Have you ever noticed how quickly society turns to prayer when a tragedy takes place? This is a good thing. It is a reminder that even in our secular world many have some sense of a supreme being and the need to cry out in hope and faith. It is as if modern man still longs for that Garden of Eden experience of fellowship with God as Adam enjoyed before the fall into sin. One of the greatest ministries of the church is the ministry of prayer. Christians engaged in righteous prayer brings the power of heaven on earth. Satan would rather see the church at play than at prayer. All who claim Christ as personal Savior need to pursue effectiveness and persistence in prayer.
I am a product of prayer and am a debtor to grandparents, parents and others who have lifted my name before the throne of grace. The enemy of my soul has fought harder against me in the area of prayer than any other area. I wish I could say that praying is always easy for me - it is not. I'm too tired, too busy, too forgetful, or just too plain lazy. I have prayed fire-hot anointed prayers and I've prayed many prayers that I'm sure fell to the ground because I was just giving God what my grandmother would call "a lick and a promise". I have called the church to times of prayer and forgot to pray. I have fallen asleep while praying. I've had my mind drift so much while praying that I can't remember what I prayed for. I've promised people I would pray for them and failed to do it. My most constant prayer is, "Lord help me to pray."
From my experience with prayer, I have learned one lesson well that I would like to pass along. It concerns a truth that is seldom spoken of in the church. To my shame it was my sin that God used to bring this to my attention. The following truth was made real to me at a time in my life of which I am ashamed. But it was also a time in my life for which I found forgiveness, and out of which I have experienced the grace of God and His amazing power to heal and restore.
Here is the simple truth I wish to share: our sin and self-righteousness can render prayer ineffective. The Psalmist declared in Psalm 66:18 "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;" The writer of Proverbs reminds us in Proverbs 28:9 "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination." The following words from Proverbs 15:8 let us know just how seriously God takes all aspects of worship: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight."
I've tried praying with sin in my heart - it doesn't work. There is no righteous prayer when repentance is called for. Trying to ignore our sin while continuing our "religious" activities is an abomination to God and the epitome of self-righteous arrogance. I learned the hard way that what King David said is true: "Behold You desire truth in the innermost being," Only when we come clean can we be made clean by the blood of the Lamb. By the grace of God I also know what it is to be washed and made whiter than snow.
If you, as a Christian, are trying to pray as if everything between you and the Lord is fine; when in your heart you are knowingly hiding sin or pretending that is doesn't matter - you are in a very dangerous place. God is not impressed with a religious spirit but He is touched by a humble heart of repentance.
The Bible says in James 5:16, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Yes Lord, I get the message.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)