Deliverance From Prayerlessness
By Andrew Murray
As soon as the Christian becomes convinced of the sin of prayerlessness his first thought is that he must begin to strive, with God’s help, to gain the victory over it. But alas, he soon experiences that his striving is worth little, and the discouraging thought comes to him – he cannot continue faithful!
Recently I received a letter from a minister, well known for his ability and devotion, in which he writes: "As far as I am concerned, it does not seem to help me to hear too much about the life of prayer, about the strenuous exertion for which we must prepare ourselves, and about all the time and trouble and endless effort it will cost us. These things discourage me – I have so often heard them.
"I have time after time put them to the test, and the result has always been sadly disappointing. It does not help me to be told: ‘You must pray more, and hold a closer watch over yourself, and become altogether a more earnest Christian.’"
My reply to him was as follows: "I think in all I spoke at the conference or elsewhere, I have never mentioned exertion or struggle, because I am so entirely convinced that our efforts are futile unless we first learn how to abide in Christ by a simple faith."
My correspondent said further: "The message I need is this: ‘See that your relationship to your living Saviour is what it ought to be. Live in His presence, rejoice in His love, rest in Him.’"
A better message could not be given, if it is only rightly understood. "See that your relationship to the living Saviour is what it ought to be." But this is just what will certainly 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, and while we, along with the whole church, have to complain about our feeble life which makes us unfit to pray for ourselves, for the church, or for missions, as we ought. But if we recognize, in the first place, that 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, then we have something which gives us the right to rejoice in Him and to rest in Him.
I have related this incident to point out how naturally discouragement will be the result of self-effort and will so shut out all hope of improvement or victory. And this indeed is the condition of many Christians when called on to persevere in prayer as intercessors. They feel it is something entirely beyond their reach. They have not the power for the self-sacrifice and consecration necessary for such prayer. They shrink from the effort and struggle which will, as they suppose, make them unhappy.
They 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.
We have spoken of a struggle which will certainly result in disappointment and discouragement. This is the effort made in our own strength. But there is another struggle which will certainly lead to victory. The Scripture speaks of "the good fight of faith," that is to say, a fight which springs from and is carried on by faith.
We must get right conceptions about faith and stand fast in our faith. Jesus Christ is ever the Author and Finisher of faith. It is when we come into right relationship with Him that we can be sure of the help and power He bestows.
Just, then, as earnestly as we must, in the first place, say: "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" – so do we, in the second place, say: "Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart – so will you be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
There are two kinds of warfare – the first when we seek to conquer prayerlessness in our own strength. In that case, my advice to you is: "Give over your restlessness and effort. Fall helpless at the feet of the Lord Jesus. He will speak the word, and your soul will live."
If you have done this, then, second, comes the message: "This is but the beginning of everything. It will require deep earnestness, and the exercise of all your power, and a watchfulness of the entire heart – eager to detect the least backsliding. Above all, it will require a surrender to a life of self-sacrifice that God really desires to see in us and which he will work out for us."
Deliverance Is in Christ
Do you really long for the courage to believe that deliverance from a prayerless life is possible for you and may become a reality? Then you must learn the great lesson that such a deliverance is included in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, that it is one of the blessings of the New Covenant which God Himself will impart to you through Christ Jesus.
As you begin to understand this you will find that the exhortation, "Pray without ceasing," conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart that the Spirit – who has been bestowed on you to cry constantly, "Abba, Father" – will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken, not in the spirit of discouragement, but in the gladness of hope, to the voice that calls you to repentance.
Many a one has turned to his inner chamber, under bitter self-accusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come – there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus.
If he had only understood, he would have said: "Lord, Thou seest how cold and dark my heart is: I know that I must pray, but I feel I cannot do so; I lack the urgency and desire to pray."
He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in His tender love was looking down upon him and saying: "You cannot pray. You feel that all is cold and dark. Why not give yourself over into My hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer. I long greatly to send abroad My love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on Me to bestow the grace of prayer.
"Just as I will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver from the sin of prayerlessness. Only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before Me as one who expects everything from his Saviour. Let your soul keep silence before Me, however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of this – I will teach you how to pray."
Many a one will acknowledge: "I see my mistake. I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleanse me from this sin also. I had not understood that He was with me every day in the inner chamber, in His great love ready to keep and bless me, however sinful and guilty I felt myself to be.
"I had not supposed that 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! Thank God I begin to comprehend – the Lord Jesus is Himself in the inner chamber watching over me, and holding Himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. This only He demands – that I, with childlike confidence, wait upon Him and glorify Him."
All Things Become New in Christ
Brethren, have we not seriously forgotten this truth? 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.
Nothing less is necessary than that we should experience that he who is "in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). This is literally true for the man who understands and experiences what it is to be in Jesus Christ.
Our whole relationship to the Lord Jesus must be a new thing. I must believe in His infinite love, which really longs to have communion with me every moment and to keep me in the enjoyment of His fellowship. I must believe in His divine power, which has conquered sin and will truly keep me from it.
I must believe in Him who, as the great Intercessor, through the Spirit, will inspire each member of His Body with joy and power for communion with God in prayer. My prayer life must be brought entirely under the control of Christ and His love.
Do you not see that, just as this faith possesses us, the call to a life of prayer which pleases God will be a welcome call? The cry, "Repent of the sin of prayerlessness," will not be responded to by a sigh of helplessness, or by the unwillingness of "the flesh." The voice of the Father will be heard as He sets before us a widely opened door and receives us into blessed fellowship with Himself.
Prayer for the help of the Spirit to pray will no longer be in fear of an effort too great for our power. It will be but falling down in utter weakness at the feet of the Lord Jesus, to find there that victory comes through the might and love which stream from His countenance.
The question may arise in our mind: Will this continue? If the fear comes: "You know how often you have tried and been disappointed," faith will find its strength, not in the thought of what you will, or do, but in the changeless faithfulness and love of Christ, who afresh has succored you and assured you that those who wait on Him shall not be ashamed.
If fear and hesitation still remain, I pray you by the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, and by the unspeakable faithfulness of His tender love, dare to cast yourselves at His feet. Only believe with your whole heart that there is deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). In His blood and grace there is complete deliverance from all unrighteousness and from all prayerlessness. Praised be His name forever!
– From The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray.