The Key to Effective, Powerful Prayer

God's first line of defense – and offense – for every situation is prayer.

I remember a time when God spoke to my heart and asked me, "Joyce, do you really believe in the power of prayer?" I immediately responded with, "Yes, I believe in the power of prayer." But He asked me again – twice.

I figured out at this point that He wanted to help me get something I was missing, so I got quiet and waited to hear what He had to say. Then the Lord showed me that if I really knew how powerful prayer is, I would pray more.

James 5:16 says, "…The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]" (The Amplified Bible). The New King James Version says it this way, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Prayer opens the door for God to work!

We need to remember this more often. It's not critical, judgmental opinions that cause God to move on someone's behalf. It's the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman.

Instead of judging people, we need to pray. Instead of wasting time and energy talking about our critical opinions, we should use that same energy praying about whatever is bothering us. For example, when Dave and I see adult stores that sell things like pornography, we always pray that God will shut the place down.

And you don't have to pray long, loud, eloquent prayers in a certain place or with a certain posture for it to be effective. Fervent prayer is sincere, heartfelt and focused prayer. When God prompts you to pray a simple one-sentence prayer, like "God, please help that person…" you probably don't realize just how powerful it is.

Know who you are in Christ so you can pray with power.

The thing that's really important is praying fervently with a heart that's right with God, knowing who you are in Christ. We have to be confident that we're righteous before God – not condemned and guilty – so we will come boldly before God's throne of grace and get whatever we need (see Hebrews 4:16).

Now, I'm not talking about being self-righteous. It doesn't matter how much we do things right – we can never measure up to God's standard of holiness on our own. True righteousness comes through Jesus. We're cleansed by the blood of Christ and He gives us right standing with God. It's a gift. And we receive it through faith!

There are people who constantly live under a cloud of guilt and condemnation. It's like being on a treadmill of guilt. And the devil, who is called the "accuser of the brethren" (see Revelation 12:10), will say things like, "Who do you think you are? God's not going to hear you. You didn't do this…you didn't do that…"

Have you ever had these thoughts when you're praying?

But we don't have to live with this. God has given us everything we need through Christ to live a powerful life. We don't have to live depressed, discouraged, downtrodden and barely making it through each day.

We can get God's help in every situation – through prayer.

God wants to help you. He loves you. He accepts you and He approves of you because of what Jesus has done for you. And He will never ask or expect you to be or do something without giving you what you need to do it.

So even though we can't earn and we don't deserve righteousness, God offers His love and righteousness. And if we will really receive it, we can be like Jesus. We can pray effective, fervent and tremendously powerful prayers!