Prayerlessness is Sin
By Leonard Ravenhill
O my Saviour, I say to Thee again with more insistence than ever: Teach me to pray; implant in me all the dispositions needful for the prayer of the Holy Spirit. Make me humble, simple and docile; may I do all that is in my own power to become so. Of what use is my prayer if the Holy Spirit does not pray with me? Come, Holy Spirit, come to dwell and work within me! Take possession of my understanding and of my will; govern my actions not only at the moment of prayer but at every moment. I cannot glorify God nor sanctify myself save by Thee.
-Jean-Nicolas Grou (1750)
A bankrupt who had a millstone of debts around his neck would not delay long in using blank checks signed by a millionaire and specially donated to him for his distress. Why then do we Christians delay in using the “exceeding great and precious promises” which have already been signed by the Pierced Hand? Do we doubt our Lord’s ability to answer, and are we afraid of over-reaching in prayer in order to implement the fulfillment of our petition? Is it that we shrink from prayer because God may demand the use of our flesh as substance even as He did Hannah’s?
“Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us Thou canst use us
Ev’ry day and ev’ry hour.”
But does it make sense to sing these words and then shrink from the expenditure of God’s operation through our human attributes to answer our own requests? If God were to commission angels to serve Him down here, heaven would be empty of angels in five minutes. But God wants men! He wants obedient men, broken men, weeping men, resolute men – men strong in courage, men strong in will, men of ability, men of durability.
Prayer is taxing. Prayer is exacting. Prayer means enduring. Prayer means denying self, a daily dying by choice. But someone says, “There’s nothing wrong in going fishing for a couple of hours.” Maybe not if you are prayed up. Yet there is something wrong when we go fishing or do some other thing without the Spirit’s leading. It is wrong when instead of praying we do things just to please others. There cannot be two operators of the Christian’s life. We are either Spirit led in everything or self led.
We may call prayerlessness neglect, or lack of spiritual appetite, or loss of vision. But that which matters is what God calls it. In 1 Samuel 12:23 God calls prayerlessness sin: “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” Prayerlessness is disobedience, for God’s command is that men ought always to pray and not to faint. To be prayerless is to fail God, for He says, “Ask of me.” Prayerlessness is sin.
Good seed sown on bad ground will produce an indifferent harvest; good preaching on ground ill-prepared by prayer is an abortive thing. In a church that had grown much during its present ministry, a pastor’s wife said to me, “If this church has grown so much with so little praying, what would it have yielded with much praying?” That question we might ask today in a thousand churches throughout the nation.
The man behind the pulpit must have a prayer life. “A holy man,” Robert Murray McCheyne used to say, “is a fearful weapon in the hands of a holy God.” With prayer behind him, he can carry all before him. Prayer links man’s impotence to God’s omnipotence. Prayer swings us out of the natural into the supernatural. Prayer turns our stony words into bread because He who turned water into wine still longs through the preaching of the Word to impart nourishment to heaven’s pilgrims.
In our immediate setup, the minister is often the one through whom spiritual wealth is given to the church or withheld from it. Again this denotes the fearful responsibility of the preacher. No office on earth carries more peril with it than that of the ministry of the Word. To preach just because the Sabbath comes around is wrong; to preach just to fill in an hour, or less, is wrong; to preach for the sake of preaching is evil. Preaching does have perils.
I well remember Jock Purves saying that he felt one of the greatest things John Knox ever did was to dismiss an audience with just the benediction. He preached no sermon at all because he had no word from the Lord for the people. Most of us preachers would have warmed up an old sermon, arguing, “We are preaching truth,” and covered our argument with the verse, “The truth shall make you free.”
When preachers lack unction, no one is fooled. That preacher has not gone far who, after he has ministered the Word, needs the back slap of friends or the stimulant of others’ flattery in order to “feel good.” The preacher who is elated over human praise for his preaching will sink under human criticism. This proves that he is walking in the flesh. A pastor can be inexpressibly happy after preaching a word from heaven even if his congregation storms at him. The man who has gotten God’s word in the prayer closet neither seeks nor expects encouragement from men for the delivery of that word. He is (or should be) the servant of the Lord and not the tool of men. The Spirit himself bears witness of the approval. God says, “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but … doing the will of God from the heart.”
“Men heed thee, love thee, praise thee not. The Master praises! What are men?”
There is a magnificent passage for believers: “If children, then heirs [wonderful]; heirs of God [more wonderful still]; and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ [most wonderful of all].” Oh, the wealth of God, but the poverty of the Church! What power God has, but what patent poverty the Church demonstrates! We must rediscover the power in the name of Jesus. Heaven’s powerhouse is overcharged with dynamic, but there is a short circuit here in the church. Is it in me?
Article “Prayerlessness is Sin” excerpted from “Revival Praying”. Written by Leonard Ravenhill.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”