Jas 5:16-18 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. (17) Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. (18) Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
If I am correct about my suggestion in the last post, then James’ use of Elijah here should encourage the activity of prayer and petitions and supplications to God. Elijah, who we know that God heard, who was taken up from this earth and did not die, was a man like us. We think of great men of faith and think “Oh for their faith” We shake our heads and feel we will not live up to their example.
So we elevate the prophets and do not just underplay their weaknesses but forget about them altogether. Elijah had his grand moments and no one can doubt that his contest on Mt. Carmel was a true mountain top experience. God answered his prayer at almost moment he began to pray and the whole nation could see that God, was indeed God. Then Elijah, upon receiving a death-threat from Jezebel, ran! So much for the great man of faith!
Do not let us not judge Elijah harshly, let us remember, he was a man like we are: Prone to the Mt. Everest top highs and the death valley lows. This should encourage us to follow more closely after his example of prayer, in which he was successful. The only one to not sin, Jesus , also took on our nature too and in his distress, he prayed. (Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.) In his example, we see the power of prayer for sure, but I think James uses Elijah because he was not sinless, yet he was heard.
James wants us to pray also. He also wants us to know that pray works. More than just our prayers, but also the prayers of others on our behalf.
The prayer of the righteous man has great power, James says. I would presume that James is considering that the one asking for the prayers is deep in the struggles of his own sin, trying to be righteous and needing the help of those who are. He confesses his need, humbles himself before God and those who are spiritual (Gal 6:1-2) lift up prayers for him, as well, I would suppose, for themselves so that they are not tempted too.
In all of this, I see the need for community. Not in a casual, see you for an hour on Sunday type of community, but a community were we get to know each other well enough to feel comfortable with confessing our sins. Those who do not feel as if they need the fellowship of believers (“I can worship God where I like”) forget the admonition to ‘not forsake the assembling of (our)selves together” (Heb 10:25) But those who quote 10:25, need to quote 10:24 also and balance it out. Verse 24 says we need to know one another well enough to encourage us to do good works.
There is much in the Bible on Prayer, we need to learn as the disciples did, how to pray. (Luke 11:1)