Faith and trustworthy character as the basis for effective prayer
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 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. James 5:13-16
Prayer has never been nor will ever be a secondary subject. It continues to be the key to revival and to the breath of spiritual life. James describes prayer as an imperative. The exercise of our spiritual life not only demands adjusting to the principles that rule over the spiritual world but also a close and deep relationship with God. Effective prayer not only entails asking things of God but also correctly responding to his commands, his counsel and direction.
God’s moral government is not based on a sovereignty isolated from human will, but on an interaction and cooperation that God desires to maintain with man. Prayer is the greatest spiritual opportunity to partnership with God in what He is creating and doing. God created man to be his moral agent on the earth and prayer is the means by which he can access God’s divine resources.
Many things can unilaterally attract God’s favor; however there are others that God has determined must be bilateral. God’s character is unchangeable. He is gracious and His kingdom is abundant. There is plenty for everybody. However, above all He is a personal being. This means that the highest purpose of our life does not depend upon what we do for God, but in the simple fact of possessing and maintaining a relationship with Him. This is the primary axis of our existence.
Relationship is bilateral by definition and is only genuinely possible through trust. Trust is never automatic but something that must be built over time and doesn’t only depend on our faith in God’s character but also on our credibility before him. Beyond exercising blind faith toward God we are required to be trustworthy before him. When you are trustworthy, then it is easier to believe that others will also be. This interactive faith is the foundation of relationship.
Faith and character are interdependent elements. Faith without character produces fantasy and hypocrisy. Character without faith is reduced to rationalism. Faith and character, trust and credibility are the master pillars that support and give structure to relationships.
To trust and to be trustworthy are interconnected. Faith can be inhibited by infidelity and betrayal. Chronic infidelity reduces the capacity to believe and engenders superficiality. Superficiality can rapidly undergo metamorphosis and transform itself into mere hypocrisy. When we allow hypocrisy into our heart, our inner sense of spiritual security begins to fade away.
It is impossible for us to believe in ourselves if we are not trustworthy. Why would God believe or trust in us if we don’t even believe in ourselves? Certainly God is free to believe in us regardless of our trustworthiness; however, our lack of trustworthiness becomes an existential matter that imposes an internal conflict between our conscience and our soul. We are either convinced of our own sin or we strangle our own conscience. We either relate to God and to others in a healthy and free manner, or we isolate ourselves from God and others. If we choose to isolate ourselves from God because of this inner conflict, we will undermine our faith and our prayers will become ineffective. The result is a quality of life that is inferior to that which God desires to give us and the tragedy at this point is that we often blame or attribute this level of life to God’s preference rather than to our isolation from His grace.