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DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - Please give your views on the following texts of scripture:

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16.

Also, Rom.3:10. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” The question with me is: Who is the righteous man; and how and in what way the prayer avails much?

Your sister in the Lord, I hope,
Mary A. Cornell.

REPLY. In a legal sense, there is none righteous, either Jew or Gentile; no, not one. Hence the apostle, in writing to the church at Rome, has fully demonstrated from the scriptures that by the deeds of the law, or personal obedience to the law, no flesh living can be justified in the sight of God. It is in reference to that righteousness which they who are ignorant of God’s righteousness go about to establish. All our own righteousness, saith the prophet, are as filthy rags. All are sinners, and even the elected, redeemed and justified saints of God, were by nature children of wrath, even as others. Hence the record is sealed, and God himself has declared in his written word, “There is none righteous; no, not one;” and this includes the whole posterity of Adam, from the beginning of the world, to the end of time.

Yet, although sinful, guilty, and altogether unholy and unrighteous in themselves, and utterly incompetent to pray in the spirit, or to raise a single holy aspiration to God, or even to approach unto God, yet God has provided a way of life and salvation through his dear Son, whose blood cleanseth all unto whom it is applied, from all sin. And of all who have redemption through his blood, God has said, “And their righteousness is of me.” “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength.” Isa. 45:24, and 54:17. Therefore the redeemed, called, quickened, justified saint of God shall say, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Isa. 61:10. But of God are all the saints in Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto them wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. I Cor. 1:30. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” II Cor. 5:21. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Rom. 8:1-4. Thus we see that although there is not one of all the family of Adam righteous, in himself, and in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing; yet in the Lord all the members of Christ have a perfect and everlasting righteousness, and are made the righteousness of God in him. “For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Rom. 5:19. When we who were by nature children of wrath, are made righteous in our precious Redeemer, we become a praying people, and when God pours upon us the spirit of grace and supplication, our prayers become both fervent and effectual.

Pharisees, hypocrites, and formalists may pray with themselves, and disfigure their faces, and make their prayers loud and long, in the market places and corners of the streets, and they may take the name of God in vain; but no man can come unto God but by Christ, who is the way, and the truth, and the life. They draw nigh only to an imaginary god, and pray to be heard of men; and if in their blind infatuation they flatter themselves that the God of heaven approves of their prayers, they expect to be heard for their much speaking. Their prayers are doled out in quantity, and the popular theory with them is that the efficacy of their prayers is in proportion to the quantity. Their concerts of prayer, by previous agreement, praying bands, and praying circles, are spoken of boastingly, as a lever in their own hands, by which, they tell us, they “can move the power that moves the world.” And they seem to think and speak as though they expect to prevail upon God himself to lay aside his purposes and plans, and adopt theirs. But all this but demonstrates their utter ignorance of the true and living God, who is of one mind, and none can turn him. Even the dear children of God do sometimes ask and receive not, because they ask amiss. We may rest assured that if we pray to God to forego his purpose for our gratification, or to do what only for our prayers we think he would not do, that we are praying amiss, and however fervent, such prayers are never effectual. The fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man, means not only that the praying man is a child of God, and stands freely justified in the Savior’s righteousness, but such a child is righteous in his prayer. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. If in his devotion he is not led by the unerring Spirit, he is not righteous in his prayer. There are two incentives to prayer, the one is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, and the other is the spirit or desires of the flesh. If prompted by the latter, we shall be sure to pray for something to be consumed upon our carnal lusts; and when any of the children of God vent the selfish desires of the flesh, God in great mercy withholds from us what we ask for. And whenever we ask God for anything, and we receive it not, the cause of its being withheld is clearly stated by the apostle; it is because we have asked amiss. But when the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, it maketh intercession for us according to the will of God, and with groanings which we cannot utter. The Spirit that dwells in the saints is the Spirit of God, and knoweth what is the mind of God, and therefore inspires the prayer according to the will of God. Suppressing in us every desire that conflicts with the will of God, and breathes in our hearts, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” But when that Holy Spirit fails to dictate our prayers, we know not how to pray as we ought. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit, against the flesh; but if we are led and governed by the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. To pray in the spirit is to pray fervently and effectually. And should the Spirit inspire in our hearts the same prayer that was by the same Spirit indited in the heart of the prophet Elijah, the prayer would be equally fervent and quite as effectual. How could it be otherwise? It is the Spirit of God, it searcheth all things, even the deep things of God, and knoweth what is the mind, or will of God. That Holy Spirit of prayer bows every praying heart in subjection to the divine will, and as God works all things after the counsel of his own will, by his Spirit he never leads his children to pray for, nor to desire anything contrary to his will. It is God, that God to whom all effectual prayer is made, which worketh in his children both to will and to do of his good pleasure. If the Spirit of God shall inspire in even the least of all his children a prayer, it must be according to the will of God, and will certainly be effectual, if it be to seal up the heavens, and withhold the rain, for any length of time; or to send us rain; or should we be led by his Spirit to pray for mountains to be removed from their beds of ages, and hurled into the midst of the ocean, it would certainly be done. God’s Spirit never leads us to pray for anything that God does not design to grant, and it would be presumptuous for us, unless so led by the Holy Spirit, to pray for anything that God has not specially instructed us to pray for. In no case have we a right to pray only in submission to the will of God. Even our great Redeemer, when in the flesh, and suffering in the garden, poured out strong prayers and tears, but all in submission. “If it be possible, let this cup pass; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

It was not because Elijah was a good man, or had more influence with God than others, that his prayers were fervent and effectual. They were fervent because inspired by the Spirit, and effectual because they were righteous, and righteous because they were according to the supreme will of the immutable God. For Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we all are. As a prophet or as a suppliant, he was only what the Lord had made him. His prayers were not always effectual, he sometimes asked and received not, because he sometimes asked amiss. Like us he always asked amiss when prompted by his passions, and not by the Spirit of the Lord. The passion of fear excited by the threats of Jezebel, led him to pray amiss, and ineffectually, when sitting under a juniper tree, that the Lord would take away his life; but that was not the will of God, and therefore his prayer in that instance was not granted. I Kings 19:4. The fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man, is the prayer of any of God’s dear children who, though compassed about with infirmities, carnal passions, and ignorance, so that they know not how to pray as they ought, and who often feel discouraged because their prayers seem so unavailing; yet when the Spirit helpeth their infirmities and maketh intercession for them according to the will of God, they ask in faith, {for faith is a fruit of the Spirit,} and by its teaching they ask in humble submission to the will of God, and only for the things which God has in store for them. The spirit of prayer binds the strong man and holds him in subjection, elevates their affection, controls their desires, confirms their faith, and applies the gracious promises of the gospel. Then they pray in the Spirit, and rise above the passions of nature, and their prayers are equally as fervent and effectual as was the prayer of Elijah when he prayed that it should not rain upon the earth by the space of three years and six months. But no cringing forms, nor flowing words, however sanctimoniously expressed, which are not directed and inspired by the Holy Spirit, can be acceptable to him who only can be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Middletown, N.Y.
September 1, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe