We all say and use the phrase “the power of prayer”. When someone prays and it resonates with us and touches our hearts, we might say “That was a powerful prayer.” I understand that. I’ve felt that way before. Just be careful.
Don’t think that the power of prayer or a “powerful prayer” is your personal power. Or that there is power in the specific words you use in your prayer. If you start to think there’s power in the words you use, that leads to seeing prayer as a kind of incantation. An incantation puts the wielding of power into the hands of the person saying the right words. So if I say the right words, then I can wield power. If I say the right words, then I can make something happen. That’s not what we mean by the phrase “the power of prayer”. The danger is thinking that YOU have power. The power of prayer is not in the prayer. The power of prayer is not in the words. The power of prayer is not in the one who prays the words. The power of prayer resides in Jesus! Prayer is powerful because it taps into the power of God. It’s not OUR power in prayer, but it is the LORD’s power that changes things. So, when James writes “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”, that prayer is powerful because it effectively releases the power of God!
James goes on in chapter 5 to refer to the prayers of the Prophet Elijah in 1st Kings 18. This is a perfect example of releasing the power of God through prayer. Elijah’s prayer tapped into and released the power of God to bring fire from heaven and burn up his sacrifice. This resulted in bringing glory to God by changing the hearts of the people. If we want to see the power of God released or revealed through prayer, shouldn’t the purpose of that prayer be to bring glory to God? That God would receive honor and glory through a changed heart or changed situation? In other words, the purpose of our prayer is to bring glory to God by tapping into his power. A prayer is powerful when its purpose is to bring glory to God when he reveals his power. So, in your prayers, tap into God’s power by praying that He would get all the glory and honor when he displays his power to turn the hearts of unbelievers to Himself.