How much of the time do you feel you are “righteous?” Originally that word was translated into English as “rightwiseness,” that is 100% good and right and wise. All of us falter and fail when it comes to controlling our tongue, attitude, and behavior at times. Our sinful nature seems to be alive and well all too often. In most religions the gods respond to people on their own merits and goodness which is in reality an impossible situation. It simply means that you must keep trying harder, do penance, and hope for the best. That is not how it works in the Biblical view of life, is it?
When James wrote his letter to a wide variety of churches, he was concerned about the effect their faith was having on their observable behavior. He wanted them to understand that their good deeds would not ever be enough to earn them salvation, but that true faith in Jesus would always produce Christ-like behavior. In fact, because of their faith in Jesus they would be “righteous” – having the same characteristics He had of faithfulness, truthfulness, and goodness.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians and explained “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so we could be made right with God through Christ,” we could be made righteous. James was eager for them to know that through prayer there would be great power and wonderful results because of what Jesus did for them on the cross, not because of their good works.
What do you assume when you pray? Will God hear your prayer because of who you are or because of your reputation, talents, generosity, wisdom, good works or even the promises that you make at that particular time? Will God listen more closely if you join together with other people whom you assume are very spiritual? Will it make a difference if you are able to articulate your prayers well or at least humbly confess your inability to say just what you mean? “The great question is not, ‘How can I get my prayers answered?’ It is ‘What will it take to draw me closer to God?’” (Ray Pritchard)