“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” ~ James 5:16

When I was about three years old, I went to the grocery store with my dad. At first I was so proud and excited. I was getting to help my dad with something grown up and important. I kept this mood up for about 5 minutes, especially on the cereal aisle. My excitement waned while we filled the cart with boring things like milk and bread. Any excitement I had was gone by the time we got to the produce aisle.

But then I saw it. In front of me were bins and bins of candy. Caramels and cordials. Taffy and toffee. This was the 1970’s, mind you. They didn’t have the Food Pyramid. They were still working out the Four Food Groups, and I think candy might have still been a vegetable. All I know is that when you’re three, your visions of heaven usually involve large amounts of candy. I grabbed a handful of caramels and put them in my mouth before my dad knew what was happening.

Then he looked at me. Parents have a way of looking at you. They say everything that needs said without uttering a single word. I had disappointed him – I just knew it. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I hid. There was just enough space for a kid under that candy bin. I figured I could sustain myself on caramels for a few hours. After that I would be fueled by sheer will.

My dad somehow coaxed me out of my new home and walked me up to the front of the store. He didn’t seem mad, but he was definitely going to use this as a teaching moment. We waited, and after a few minutes a man came out. My dad introduced him to me as the store manager. I didn’t know what a store manager did but I wanted no part of it. I wished I had stayed in my hideout in the candy section. I would have only survived a few hours there, but figured I was about to die right now.

The store manager was a kind fellow. He looked at me kind of like my dad had. Maybe he had kids of his own, who knows. Now, I don’t exactly remember what that manager said. Something about knowing that I was a good kid and that good kids don’t do those kinds of things. But I will never forget what he did next.

He let me keep the candy.

For so many years, I thought back on that moment in my young life with shame. But now I start to see things a little more through the eyes of the grownups. I thought I was bad, but the store manager saw an upset little boy. And my dad? Well, my dad saw his son.

When we think about the idea of being righteous, we try through our own efforts to be good. And it’s never good enough.

Or we look at God’s plan for us, and we think it’s too good to be true. So we try to add things to it.

Either way, we’re working out of human striving. And it’s about as sustaining as a handful of caramels.

Being righteous has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God.

  1. Is your view of being “righteous” more about what God is doing or about what you need to do?
  2. Do you feel like you live your life more out of trusting God? Or is it more human striving?
  3. How does the meaning of “the prayer of a righteous man” change in light of this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Let me know in the comments. I may do a follow up post as needed. Let me know…