Deliverance From Prayerlessness
By Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917)
There is probably no single sin which many of us ought to acknowledge with deeper shame than the sin of prayerlessness. Many look upon it merely as a weakness. There is so much talk about lack of time, and all sorts of distractions, that the deep guilt of prayerlessness is not recognized. What is it, then, that makes prayerlessness such a great sin?
A Reproach to God
Consider, first of all, what a reproach it is to God. Our holy and most glorious God invites us to come to Him, to ask from Him such things as we need, and to experience the great blessing of fellowship with Him. He has created us in His own image, and has redeemed us by His own Son, so that in converse with Him we might find our highest glory and salvation. What use do we make of this heavenly privilege? How many there are who take only five minutes for prayer! They say that they have no time, and that the heart desire for prayer is lacking. They have no joy in praying.
If a friend comes to visit them, they have time, they make time, even at the cost of sacrifice, for the sake of enjoying converse with him or her. Yes, they have time for everything that really interests them, but no time to spend in fellowship with God and to delight themselves in Him! They find time for someone who can be of service to them; but day after day, month after month passes, and there is no time to spend one hour with God.
Do not our hearts begin to acknowledge what a dishonor to God this is that we dare to say we cannot find time for fellowship with Him?
Consider further that it is the cause of a deficient spiritual life. Prayerlessness is a proof that, for the most part, our life is still under the power of “the flesh.” Prayer is the pulse of life; by it you can tell what is the condition of the heart. The sin of prayerlessness is a proof for any Christian, that the soul is in deadly sickness and weakness.
Much is said about the feebleness of the church to fulfill her calling, to exercise an influence over her members, to deliver them from the power of the world, and to bring them to a life of holy consecration to God. Much is also spoken about her indifference to the millions of unsaved whom Christ entrusted to her, that she might make known to them His love and salvation.
What is the reason why many thousands of Christian workers in the world have not a greater influence? Nothing save this – the prayerlessness of their service. In the midst of all their zeal in the study and in the work of the church, of all their faithfulness in preaching and conversation with the people, they lack that ceaseless prayer which has attached to it the sure promise of the Spirit, and the power from on high. It is nothing but the sin of prayerlessness which is the cause of the lack of powerful spiritual life!
The Impact of Prayerless Ministers
Thirdly, consider the dreadful loss which the church suffers as a result of prayerlessness of ministers. It is the business of ministers to train believers up to a life of prayer; but how can a leader do this, if he himself understands little the art of conversing with God, and of receiving from the Holy Spirit, every day, out of heaven, abundant grace for himself and for his work? A minister cannot lead a congregation higher than he is himself. He cannot with enthusiasm point out a way, or explain a work, in which he is not himself walking or living.
But how can congregations be brought to that, unless there comes, first, an entire change in ministers, and that they begin to see that the indispensable thing is not preaching, not pastoral visitation, not church work, but fellowship with God in prayer till they are clothed with power from on high? May God teach every minister of the Word to see what a glorious place he may occupy, if he first of all is delivered from this root of evils; so that with courage and joy, in faith and perseverance, he can go on with his God!
Victory through Christ
How can we be delivered from prayerlessness? The victory cannot be won by human exertion or struggle, because our efforts are futile unless we first learn how to abide in Christ by a simple faith. See that your relationship to your living Savior is what it ought to be. Live in His presence, rejoice in His love, rest in Him. This is what will make it possible for one to live the life of prayer.
We must not comfort ourselves with the thought of standing in a right relationship to the Lord Jesus while the sin of prayerlessness has power over us. A right relationship to the Lord Jesus, above all else, includes prayer, with both the desire and power to pray according to God’s will.
Christians have tried, in the power of the flesh to conquer the flesh – a wholly impossible thing. They have endeavored by Beelzebub to cast out Beelzebub – and this can never happen. It is Jesus alone who can subdue the flesh and the devil. Do not strive in your own strength; cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you and works in you.
Deliverance from a prayerless life is in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It is one of the blessings of the New Covenant which God Himself will impart to you through Jesus Christ. He yearns to shed abroad His love in your heart and to bestow the grace of prayer. Just as He will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will He deliver from the sin of prayerlessness – only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Expect everything from Him. Just as He will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, above all and before all, He will bestow the grace of a praying heart.
What folly to think that all other blessings must come from Him, but that prayer, whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! The Lord Himself is in the inner chamber watching over us, and holding Himself responsible to teach us how to pray. We must with childlike confidence wait upon Him.
Let us remember that from a defective spiritual life nothing better can be expected than a defective prayer life. It is vain for us, with our defective spiritual life, to endeavor to pray more or better. It is an impossibility. The Scriptures teach us to believe in Christ’s infinite love, which really longs to have communion with us every moment, and to keep us in the enjoyment of His fellowship.
Christ, the great Intercessor, will inspire each member of His Body with joy and power for communion with God in prayer. In Christ’s blood and grace there is complete deliverance from all unrighteousness, and from all prayerlessness. Redemption is not granted to us piecemeal, or as something of which we may make use from time to time. It is bestowed as a fullness of grace stored up in the Lord Jesus, which may be enjoyed in a new fellowship with Him every day.
Nothing can preserve us from carelessness, or make it possible for us to persevere in living, powerful prayer, but a daily close fellowship with Jesus our Lord. It is this intimate, spiritual, personal, uninterrupted relationship to the Lord Jesus, which manifests itself powerfully in our lives and especially in our prayer lives. Jesus Christ, in that eternal love which led Him to the Cross, longs to have fellowship with us every moment of the day, and to keep us in the enjoyment of that fellowship. This alone will give us power as intercessors.
Let every Christian learn that the life which the Lord Jesus bestows upon him, and supports in him, is a life of daily prayer. We should recognize how vain it is to attempt to do the work of our Lord in any other way than that in which He did it. What God wills to accomplish on earth needs prayer as its indispensable condition.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit with whom every Christian is commanded to keep “filled,” is “the Spirit of prayer.” Paul says, “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). Again he writes, “…God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). The first passage says: “We cry”; in the other: “He cries.” What a wonderful blending of the Divine and human co-operation in prayer.
God has done His utmost to make prayer as natural and effectual as though it were the cry of a child to an earthly Father. Is it not a proof that the Holy Spirit is to a great extent a stranger in the church, when prayer, for which God has made such provision, is regarded as a task and a burden? In every prayer the Triune God takes a part – the Father who hears; the Son in whose name we pray; the Spirit who prays for us and in us.
Blessing of Victory
Deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness is a blessing of unspeakable worth. What a blessing is ours when confidence in God takes the place of reproach and self-condemnation because of prayerlessness which was the earlier characteristic of our lives! What a blessing is the deep consciousness that God’s almighty grace has effected something in us, to prove that we really bear His image and are fitted for a life of communion with Him and prepared to glorify Him! What a blessing to live as true children of a King, in communion with their Father, and to manifest something of the character of our Lord Jesus in the holy fellowship with His Father which He had when on earth!
What a blessing is ours when the hour of prayer in the inner chamber becomes the happiest time in the whole day for us! Think how God may use us to take a share in the carrying out of His plans, and make us fountains of blessing for the world around us!
– Adapted from The Prayer Life.