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October 12 – Effective prayer

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. – Daniel 9:2-3

Scripture reading: James 5:13-20

What is the secret to effective prayer, prayer that is both heard and answered?

The Apostle James tells us that the power of prayer does not lie in the person praying. Elijah prayed for the rain to stop and start and God stopped and started the rain. But notice that although Elijah was a righteous man, he was a man with a nature like ours. The power in prayer is to pray what God promises. Elijah knew that God promised drought if his people abandoned him and rain if they repented (See 1 Kings 8:35-36). Elijah turned the promises into petitions.

God uses means to accomplish His ends, including the prayers of His saints. Further, God delights to be asked for the things promised. We see the saints doing this throughout Scripture. For example, Daniel knew that God was going to release Israel from Exile after 70 years. As the time approached, Daniel prays to that end. We know that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isaiah 11:9), and our Lord Jesus tells us to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

This is the prayer of faith. Pore over the Bible, discover God’s promises, turn them into petitions, and trust that God will be faithful to His Word. As the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, we must ask God ‘for everything He has commanded us to ask Him’ (Lord’s Day 45, Q&A 117).

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that God would teach us to grasp His promises so that we may pray according to His will. Remembering His promise that His Word shall not return to Him without accomplishing what He intends (Isaiah 55:11), pray that God would bless the reading and preaching of His Word tomorrow in the public gathering of His people.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. John van Eyk is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church (United Reformed) in Lethbridge, Alberta.

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