Effective prayer changes you, changes those around you, and changes the world. So, here’s a potentially painful question: how effective are your prayers? In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to pray effectively.
Of course, by using the word, “effective,” I’ve already set the stage for introducing James’ famous quote on the subject: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)
My own reaction whenever I read this verse is to think, “Well, I’m not very righteous, so my prayers won’t be either powerful or effective.” But Satan is trying to trick me here, with a clever diversionary tactic. Satan wants me to jump straight to righteousness, while bypassing confession.
Jesus explained this in the parable of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which you’ll find in Luke, chapter 18. The tax collector prayed like this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Do you know what Jesus said about this man? “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.”
Do you see? Confession made the sinner righteous. And the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Be wise. This is not a rote formula: “I’ll confess that I’m a sinner, and then ask for [fill in the blank].” No, the tax collector’s confession had its origin in a penitent heart. Pride (the Pharisee’s problem) is incompatible with penitence. If you confess without penitence, you are, to use one of Paul’s analogies, “a noisy gong.”
So we see that the first effective prayer – confession and an appeal for mercy from a penitent heart – leads to righteousness by the divine action of God. From this place of righteousness, born of forgiveness, grace, and mercy, come all other effective prayers.
You, too, as sinful as you are, can be the righteous one whose prayers are powerful and effective. Give God his appropriate place in your life.
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