Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

Effective Prayer

Jesus cautioned us not to pray like the heathens:

Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.   (Matthew 6:7–8)

Do we often order God around in our prayers as if He needs our explanations and directions? Rather, should we not use God’s word in place of our words? His word accomplishes great things:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.   (Isaiah 55:10–11)

Should we not ask the Holy Spirit to direct our prayers? In that way our purpose becomes God’s purpose. Our prayers will be in agreement with the prayers of our Lord Jesus, who intercedes for us at the right hand of God:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.   (Romans 8:26)

In order to pray with discernment, however, our hearts must be prepare for prayer. We cannot pray effectively if we have unforgiveness in our hearts. Jesus has given us a guideline for prayer. In any prayer, we must begin with a humble and forgiving heart. Jesus said:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.   (Matthew 6:14-15)

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)

We must humble ourselves before God with repentant hearts, rather then approaching him with a haughty spirit. If so, we have access to the very throne of grace, because Jesus has paid the price for our sins and open up for us the gates of heaven.

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Filed under Jesus, Lent, Lenten daily readings, Lenten study, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

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