If you are like me there is not a day that goes by that someone does not use these words to me - “pray for me,” or “will you pray about this?” And I do and will. I must admit there have been times where I have so agreed and then simply forgotten the details of the request or when I’ve gotten four or five requests like on a Sunday morning and before I can write them all down some have slipped my memory (side note: the app Echo has aided me greatly in this and in my personal prayer life).
I read and believe James: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). Can you imagine the half-brother become believer full-brother of Jesus praying for you? Or the apostle Paul praying continually for you (Ephesians 1:16; Philemon 1:4; Philippians 1:3)? James chooses none other than the example of Elijah who “prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (vs. 17-18). Oh, yes, Elijah. Elijah of the chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11), Elijah who did not die. Elijah of the floating handle (2 Kings 6:1-7 - oops that was Elijah), Elijah of the miraculous mantel (2 Kings 2:12-15), Elijah of the bottomless bread bowl (1 Kings 17:7-17), Elijah of Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18, wouldn’t you like a mountain of Carmel?). Elijah who prayed and rain stopped and prayed again and rain came.
I preached for a church once where we had a man of such impeccable godliness that people would go the elders and ask specifically that Brother X lead the congregation in a prayer for them.
And, I must confess, I feel inadequate to the task. I'm not that guy. I don't think I can ever be that guy. But that is the problem. Nobody really is. See, we are always looking for a “holy man” - for “our” Elijah. But no man is holy of himself or righteous of his own doing. We are all undone. The “most righteous” among us of clay is nothing and must confess that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
If we’d just read the passage a little more closely we’d get it. Look at verse 17 “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (emphasis dj). Oh, that Elijah! Elijah who had direct revelation from God yet feared a godless queen (1 Kings 19:1-3). Elijah who God miraculously and immediately used to show His power yet who ran like a scared little girl (vss. 3-4). Elijah who had a direct line to God yet used it to show a lack of faith by asked that God take his life (vs. 5). That Elijah. James is saying that he’s no different than us. He struggled with his faith, with his fears, with his failures. He was not righteous on his own either. Pray my friend. Pray. God who through Christ has made you righteous will hear and it will be effective and heard. You don’t need a “holy man” because you serve a Holy God and are sealed by a Holy Spirit and sanctified by a Holy Savior.