The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. James 5:16-17

What does it mean to “pray earnestly.” The Message reads, “prayed hard”. How does one pray “hard”?

Recently I read that it means sincere and focused, which raises some interesting questions. Am I sincere when I pray? Do I really mean what I pray? Is my heart engaged or am I just going through the motions? I have to admit I’m not as sincere in my prayers as I would like to be. Then there is focus. Do I really concentrate when I pray or is my mind wandering? I find the temptation for mind-wandering is even greater when I’m praying with someone. Sometimes my mind is more focused on what I’m going to pray than agreeing with what someone is currently praying.

At such times I am grateful to God, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Jesus knows how I feel. He knows my weaknesses.

Yet, I also know that Elijah was “just like us” and he was able to pray earnestly. The solution is to “approach the throne of grace … so that we may … find grace to help us.” Even in our praying, God gives grace if we ask.