The Christian and Prayer 

The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up ; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.

James 5:15-16

There are circumstances in my life at this point in time that I have seen God using to teach me His wisdom and to lead me in spirit and truth.

One of those things is that answered prayers are contingent upon righteousness.

God hears the prayers of the righteous.

Well if we are all sinners, how is it that we can even be heard by God to receive salvation in Christ?

I would answer that the prayer of the sinner for salvation must first begin with confession. After all, who seeks a savior if they’re unconvinced they require one?

This usually plays out for me in prayer requests of people I know and love; they’ll ask me to pray for them in this or that situation, that it’ll work out positively. And I always pray for them, typically the moment they ask. But several things have to be understood in both asking for prayer and in praying for intercession on the behalf of others.

1) First, unconfessed, and unrepentant sin is a hindrance to your prayers.

What does this mean? I’ll use an illustration a friend of mine used for our youth group once. Consider your sins to be like dirty pigs- covered in mud, putrid stench rolling off them, reveling in garbage and refuse… you don’t want to be near that mess. It stinks, it’s unpleasant, and undesirable. That’s how God sees unconfessed sin in the life of a believer. First we have to confess our sins, repent of them, and then God purifies us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:5-10) It’s not as if we are looking for new grace or salvation each time, but rather aligning ourselves with God’s will and denying our own will in favor of His design and humbling ourselves in light of his holiness. If you can’t think of a sin you’ve committed, know that first off, no one is without sin and simply failing to acknowledge God is sin. So in those moments I pray Psalm 139:23-24 that God will convict me by the Holy Spirit of anything I need to repent of so that I can be in right relationship with God.

2.) Prayer isn’t the same as making wishes.

The Bible says that the intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. We are told over and over again in Scripture to pray in faith, to pray without doubting, to pray persistently, and to pray according to God’s will. Why? Several reasons. It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6) and lack of faith limits the ways in which God will work in our lives (Mark 6:5-6). So for God to work supernaturally in our lives, we first have to believe that he can and that he will. Also, we’re told to pray with persistence (Luke 11:1-13) because it shows our humility before God as well as dependency on his provision and trust in His will. Giving up on a prayer we haven’t yet seen the answer to shows doubt for God’s timing and his will. God’s will is what we would want for ourselves if we had the omniscience that He does. Always remember, that we cannot see the big picture and prayers that seemingly go unanswered (specifically for healing of sickness) may have reasons we can’t and won’t understand in this life. Remember that every trial we face is to make us more like Christ and to bring glory to God the Father. He is God, and remains sovereign no matter the outcome.

3.) Prayer doesn’t exempt us from the law of consequences.

All sin has built in consequences – if you break the law, you get arrested. If you lie to someone, they lose trust in you. If you live promiscuously, you bear the risk of STDs, unwanted pregnancy, emotional distress, etc. Wilfully sinning is in essence looking at the consequences of your actions, saying they’re worth it, and then severing the very purpose for which you were created. To paraphrase Ravi Zacharias, we play God and try to define good and evil for ourselves. In doing so we kill the very purpose for which we were created – to have communion with God, not to become God. Asking someone to pray you don’t experience the consequences of sin you comit mocks God and denies his character of justice. There is no grace without forgiveness. There is no forgiveness without repentance, and there is no repentance without confession. Denial of sin is a sin in itself.

There have been times recently where I’ve been asked to pray over a specific situation without being given the truth behind it. I then feel quite foolish after the fact having prayed essentially that the consequences of one’s unrepentant sinful actions be overridden by God’s mercy and grace. That’s not how prayer works. 

So, before you ask for prayer, consider whether or not what you’re praying about are simply the just consequences of past actions. Confess and repent of any sin, and then proceed to pray for God’s will to be done. Who knows, showing humility before God may soften His heart to your predicament.

And before you pray for someone else, first humble yourself before God and know it’s not your job to judge their motives. God has supreme knowledge – He will not answer a prayer that is contrary to his will or character. So pray for His will to be done in their lives as well as in yours.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”


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