“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.”
Prayer for defeated believers is an “effective” prayer. “Effective” means to have power, to put something into operation. We get our English word “energy” from the Greek word for “effective.” The idea is operational prayer energized by the Spirit. These prayers are efficacious or operational. Prayer is ineffective unless God energizes it. The effect produced in the praying person, such as in the case of Elijah (5:17), is a power operating in the will of God.
There is no word for “fervent” here. We do not impress God with fervency, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, please do this.” Translators get the word “fervent” from the word much in the Greek. The “much power” of a righteous man (a leader walking in fellowship with God) gets his prayers answered because he is in the will of God.
of a righteous man
The spiritually strong have strong prayers. They can intervene for others who cannot intervene for themselves. The “righteous man” here is the Spirit-filled and mature leader, an “elder” or leader of the local congregation (5:14). It is the prayer of a leader in the will of God that gets answers to prayer for a believer in deep decline.
Certain prayers have power, but other prayers do not. “Avails” means accomplishes “much.” It avails much because it is effective. Prayers of righteous leaders are operational. Weak prayers from weak people do not produce much, but strong prayers from spiritually strong people accomplish much. Prayer is a powerful force. A congregation is never more threatened than by sin within.
Nu 11:2, “Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched.”
God will not void the prayers of a righteous man. The “effective,” “fervent” prayer is a powerful prayer. There is effectiveness in the power of prayer.
Prayers of leaders who walk with God are operational toward God because those prayers are in the will of God.
The prayer of a leader in a local church who walks with God has much power and is operational in God’s eyes. This leader can save a believer from the sin unto death (5:20). The believer with the sin unto death is more than a carnal Christian; he is a rebellious believer in deep spiritual decline, opposing God’s authority for his life.
Jas 5:20, “…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
For a believer to be saved from the sin unto death, he must repent of his deep spiritual decline by accepting the authority of the leader’s prayer. By changing his mind toward his rebellion, he opens himself to freedom from the sin unto death. The effective prayer of a mature leader brings this believer back in line with the will of God. There is a need for interdependence between followers and leaders of a local church.
Mutual care for one another is the way we combat spiritual discouragement and downfall. Weak prayer comes from the spiritually weak; strong prayer comes from the spiritually strong. We need mature leaders to help us through sinful obsessions. Confession of sin to mature leaders will deliver us from the grip of sin.