“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).
Maybe your story is like mine. I became a believer as a teenager, but nobody taught me to be a disciple of Christ. My church told me what I needed to do (like read the Bible, pray, and witness), but it did not show me how. Nobody told me how to walk in truth, righteousness, and faith (see Eph. 6:11-17). As a result, I lived a defeated Christian life for far too many years.
The enemy aims his arrows at young believers who have not been discipled. He strikes them with doubt and discouragement. Sometimes he hits them with loneliness, as they move away from their non-Christian friends and try to fit into a church that is unfamiliar to them. At other times, he lures them with the same temptations they faced as non-believers. Whatever his strategy may be, he wants to strike at new believers before they are solidly planted in the Church.
This issue is related to prayer in at least two ways. First, many new believers are never taught how to pray. What they are told to do, they are not taught to do—and the result is a frustrated believer who longs to pray but does not know how. The enemy thus wins when the new believer gives up trying. This failure to disciple is, in my estimation, a primary cause of prayerlessness in the Church today.
Second, undiscipled believers often live defeated, sinful lives that hinder praying in the first place. Both Isaiah and the psalmist (Isa. 59:1-2, Ps. 66:18) knew that God chooses not to respond to the prayers of those who live in sin. It is the fervent prayer of a righteous man that makes a difference (Jas. 5:16), not the prayers of one living in unrighteousness.
How, though, does a new believer know how to stand for righteousness and fight against temptation unless the Church teaches him? An undiscipled believer may realize that his praying is ineffective, yet not know enough to understand why—and he gives up on the power of prayer. The enemy again wins.
A brief summary is in order here. The enemy seeks to keep unbelievers blinded to the gospel, thus holding them in bondage. He further schemes against believers, striving to discourage and defeat them so their faith is weakened and their prayers are ineffective. Powerless, prayerless believers make little difference in the war inherent in evangelism.
Father, my heart grieves for the generations of young believers whose spiritual condition has been disregarded or ignored by parents, pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ. Ignite our hearts to embrace the young people in our churches; to come alongside of them with encouragement and to pray fervently for their spiritual growth and ministry! Prick our hearts for our children and turn our prayers and attention towards them with intentionality and the desire to grow them into disciples whose hearts will not turn away from Your Truth!
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry, Chapter 66 (Strategic Prayer for God’s Mission and Missionaries) by Mike Barnett. This resource is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount on the book.
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Praise Jesus Christ, the Lord, the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4-5). Thank God for making “his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4:6). Confess times of disinterest in knowing God fully. Commit yourself to thinking daily about him and his glory. Ask God to make his light shine more fully in your heart.
Pray for God to shine through you to your family and friends, even though they know you well enough to see your weaknesses. Thank God that this shows even more clearly that the power is from him rather than you (4:7).
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