Pray Where You Are: Praylessness as a Sign of Grace
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.
— Dr. Andrew Murray
One of the first things we need to get our hearts right in prayer is to pray our praylessness. This seems odd to pray about our prayerlessness, but I think that it is a sign of grace to us when we lack prayer because it is a diagnosis of our spiritual condition. It is a sign that we have sought something else besides God for our desires and also it means that we found something else that has captured our comfort in the midst of suffering. Yet, the remedy is not condemnation for our prayerlessness but rather in scripture there is a solid truth that God validating His promise to be there in our hard places and broken stories. There’s no name that you call us that is any more precious to us than, “Mine” (Isa. 43:1). God is continually calling us to His. It is in this heart of prayerlessness that we should find our delight and honor that we are called to be His, and that is confirmed in the suffering that he bore in the cross. That is where He stands in the midst of our prayerlessness; God is inviting us to return to Him and to delight in the resurrection and return of Jesus.
Prayer is one of the most vital ways for us to connect with God and like any intimacy that we have in our lives, there is a need to cultivate it through the means of presence and time. As we spend more and more time, we find out two things; first, when we cultivate relationships we discover the “other” and we see what passions has formed this person, we see their values, their fears, their joys and most of all we simply connect our hearts with their hearts. Second, we discover ourselves through that interaction. We find a bit of ourselves being stirred and expanded through that interaction.
That is why John Calvin in “Institutes of Christian Religion” states “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.” God wants us to know him and through that we discover who we are.” God in this great act of condescension invites us to know Him and be known by Him. God is offering His presence to us. Yet, the reality is that we still lack a desire to pray to Him.
One of the gifts of grace that is extended to us in our prayerlessness is God is offering a mirror to us. A few years ago, I met with some pastors from Australia and they talked about spiritual disciplines and said that “the calculator always wins.” I really loved that. They are saying that we can’t lie about our spiritual condition of we don’t regularly enter into disciplines of grace like prayer. It is God’s way of showing us our spiritual condition and drawing a picture to present to us the gaps in our public profession and our private lack of repentance and turn our hearts to Christ. It is showing that our condition is filled with a wounded rebellion and forgetfulness….Like all relationships there is the danger that this could leads us to a place of shame and condemnation that sounds like this, “how can you ever think you can go back to God when you have been so neglectful in your prayer to this loving God….He can’t accept your feeble attempts to go to Him after all your rebellion.” That is not the spirit of God. His posture is continually to “come.” He continually shows you the cross and our prayerlessness is a sign of grace to turn to him or rather run to Him. To know that the cross has provided a way back to our Abba Father without condemnation. To know that presenting our prayerlessness as a sign of grace that the Spirit is working in our hearts. If it wasn’t working then we wouldn’t even pause to acknowledge we lack prayer. Can you praise God that you are now awakened to your prayerlessness? Can you see that this is a gift to us? To see it as a diagnosis that is leading us to the invitation to relocate our hearts to Him?
As God has worked in my own heart, I see that my prayer life is prone to start from a place of desperation instead of a heart of devotion. Many of my prayers are transactional and not transformational in nature. “God give me this…” As DA Carson states in “Praying with Paul, “The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value.” So when I ask God for…is what I truly cherish. I also have succumbed to the tone of prayer that lack any great expectations so I keep them manageable to what is “practical” so I don’t get disappointed. It is filled with cynicism and with a shade of sarcasm. I am embarrassed by some of the prayers I have written down in my prayer journal but yet in the pages are filled with praise of God working despite my lack of faith. He is showing that these faithless distorted prayers are pointing me towards Him; God shows me the countless ways He has provided for his people and also in light of eternity the wonder of what He will accomplish and redeem all of creation. He shows me his intimacy towards me and in his gracious, patient and boundless love God invites me into the glimpses of how He is working. He shows me that he is worthy of God-sized prayers. A grand picture of prayer that bears forth His sovereign grace over every sphere of His creation. So I am emboldened to pray prayers that moves from the personal towards the cosmic. Thank God that His work is not dependent on how effective my prayers are but rather our prayers are effective because God is already at work. He is inviting us to delight in what He is done, doing and will be doing.
This is how our prayerlessness can be an awakening to the sign grace that is pointing us to the promise that He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us; in, through, and even after our lack of prayer. So let’s come before our God and pray our prayerlessness.
Prayer Prompt (Taken from the Worship Sourcebook)
A prayer of confession for cynicism
Father, you tell us in your Word
that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
We confess that we have frequently relaxed our faith.
We have allowed ourselves to become cynical,
and our cynicism has boiled over
with slander, criticism, prayerlessness, and pessimism. How easily we’ve allowed ourselves
to crumple under the stresses of our lives.
Forgive us for our smallness of faith.
In your mercy, hear us,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.