The Power of Prayer in Christian Counseling

Biblical Principles

Christian counseling is about applying the principles in God’s Word to the circumstances and situations presented by the clients. There are certain things which are known about most Christians who come to counseling. Of those things, it is their lack of knowledge concerning the Scriptures which stands out the most. The Christian who does not know his or her Bible is condemned to fail over and over.

  • Proverbs 5:23 (NASB) He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.  
  • Isaiah 5:13 (NASB) Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.
  • Hosea 4:6a (NASB) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

There are seven things which are referred to as “sin” in the Bible. The first for are:

1. Disobedience. 2. Transgression. 3. Iniquity. 4. Rebellion.

These first four are “sins” which, as the Bible says, “lead to death.”

  • 1 John 5:16-17 says, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.”
  • Romans 6:23 (NASB) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What this means is that the punishment of death is the only way to deal with these. On the other hand, two other things are referred to as “sin” in the Bible:

5. Failure. 6. Error.

  • James 4:17 (NASB) Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Most Christians don’t understand these two “sins.” Much of what Christians struggle with in their walk with God falls within the perimeters of this two words. The verse in James makes an emphasis that most people will tend to ignore. It is not saying that doing wrong is “sin,” it is saying that not doing the right thing is “sin.” It is the absence of the right thing that is wrong.

The point here, for today’s purposes, is that these two “sins” do not “lead to death.” This is an important distinction because we are not expected to respond to these “sins” that “do not lead to death” in the same manner as the first four. The correct response, as Christians, to the first four above is to repent, especially with rebellion, which is the result of the first three taken to access.

When it comes to failure and error, we are not required to repent. The correct response is to learn from the failures and errors and to choose different (and hopefully better) behavior, and make wiser decisions. This way, the Christian will gradually improve on his or her character as they continue their walk with God.

So, continuing with today’s theme on prayer, let’s take another look at:

  • 1 John 5:16-17 “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.”

Notice the first part of the verse; “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.”

This is a powerful concept.

First of all, pay attention to the fact that this verse refers to someone seeing his brother committing a sin not leading to death. Though there can be arguments as to the correct meaning of the word brother in this verse, the general opinion of studied Christians throughout history is that it refers to a Christian, a person who has been saved; born-again.

Secondly, the “sin” committed is one that is obvious, meaning that it is noticeable to others. This would preclude any “sins” committed in secrecy. We should be able to agree that this “sin” would be something that the person is probably doing over and over. This way, if we did not notice it the first time, we would thereafter as the person continued to practice it.

Thirdly, it is we who are to ask God for help in this matter. There are people who seem to be clueless of their own behavior or choices. They may be convinced that they are either doing the right thing, or they may think that things are just happening the way they are because that’s just how things work. In either case, they are blind to the real effect of their ways.

Fourthly, this “sin” that is referred to may not be just one action or decision. We may be looking at a pattern in this person’s life.  For example, a Christian may believe that because they failed or erred that they have “sinned.” Then they may believe that the fact that they “sinned” (failed or erred) could mean that they may lose their salvation. The result could be that they become frustrated and start feeling hopeless. If they come to this point, they may stop caring whether they “sin” or not. They will then start behaving as “sinners” and reaping the consequences of their decision.

This is where we come in. We, who notice the “sins” (bad behavior) of a fellow Christian who has fallen from the way, should pray to the Lord asking Him to give them life.

The Gift of Life

There are several ways of understanding the intention of the verse. Where it says that God “will give life to those who commit sin not leading to death,” we might come to one of the following conclusions:

1. That people who “sin” lose “life,” (their relationship with God).

2. That when someone is in “sin” they are living as though they were “dead” (separated from God).

3. That people who “sin” are not even Christians, so therefore not “alive” (in Christ).

4.  That these “brothers” who are “sinning” were never really saved.

I don’t like or agree with any of these conclusions, I am in the camp of believers who understand that Christians who err or fail can come to a point in their lives that they question their own salvation and conversion.  If this happens, these Christians will start living as though they were not saved. The result will be Christians who live as though “Sin” has retaken ownership of their lives. As far as they are concerned, they may believe that they have been forsaken by God due to their continual “sinning.” They will resort to their old behavior and choices. Many Christians live like this today, they are Christians, but they respond to things in the same manner as non-Christians. That is why we are admonished to be transformed in Romans 12:2.

