Can a Christian Be Prayerless?
Is it possible to find a authentic Christian walk that is not marked by prayer?
That’s a good question. Let’s hear five giants of the Christian faith weigh in on the issue.
1. C.H. Spurgeon: All true Christians are marked by prayer
“You are no Christian if you do not pray. A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. You have no inheritance among the people of God if you have never struggled with that Covenant Angel and come off the conqueror. Prayer is the indispensable mark of the true child of God.”
“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be slothfulness in prayer.”
2. J.C. Ryle: Not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian
“We want to know whether you are actually acquainted with the throne of grace, and whether you can speak to God as well as speak about God. Do you wish to find out whether you are a true Christian? Then rest assured that my question is of the very first importance – Do you pray?”
“This I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.”
“What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.”
3. John Calvin: Claims of belief are worthless if prayer if of no account to us
“If prayer is of no account to us, that is a sure sign that we are unbelievers, however much we claim to believe the gospel.”
4. Martin Luther: Prayer is the necessary breath of a Christian
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
5. Andrew Murray: Your Church is Powerless Because It is Prayerless
“What is the reason that 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 a powerful spiritual life!”
Black and White With No Qualifiers
Those five men chose blunt words. I would have been tempted to add qualifiers that make the claims easier to swallow.
That’s because my view of prayer’s importance is dwarfed by that of the Five Giants.
How did the Five Giants get such an unclouded understanding of the necessity of prayer?
Because their understanding of truth was battle-tested.
1. They understood what the Word clearly teaches on prayer.
2. They practiced what the Word clearly teaches on prayer.
At best, a Christian is powerless when prayerless. At worst, he or she is no Christian at all.
Word of Caution
It would be easy to say, “If I really loved God, I’d pray.” And then try to, by force, try to pray more. Prayer is, no doubt, a spiritual discipline that is practiced and developed over time, and we are personally responsible to strive to master it.
At the same time, prayer that is not motivated by love is a hollow prayer.
We won’t ever enjoy prayer if we don’t ever do it, but we won’t ever do it out of an enjoyment of God unless God does a work in our hearts.
The Lord turns our hearts to love Him (2 Thes 3:5), and that is point #5 of what this blog is about: Love precedes obedience.
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