Day 10

Effective Prayer

from the 1, 2 & 3 John reading plan

1 John 5:14-21, Deuteronomy 29:29, Luke 18:1-8, John 3:16-17

BY Sharon Hodde Miller

About ten years ago, I was struggling with gossip, a sin I couldn’t seem to kick, no matter how hard I tried. I had become convicted about it after living with a friend who didn’t gossip at all. Like, at all. She held her tongue and guarded confidences with patience and incredible grace. She was a wonderful example to me, and her integrity highlighted the cracks in my own. So, I decided to change.

At first, I simply tried to gossip less. I’d made up my mind and thought that would be enough. It wasn’t. Then, I decided to “fast” from gossip. Now, I know that’s not how fasting works; we aren’t supposed to fast from things we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Even so, making the concerted effort really seemed to help. I limited the fast to forty days, cutting out gossip TV shows and magazines, and just trying to be more intentional. I took it one day at a time.

During those forty days, I was able to avoid gossip. And for the first time, I felt a sense of victory over this area of my life. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick. A decade later, I still fall prey to this sin. I still spread rumors under the guise of concern, I still ask for personal details I don’t need to hear, and I freely discuss the personal lives of famous people. I don’t like that I do it, but I do it nonetheless. I’ve come to realize I’ll struggle with it the rest of my life.

Ongoing struggles with sin are one of the great mysteries of the Christian life. On the one hand, following Christ means we put on our identity of Christ. In Him, we are set free from our sinful nature, and it no longer exercises unbridled power over us (Ephesians 4:22–24). On the other hand, we still sin. Even when we don’t want to sin, we do (Romans 7:15–16). In Christ we are victorious over our flesh, but we still do battle against it.

John alludes to this struggle, stating that we are victorious and should not continue to sin (1John 5:18), but he also encourages believers to pray for others while they’re in the midst of sinning. At first, it seems like John is contradicting himself. But what John is referring to is the tension between the “already, but not yet” of being a Christian. This concept means we have one foot in eternity and one foot here on earth. We already taste the victories of Christ’s resurrection, but we don’t yet possess them completely. We will continue to struggle with sin, but it will no longer define us.

This already-not-yet state of being can be frustrating, especially when you’re tired of struggling with sin. But even in that, God does not abandon us to struggle alone. We always have the help of prayer, which is why John encourages us to ask for anything “according to his will” (1John 5:14). When we ask God to deliver us from sin, He promises to hear us, and help us. He is the true God and our High Priest, and we can trust Him with our weaknesses (1John 5:20; Hebrews 4:15).

The struggle with our flesh is real, but take heart: God isn’t finished with us yet. We are already “in the true one—that is, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1John 5:20). He is the only way to eternal life, and we are only just beginning to taste the fullness that awaits (Philippians 3:20).

Post Comments (82)

82 thoughts on "Effective Prayer"

  1. Olivia Williams says:

    Love how these Devos are always so relevant, even when I’m a day behind! He is faithful.

  2. Taylor says:

    So thankful for this word today that God is not finished with me yet! I am in the midst of a struggle with my heaviest chain, the sin that weighs me down more than anything. It is my greatest idol – seeking the approval of man to validate my worth. I find myself in a struggle to trust God at the moment. I loved whoever commented “What would happen if I actually gave God a chance and ran to Him instead?” I needed to hear that. Something that has been on my heart recently is the word surrender. God I’m scared. I know you ways are higher than my ways and your thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Lead me to the cross of surrender, that I can trust in you. Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Amen

  3. Elizabeth Holcomb says:

    I understand this is a study for women and many women are mothers. I don’t want to complain-but as a 29 year old unmarried woman who has always longed for her own family this is a hard photo to look at. I think godly womanhood isn’t always motherhood and it’s a reason I don’t read many devotional for women as they almost always refer to being a mom. Just a thought.

  4. Nancy Marshall says:

    Thanks for this great piece this morning. I have found Gossip to be the sin that other people can pull me into so easily, and it feels terrible, almost immediately. Its the sin that we are forced to demonstrate to others what our boundaries are, or else we are in the muck all of the time. The good news is that this is a perfect way to let our light shine among men too. I have started a thing with an atheist colleague of mine, where we come in to work and commit that we will only be positive and uplifting today, and if anything turns negative gossipy, we call each other out and back to the high ground. God is so good, glad he is not finished with me yet!

  5. Robin says:

    I’ve felt the same way throughout the last week. My biggest struggles have been described in ever so subtle ways here. The first day, I cried. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do this study with her, to try it out and see if it was something I liked. What she didn’t know was that I’ve been struggling with my mental health and she sent me the link here on a day I really needed it the most. Day 10 and I’m still here reading and praying! The lord brought me her friendship and brought me here. He answered my prayers.

  6. Natasha G says:

    This reading came at the perfect time. I love that sin doesn’t define us and that Christ is always there to help deliver us from sin. Exactly what I needed to hear.

  7. Ashley Thomas says:

    Gossip has always bothered me, even as a child. Perhaps it’s because I was often the subject of gossip/being picked on. I wore glasses, was extremely poor, and severely broke my elbow in the fifth grade, leaving it permanently deformed. I have never been comfortable listening to others talk about “what they heard about so-and-so.” My mother-in-law is the worst gossiper I’ve ever encountered. She calls my husband at least 10 times a day to tell him whatever the latest gossip she’s heard. It drives him crazy, but she won’t listen when he tells her he doesn’t want to hear it. Thankfully, she doesn’t call me, but she’s a difficult person to be around. Unlike the author of the commentary today, she doesn’t seem to realize she has a problem. Certainly, I have other sins I struggle with, but I am aware, and I do make an effort. I pray every day for God to help me change my ways,

  8. Nicole Burgos says:

    I find it funny that the things I’m struggling with are in this bible study. It continues to show me that I’m not alone in this and God will continue to heal what is needed

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