Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
A person often says to his friend, or to his minister, "Pray for me. You are a good man, and ' the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.'" If that be the meaning of the verse — if "a righteous man" means a good man, who could appropriate it? God says, "There is none righteous; no, not one." But there was a depth in those words which the centurion said of Christ — which probably he little thought of when he said them, "Truly this was a righteous man!" Observe, "a righteous man" — not by virtue of His Deity, but as man. He became man, and then as a man He fulfilled the whole righteousness of God's law. That righteousness God accepts as if it were ours. He imputes it to us; He sees us in it; that which that holy, pure eye could never have seen us without — righteousness. Therefore a "righteous man" means a justified man: And here is the comfort: the humblest believer may go and plead the promise, and may go in the simple confidence that Christ has justified him; and though both he and his prayer be utterly vile, still its unworthiness does not destroy its worthiness or destroy its claim — for God hath written it, and He cannot deny it — "The effectual fervent prayer of a justified man availeth much." But there is another condition: it must be "effectual fervent." There is some difficulty in arriving at an accurate definition of the meaning of these words — for, in the original, the words are but one; and the first and closest signification is "wrought in"; the wrought-in prayer, "the prayer wrought in the soul of a justified man availeth much." Therefore the primary idea is that the prayer that "avails much" is a prayer that is wrought into a man's soul by the Holy Spirit. When you go to pray it may seem to you as if you originated your thoughts. But it is not so. As the flame which bore up the sacrifice from the altar first came down upon the altar from heaven, so the first spring and power of all prayer is from above. Prayer is an inward creation of the Holy Ghost. Let me place this matter in its true arrangement. God, in His sovereign love and His.free mercy, wishes to give you something. Say it is the pardon of your sins. It is a part of His way of doing it that He sends the Holy Ghost to work in your heart a desire after the very thing which He is meaning to give you. So that you do not so much obtain the good because you ask it, as that you asked it because it is God's mind to give it. The desire, and the prayer that expresses the desire, are the machinery by which God is giving effect to His own preordained plan. Let me offer you one or two suggestions to make more energetic prayer. Much prayer is enfeebled from a want of faith in your own prayers. Fill yourself with appreciations of the power of prayer by carrying in your mind some promise that God has made. Then remember that all prayer — if prayer — must be communion. Prayer alone is not communion. Communion is a double process. It is God speaking to us, and then we speaking to God. That is communion. Therefore listen for voices, and let your prayer be the echo. Throw as much of the Bible as you can into your prayer, because it will be pleasant to God to have His own word brought back to Him. He will give much to His own arguments. Always let there be a little preparation before you kneel down. Tune the mind. Get into a certain atmosphere. Settle your subjects. Give them a little order, not too much, not to make them mechanical, but still with some method. It is a great help in prayer to have determined beforehand a little method. "Take with you words," is God's command. When you begin to pray, set before you, and take as the ground of your prayer, some particular attribute of God suited to the subject which you are going to make the special subject of your petition. Deal much with that particular name or title of God. It makes an adequate basis. Have arguments to back your salt; especially that strongest one, "It is for Thy glory." That is the most important of all things, when we are in prayer, to tell God it is for His own faithfulness and for His own glory; to remind yourself, and remind God, of former answers He has given you in prayer. "Thou hast been my succour." Whoever would pray to profit must pray praisingly. And then press forward. Pray with a holy, bold resolvedness. And then put the name of Jesus — that grand name of Jesus — clenchingly, commandingly. And when you have done — when you have shot the arrow — wait; follow it with your eye, and look up and see when and where the answer is going to come down. And let me remind you there is one kind of prayer to which the text particularly refers — intercessory. May we never forget it. Do not let us forget it as ministers and people. It is the life, it is the joy, it is the strength of the prayer, when it is held together by intertwining threads of intercessory prayer.
(James Vaughan, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.