Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, (Luke 3:21NASB)
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16b KJV)
We could write a book about the baptism of Jesus, but today we are looking at the last part of this verse, the part about what happened when Jesus prayed. I do recognize that we need the next verse to complete the thought. With that said, though, this is an astoundingly profound bit of Scripture.
Heaven opened while Jesus was praying.
Wow! Jesus (Matt 3:13-17) told John that He had come for baptism "to fulfill all righteousness". He was not being baptized because He had repented of sin. He was being baptized as an act of obedience that showed us the way. There was a three step process here:
1. Obedience to the Father
3. Heaven opened
James (the brother of Jesus) would later write about the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man. They accomplish much. We have a tendency to think that prayer accomplishes much, but that is not exactly what Scripture says.
Here we see that Jesus demonstrated heaven-opening prayer, and it began with obedience. He was perfect and sinless, but he was also obedient, and when He prayed, things happened. When He prayed, heaven opened.
James writes that the prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. None of us are righteous, but we can have the righteousness of Christ when we put our trust in Him. Obedience moves us closer to righteousness, thereby moving us closer to "availing much" prayer.
I am not saying that God only hears the prayers of perfect people. I am saying, however, that, when we are in right relationship with our Lord, we can pray more effectively. We can allow Christ to pray through us. What happens then? When Christ prayed by the Jordan that day, heaven opened. Wow! That was some availing much prayer!
If we want truly "availing much" prayer (and who doesn't?) then we must move closer to "righteous" status. When I work in the prayer room, my first action is always to get clean before The Lord by asking Him to show me my heart and what is displeasing to Him. He never fails to find something that needs to go. It is only after some divine heart-cleansing that I am ready for availing prayer. I'm not so good about that in my daily prayer. I tend to pray constantly throughout the day, but if I started with thorough heart cleansing every day, repenting of all God finds that displeases Him, how much more effective could I be?
Today, let's begin the work of interceding for our children and our loved ones by praying for ourselves. Let's pray for a heart checkup, a Divine examination of our hearts, asking Him to show us what needs to go. Let's take a step closer to righteousness. Only then will we be ready to pray that those we love will take steps toward righteousness too.
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