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What Does 'The Prayers of the Righteous Availeth Much' Mean?

Woman in a bright light praying

James 5:16 tells us to, “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” (KJV). The New King James Version simplifies the language a bit. It says, “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.”

Availeth, or to avail, means to use or take advantage of an opportunity. It could also mean when we choose to do good things in order to bring about good benefits.

More modern translations make it even clearer. The New International Version says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” The New Living Translation adds that “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” This goes along with the avail definition of doing good things to bring about good benefits. Then the Amplified Bible translation states, “the heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much when put into action and made effective by God. It has tremendous power.”

What Does 'The Prayers of the Righteous Availeth Much' Mean?

We need to confess our sins to God and to other people. Confession will heal many souls. The one that confesses and the one that hears will both experience healing because confession brings God’s redemption into the picture. The confessor feels relief and the listener feels hope because they know they will sin too. Redemption brings much hope. Our conscience is cleared, and our prayers will be heard by God.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer (1 Peter 3:12). When we choose to do good and godly things, we are in the perfect place for God to hear our prayers. When we repent and confess our sins, God will turn his ears toward our cries (Psalm 34:15). He longs to help us when we humbly admit our weaknesses.

James follows verse 16 with a description of Elijah. Elijah was merely a human, just like us, but he let his faith in God prevail by praying fervently. He prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t rain for three years and six months. Then he prayed again for it to rain and heaven poured forth rain. When we put our faith in God, our prayers can do more than we think or imagine.

We can pray bigger than we think we can. Jesus said that if we have faith and do not doubt, we can move a mountain (Matthew 21:21). Whether He meant this literally or figuratively, we know that He meant for us to pray for big, even impossible, things. With God, impossible things are made possible. We can do great things because the Holy Spirit is within us. Our prayers avail much when we push aside our doubts and pray big.

3 Ways We Can Apply This Verse to Our Lives Today

The Book of James is a very practical book. It is often thought of as the Proverbs of the New Testament. James 5:16 can lead us into dramatic living within God’s purposes when we remember these 3 things:

1. We need community. Relationships with other people are very important for righteous living. When we do wrong, we should admit it to other people. We shouldn’t try to hide our flaws. We show our humanness and therefore make it possible for others to relate to us. We are transparent with them and therefore bring about an atmosphere where they can be completely honest with us. We play a part in the healing of other people around us. At least we can if we take the opportunity. We can help people heal physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Use your gifts and your prayers to serve and encourage others. Teach them. Give generously to them. Lead them in the right direction. Be kind and open to hearing the troubles they may be going through. You won’t always have an answer for them, but you can point them to the One who does. Prayers avail much when we use them to figure out the best way to serve others and then we go out and serve them.

2. We should ask for and give prayer. When we feel weak, we ask other people to pray for us. We ask for encouraging advice. We ask for help when we are burdened and weighed down. Then, we also offer to pray for others. We come beside them when they seem tired and lack joy. We speak encouraging words to them. We pray encouragement over them. We lift them up to our Heavenly Father so He can carry the bulk of their burden.

Keep your prayers as simple as possible. Flowery, long-winded phrases are unnecessary. Words like that are usually said to impress other people. God isn’t impressed by how we say things. He’s impressed by our humble heart. And He knows our needs before we say them. Prayers avail much when we say them out of a humble heart that desperately wants to help others.

3. We turn these actions into everyday habits. We continually give prayer the opportunity to lift up others as well as ourselves. Any good that we accomplish is because of God’s grace. He is the one who gave us the motivation to do any good works at all. We try our best to help others but then let God fill in the inevitable mistakes that we make. He can take them a lot further than our advice can. We pray for them to be open to the Lord’s leading and the same for ourselves. Our help can avail much but God can bring about even more power as well as deliverance, restoration, and redemption.

Prayers avail much when they help point people to the God who created them, loves them, and longs to be in a relationship with them.

Praying in a Way that “Availeth Much”

It is key to remember that if we confess our sins to God and to one another, God is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Then we can be confident that God hears us when we pray for things that please Him (1 John 5:14). When we ask, we will receive from God if our motivations are to keep His commandments and do what pleases Him (1 John 3:22).

Pray that God will shed light onto people’s hearts so that they will be convicted of their wrong actions and thinking. Pray for harmony and peace so that arguments will be doused with God’s living water. Pray that plots of evil and revenge are thwarted. Your prayers can play a part in turning someone toward God.

Doubt less and pray big. Worry less and pray often. Pray more for others than you do for yourself and you will see benefits as well. When you pray like this, your righteous prayers will avail much.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/rubenhutabarat 


headshot of author Jenni HeerenJennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. Her debut novel is available on Amazon. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.




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