“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops” (James 5:16a-17, NLT).
Prayer is powerful. When the heart of a person who lives a righteous life prays, his prayer has great power and it moves the heart of God. Elijah was as human as we are yet his prayers were powerful. He was a man who experienced great emotional highs when he prayed, and then ran and hid in a cave when fear of retribution from Jezebel consumed him. If God can answer the prayers of a man like Elijah, who led a righteous life and yet was so human, He can also answer our prayers. He can use us just us powerfully.
What is a righteous life? It is a life which is lived in obedience to God's Word. A believer who lives a righteous life chooses to do what is right because of love for his Savior. This person is so incredibly humbled by the sacrificial love of His Master he desires nothing more than to live a life that pleases Him. He is a disciple that is focused and surrendered to God in not only heart but in action and attitude. A person who does not live a righteous life is self-focused, and self-righteous. He is prideful and full of his own desires. His feelings dictate his actions, and his attitude is determined by his perception of justice instead of what God determines is just. Situational ethics are his standard, and his life has no anchor. He is plagued by every wind of false teaching, and adrift in a sea of his own making. When fear attacks him, He can't focus on God.
Elijah was a righteous man. He was not self-focused, but obediently focused on what God called him to do. He was humbled by God's power in his life, and his prayers were powerful. Yet he faced fear just like we face fear. He ran just like we sometimes run, but God drew him back because Elijah could hear and know God's guiding voice. He heard God's gentle whisper in the midst of his fear because He was a righteous man that lived for God's purpose (I Kings 19:12-13). He was a man who even though He dealt with human emotion believed God would act in accordance to his prayers. The fire fell on Mount Carmel in response to his prayer. Rain fell in response to his prayer (I Kings 18). Fear claimed Elijah for a little while, but God's soft call drew him out of hiding, and back into His purpose. He heard God's voice because of the intimacy that a righteous life fosters. He heard God because he was a praying man.
If we choose to live a righteous life devoted to God, we, too, can pray powerfully as Elijah prayed. We also can pray down the fire and rain even though sometimes fear tries to claim our heart. We, too, can pray earnest prayers that make a difference. If we choose “to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8), and if we choose to come humbly, but boldly, to His throne in time of our need (Hebrews 4:16), we also can reach heaven. He will hear us, and He will answer.