call

1) Ran out into the desert


C) In complete despair pleaded for God to Kill Him!

1) One minute he is selfless – seemed only concerned with the plight of the nation


2) The next minute he is full of self pity.


D)This encourages me greatly because I too experience great highs and lows in my walk with the Lord.

Times I am full of faith and boldness / the next day feelings of despair loneliness and discouragement.

A)That is why 2 Corinthians 5:7 and 1 John 5:4 are two of my favorite verses in the Bible


B) See 2 Corinthians 5:7 declares that we walk by faith and not by sight –

1) Not by our senses – feelings emotions – what we can see and feel.


C)1 John 5:4 Declares – that the Victory that overcomes the world is found in our Faith – not our feelings or emotions

1) Faith in the Lord / His word / His promises


The reason why Elijah could march into Ahab’s palace and declare that it wasn’t going to rain until he said so was because of his faith in God’s word

A) See God had declared plainly in Deuteronomy 11:16,17


Deuteronomy  11:16-17

16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, 17 lest the LORD's anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you.



1st Prayer that accomplishes much is effective prayer


Effective Prayer is going to prayer that is in accordance with God’s will that is clearly seen in God’s word!


A) Problem: Ask amiss – Wrong motives – not in God’s will.


B) Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart


C) Elijah’s boldness in approaching the King was because of his faith in the word of God –

1) It was his faith in the word that made him a righteous man – not his actions.


D) Paul makes this crystal clear in talking about Abraham in Romans 4:3


E) Abraham believed God would do what He said He would, that God is who He declared Himself to be, Abraham was declared righteous !


Do you believe God?

A) Do you believe the foundational fact of faith—that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the Cross for your sin and after three days rose again?


B) Do you believe He is your Savior? If so, you are righteous.

C) Now you might protest and say: I can’t be righteous now – I have a long way to go.

1)True practically speaking – But Positionally God sees you in Christ


2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”


D)Therefore, regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you’re a new creation in Christ. You’re righteous.


“Yes, but I have sinned greatly even after becoming a new creation, a believer.”

A) Paul goes on to say, 2 Corinthians  5:21

“For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”


B)That means God put our sin—past, present, and the stuff we haven’t even done yet—on the Son.

1)Therefore, if you are a believer, you are surrounded by Christ, covered with Christ, and washed by the blood of Christ.


C) And you can’t get any more righteous than that.


D) What do we do when we sin – Confess –



Psalm 66:18

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”   NIV


Psalm 66:18

“ If I had ignored my sins, the Lord would not have listened to me.”   TEV


2nd Point: Prayer that accomplishes much is prayed by the person who knows who he is in Christ!

A) Been Made righteous – Boldness enter into the throne of God because of the Blood of Christ


B) Confess my sin – He is faithful and just –

1)That is what makes me a righteous man


3rd The prayer that accomplishes much is fervent prayer!

A)Now James tells us something the OT narrative doesn’t and that is that Elijah prayed earnestly for that it would rain.


B)The word earnestly is the same as fervent – it speaks of praying diligently and passionately

1)Praying with Persistence


C)The interesting thing about Elijah is that on Mt Carmel the 450 prophets of Baal were the picture of fervent prayer – shouting / cutting / pleading


D)Elijah taunted them – Vacation/ Toilet

His turn – Simple prayer ! 1 Kings 18:36-37

"LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again."


Real simple – and BAM!


Sometimes that is the way it is with the Lord we pray like I was talking last week – friend – simple

A) It is sincere – he answers


B) But then after this event we are told that Elijah went to pray for the rain to come

1) He prayed earnestly – fervently and 1 Kings 18 gives us a great picture of what that looked like


C)Elijah goes to the MT - He puts his head between his knees..... this is the birthing position in the Middle East culture of that day....


B)  A position of pain and travail and pressing.

1) Elijah was BIRTHING something in prayer...

  He is pushing – with each prayer


C)Prays once – Servant – No cloud – seven times each time more intense – pushing harder

1)Travailing harder

Fervent prayer is persistent prayer!

A) God’s delays are not His denials


B) Producing something in us – drawing us close

1) deeper walk – greater dependency


C) Brings us to a place where we are desperate

1) God this is only going to happen by you – thru you


D)There is a time for that kind of Prayer!

1) Once a month a prayer day – Fast and pray and plead with God


E) God I need to hear from you – God my only hope is in you

1) Pushing travailing – but at the end of the day I feel so refreshed just being with the Lord


That sometimes is the whole point –

A) My kids at an age enjoy spending more time with friends than us


B) Sometimes – How bad do you want it


C) After the 7th time – the rain came!


D) Jesus commended Persistent prayer – Friend who kept banging on neighbors door

1) Widow before the judge Lk 7


E)Ask knock – Keep on asking knocking – don’t give up

This morning I want to close by asking 4 questions

First 3 directed at those who are believers

A) Last one to those who are not walking with the Lord


B) I want to ask three questions that hopefully will motivate us to pray:


#1 Do we live in overwhelmingly ungodly times?

A) Often the daily news is enough to get you depressed! You hear about the atrocities terrorists, Israel


B)You read about the degradation of morals in our country, you hear about the horribledecisions of our courts that legitimize all manner of corruption.


C) It is easy to despair.


We Think – our only recourse is to wait for His return – not true

A) First recourse is to Pray! – Plead with God What


B) Like Elijah, sometimes we may need to pray for drought, recognizing that the drought we pray for will dry up the brook that we drink from!


C) Sometimes although we think that our nation has hit   bottom, it hasn’t.

1) If people do not sense their need for God, there will not be genuine repentance.


D) Recession – Drought that brings us to our knees

Also like  Elijah, at the appropriate time, we need to pray for  rain.

A) When our nation or when an individual you know is parched from a spiritual drought,


B) we should pray that God would graciously send the rain of His Spirit to bring genuine repentance and revival.


#2  Do we face circumstances that are far beyond our ability to change? Pray!

A) A loved one’s heart is hardened against the Lord.

      Only God can break that hard heart. Pray!


B) You or someone you know has a terminal disease. The doctors have done everything they can do. Pray! 1)God may heal or He may give extra grace to endure.


C) Your circumstance today: Pray – fervently – persistently – until you get an answer



#3 Do we sense our personal inadequacy? Pray!

A) Prayer acknowledges that our need is not for just a little boost from God, and then we can handle it on our own.


B) Prayer admits, my need is total!

1)Dr. Howard Hendricks used to challenge his seminary students with this question  “What is there in your life that you cannot  explain apart from God?”

Sometimes the overwhelming circumstances come into our lives – so that we realize how inadequate we really are. 


We should be motivated to pray – because our world needs Jesus

The Church needs revival!


There are things in our life that we are unable to change in our strength –



Finally : On Mt Carmel Elijah asked this question to the nation of Israel –

“How long are you going to Waver between two opinions If Baal is God serve him / If Jehovah is God serve Him.” 


A)Problem with some of you in this room  Wavering between two opinions – The Worlds and God – No power – reason why prayers not answered – you are living in Sin


B)Trying to stand between two opinions – The world and the Lord - 

1)Doesn’t work –


C) God is calling you today – Repent –Turn to a God who loves you and wants to do great things in you and thru you.