The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. –James 5: 16
Many people think that this verse means that if we only pray long enough, hard enough and often enough, God will grant our prayers. That if we are just intense and emotional, the heavens would answer us.
I once had a conversation with a college friend who said that God has this one weakness: the tears of a praying Christian. While that sounds like a comforting (and cute) idea, it is actually theologically wrong on all fronts. God doesn’t have a weakness and our tears have no bearing in the way He will answer or not answer our prayers. He is not your mother for crying out loud! He is not fooled with your incessant yapping. He doesn’t answer prayers on the basis of the tears we shed or the emotional weight we put into our supplications.
The verse we quoted above actually says something entirely different. If we go back to the originals, the KJV rendering “effectual fervent” came from a single Greek word where we get our English “energy.” It literally means “to be at work or to effect something.” Meaning, something that is being powered (by God, as the context suggests).
The word “avail” in that verse also means “strength and ability.”
Put these two words together and you get a clearer meaning for this verse. It now says, “The God-powered prayer of a righteous man is strong.” Bible commentator Clarke says that this verse signify “energetic supplication, a prayer that is suggested to the soul and wrought in it by Divine energy.”
One thing I’d like to say here: the driving force behind a prayer should not be your emotions or your own intensity but the power of God. It is God that fuels your prayer life, it is His strength that does it. I believe this is liberating to a certain extent. Some people have this mistaken notion that they should be praying hard enough to get God to answer their wishes. The problem with this mentality is that nobody actually knows how much is hard enough.
So, would your tears make a difference when you pray? The answer is a big NO. It’s not tears that move Him, it’s faith.