How often have you heard it said (or said it yourself) that
PRAYER CHANGES THINGS
You’ve even seen it on billboards along the highway—right?
“Yeah. I’ve seen it—so what?”
Well, do you believe it?
“Don’t know; haven’t thought about it that much”
How about thinking about it right now? Let me help.
Here is another—a biblical word to place alongside of it:
The effectual, fervent, prayer of a righteous man availeth much”
And I even gave you the KJV reading to boot! How would you compare the two statements?
”Hmmmm . . . not so sure—haven’t thought about it long enough to say. Wait a minute—one’s from the Bible (the second one) and the other isn’t.”
Right–that’s a big difference. It means you can take one to measure up to the gold standard—it’s solid. You can put your trust in it. The other . . well, we need to look at it with care.
“OK. What’s the main difference?”
The first offers prayer as a legitimate way to “CHANGE THINGS,” presumably by God making the changes (though it doesn’t say so –and it points you to prayer; not to God—a Person); the second—in is context—tells you how God answered in Elijah’s case. Persons change things—not prayers!
“I can see that.”
Moreover, it talks about a “righteous man’s” prayer, when offered fervently. There are two important conditions!
“Oh, wow! That is different from the bland, uninformative, and probably wrong, first statement.”
“Then who is a righteous man? Somebody who is good?”
No. No one is good enough to please God. He settles for nothing short of perfection! A righteous man is one who has been declared perfectly righteous by God because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
“Hmmm . . . that’s would leave a lot of people out.”
“Well, what is this faith you mentioned?”
It’s trust. When a person believes that Jesus died for his sins, they are completely wiped out, once for all, and he is declared righteous. It’s a judicial thing—God holds us guilty for Adam’s sin (since he represented the human race), as well as for our own sins. Until we are forgiven by believing that Jesus was out substitute on the cross, bearing the penalty for our sins—which is eternal punishment—God makes no promise to answer out prayers.
Right. We must become a member of His family by this faith before we can expect our heavenly Father to listen to our requests. For instance, the Lord’s prayer is addressed to “our Father in heaven”; not to everyone, willy nilly. Prayer is a family thing.
“So we get into the family by believing?”
By believing the good news that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead.
“Then will my prayers be answered?”
Look at the verse again—you are righteous when He declares you so by faith. But you must also ask in faith, fervently—i.e., earnestly, from your heart.
“I guess that the two statements are quite different, then.”
“And the one is not only wrong, but misleading.”