Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. ∼James 5:16 (ESV)
What is prayer? Earlier in this passage in verse 14, when the elders pray for the person who is sick, the Greek word for pray is proseúxomai. It means “to exchange wishes… literally, to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes… for His wishes as He imparts faith.” (Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies) Where James says “the prayer of a righteous person” the Greek word for prayer is deésis which refers to a “heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need (sense of lack, want).” (Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies)
Prayers spoken out of a deeply felt need are deésis. When we reach the point in our deésis where we can say in all honesty, “Not my will, but yours, be done, O LORD,” our prayers have become proseúxomai. My friend Carlyn exemplified this idea when she was battling the cancer that eventually took her life. Her heart-felt petition, or deésis, was for her cancer to go away, but she exchanged that wish for God’s wishes–she turned her deésis into proseúxomai when she accepted God’s will, even when she didn’t understand it.
James tells us that these types of prayers, when made by a righteous person, are powerful. The Greek word, díkaios, means “righteous, observing divine and human laws; one who is such as he ought to be” (Bible Hub, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are in a right relationship with God. We are what we “ought to be.” We have “become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Being righteous means simply that we are walking in faith, and because we are walking in faith, it is reflected in how we live our lives. We are righteous because we are walking with Christ.
The Greek word translated power is from the root word ischuó. It “embodies strength that ‘gets into the fray’… engaging the resistance. For the believer,… [it] refers to the Lord strengthening them with combative, confrontive force to achieve all He gives faith for. That is, facing necessary resistance that brings what the Lord defines as success…” (Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies) All these prayers have the power–the strength–to enter (or remain in) the battle and to resist anything which stands against God.
Why are we given this kind of strength? In order to accomplish God’s will. The evil one will try to cause us to doubt. He will try to wear us down. But discussing our wishes with God, and accepting His wishes for us, will help us to resist those attacks and to stand firm in our faith until God brings about what He defines as success.
AS IT IS WORKING
The final part of the verse is as it is working. This is the Greek word energeó which means “energize, working in a situation which brings it from one stage… to the next, like an electrical current energizing a wire, bringing it to a shining light bulb.” (Bible Hub, HELPS Word-studies) Prayer turns on the switch, so to speak, that allows the power to flow to the one who needs it. These prayers, or wishes, are working to move the situation to the next stage through God’s energizing power.
JAMES 5:16b PARAPHRASED
Now it’s time to put all that Greek together into a paraphrase of this verse: The heart-felt wishes of a person who is in a right relationship with God–who is walking with Christ and is willing to exchange their wishes for God’s–have a great quantity of strength to withstand resistance and to move the situation through God’s power to the next stage in God’s plan.
The heart-felt wishes of a person who is in a right relationship with God – who is walking with Christ and is willing to exchange their wishes for God’s – have a great quantity of strength to withstand resistance and to move the situation through God’s power to the next stage in God’s plan.
BE THAT PRAY-ER!
If you are walking with Christ, you are that righteous person. As you pray, make sure you are not only taking your wishes to God but also exchanging them for His will. Know that when you do, He will give you the strength to stand and to move through your current situation to the next stage in His plan.
[This post was adapted from Elijah: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another.]
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