  • Romans 12:2 (NASB) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Another way to understand the word “life” in the 1st John 5 verses, is by using it as a concept. The concept I am referring to is the one we read in Hosea 4:6a, (My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge).  Jesus referred to people who would not understand as being blind. Another way to refer to people who are without understanding is being dead, as in when we refer to those who have not yet come to Christ (been saved). Notice that the Hosea verse says, “My people,” it does not say unbelievers, or non-Christians, or those who are not saved. It also says that they “are destroyed,” a reference to their deaths, but it is not implying that the people are actually physically dying. The idea of the verse is that God’s people were doing badly because they did not know the right things to do. In other words, God’s people were not living in “life,” (with understanding), but in death (lack of understanding).

This is the concept and understanding I believe that the Scriptures want us to have, as we pray for those whose “sins” are those “not leading to death.” I believe that we are encouraged to pray for God to give them “life;” that their spiritual eyes would be opened, and they be given wisdom and understanding. It is only after the Christian becomes “transformed,” as Romans 12:2 clearly says, that they can know the perfect and good will of God for their lives.” It is this transformation that gives this spiritual “life.”

When Christians come to me for counseling, I know that they struggle with lies. They believe that they believe only the truth, but their life patterns say different. They will tell me about their belief in God and His power to do anything, but at the same time they will tell me of all the troubles and complexities in their lives that seem to have no end. I know that, if they are truly saved, they have the living God, who created the universe, living inside them, but they behave and choose as people who have no concept of what that means. Often I cannot see a difference in them and the unsaved people of this world.

The biggest “sin” (error/failure) that I see Christians commit over and over, is that they forget (or do not even know) who they are in Christ. No, I don’t mean they don’t spout nice sounding phrases like, “I am a child of God,” or “I am a new creation.” The problem is that they seem to think that just repeating these phrases like some kind of mantra is going to be enough. It does not matter how many times, or how determinately one repeats these phrases, they won’t change or improve things, they are just words. What needs to happen is for the Christian to believe these truths and have faith (start living as though they are true).

Some people believe that it is enough to believe in God, go to church, pray, and read the Bible. The problem with this is the devil also believes in God, goes to church (Luke 4:33), prays (prayer is speaking to God, right? Job 1:6-12), and reads the Bible (Matthew 4:5-6). So if both Christians and the devil do these four things, what is the difference between them? Christians obey.

Obedience is not what you tell yourself you are doing, it is whether or not you do as God’s Word says.

  • James 4:17 (NASB) Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Christians who respond and react to things in life the same way as non-Christians are “sinning.” They have conformed themselves to this world’s pattern of behavior. They are blind to the truth, and are living as though they are dead in their “sins.” They need “life.”

So, to come to an end here, if we notice a brother or sister who is committing a “sin” that does not lead to death, let’s pray to God to give him or her “life.” They need to come to the understanding of the truth.

What is the truth?

1. They have been freed from the controlling power of “Sin.” (Galatians 5:1)

2. They have been forgiven for all (past, present, and future) of their sins (once and for all) and do not have to keep asking for forgiveness (Romans 6:10, Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18).

3. They have been justified (they have a legal right standing before God). (Romans 5:9)

4. They have been made righteous (are blameless before God). (Romans 5:19,1 Peter 2:24)

5. They have been sanctified (set apart for God’s purpose). (1 Corinthians 6:11)

6. They have been given liberty (free to choose to serve God and righteousness). (1 Peter 2:24)

7.  And much more.

These are not just some nice things that are true about Christians, they must become the primary truth that we live by. If Christians could understand and make these truths their basis for all their decisions and actions, their lives would change. They would walk in faith, have a real semblance of life, and be a real light to this dark world.

So when we see a brother or sister “sinning” in this way that robs them of the “life” that Christ promised (Ephesians 3:20), lets raise our voices to the Lord and ask Him to give them “life” and 1 John 5:16-17 says that God will do it. Not maybe, or perhaps, or we’ll see, but will.

In any case, we should always pray for one another.

James 5:16 (NASB) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

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