Here’s another excerpt from Prayer A to Z.
Four Deadly Sins That Keep Us from Prayer
1. Selfishness and worldly entanglements. Two stories will serve toexplain this point. The first story, from Luke 12:13-21, is told by Jesus about a rich man who had many possessions and had to build bigger barns to store all of his crops. And so, as the story goes, after building his barns, the rich man said to himself, “‘You have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vv. 19-21).
When Jesus said that this man was not rich toward God, I think we may conclude from this that he had no time for God and invested no time in the Kingdom of God. He instead had selfish endeavors and was entangled in worldly things. This man was prayerless.
The second story, from Luke 10:38-42, is the well-known story of Mary and Martha. In this story, it is apparent that Martha’s service was less than genuine; that is, she was not thinking only of Jesus comfort, she was thinking more of herself, of what impression she was having and of how she was working so hard. This is evident because when she got no help from her sister, and no recognition from Jesus, she complained. Therefore, her service was done not so much for Jesus but in order that she would be recognized.
I think we all do this. When we have company over, before they come, we hurry and get the house cleaned up so they will think well of us. We are not really thinking so much of the comfort of our guests; we are thinking more of ourselves. I think we can take from this story the reality that many of us, like Martha, are so busy with the Lord’s work that we don’t take time to pray. And we will have to conclude that our busyness much of the time is due to a selfish desire to look good in front of others.
When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister Mary was not helping her with the serving, Jesus told her that she was worried and bothered about so many things. He said, “Only a few things are necessary, really only one.” The note’s in the Ryrie Study Bible explains this to mean, “One simple dish for the meal is all that is necessary, rather than the elaborate preparations Martha had made.”
I take Jesus’ words also to imply that we need not be so busy with the Lord’s work that we forget the Lord. In our Christianity the only thing that is really necessary is our relationship with the Lord, which has a great deal to do with our prayer times with Him. Then, when we get that in order, all the other duties and activities will fall into place. For this reason, it seems to me that when we put all our duties and activities—especially our religious ones—before our prayer time we are guilty of selfish pride. And in the end it will become evident that what we do for Him is not really for Him but rather for ourselves, as a show of good works, to gain personal recognition, and also as an attempt to atone for our own sin.
Those who say they are too busy to pray are saying in effect that they have no time for God, that God’s will is not important to them. Even if we are busy with the Lord’s work, we must keep prayer our number one priority. Let us take heed to the instructions of E. M. Bounds who has written, “Put praying into the high values as Daniel did, above place, honor, ease, wealth, life…We must not keep it have-starved and feeble as a baby, but we must keep it in giant strength. Our prayer chamber should have our freshest strength, our calmest time, its hours unfettered, without obtrusion, without haste. Private place and plenty of time are the life of prayer.” Charles Spurgeon also writes, “The more we do in this life, the more we should pray. Prayer should balance our service, or rather, it should be the lifeblood of every action and saturate our entire life…”
If you say that you are too busy to pray, I would say that you are guilty of selfishness and pride. Pride always hinders prayer. It keeps us from prayer because it destroys our humility and our dependence on God. It transfers our faith from God to self. If you say you are too busy to pray, what you are really saying is that you don’t need God and that you are too proud to depend on Him.
The second deadly sin that keeps us from prayer is…
2. Laziness. What is laziness? It is a failure to get up in the morning. It is a failure to get going and to do the things we need to do. It is a lack of discipline. It is sleeping too much and working too little. It has its core in selfishness and its results are lust and corruption.
The one who is lazy puts things off, gets little done, and generally there is a lack of order in his life. He spends most of his time in front of the TV set or the computer or slumped down in His fishing boat or whatever gives him the most pleasure with the least amount of effort. He usually goes to bed late and gets up late. Though he sees the need to pray and often wants to pray he can’t seem to find the time. When he does pray the time is usually squeezed between TV shows or video games. He says he wants to pray in the morning but he can’t seem to drag himself out of bed. And then when he does finally get up he is almost late for work—so his quiet time is cut to just a few hurried minutes.
Laziness victimizes many in the world today. It brings them sadly to a prayerless life of selfish pleasure seeking, which leads to lust, greed, and corruption. If this is you, cry out to God and ask Him to help you break away from this seemingly endless pattern of selfishness. Set your face like a flint and do the things you need to do (Is. 50:7). Daniel made it a habit to pray three times a day (Dan. 6:10). Ezra, likewise, “…prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”
As Paul instructs us, “…let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Prayer is one of the good works we can do for ourselves and for others. But to prevail in prayer we must work hard at it. Let us set our alarms and get up early to pray. Let us get our lives in order. Let us end the downward slide of laziness; for one who is lazy will do very little for God—because his life is prayerless.
The third deadly sin that keeps us from prayer is…
3. Lack of desire for God. What makes us not desire Him? I believe the main reason we don’t desire Him is because we have not taken the time to build a relationship with Him. Other things have taken His place. The devil has gotten a hold of us and placed in our minds the cares of this world. And when we have gotten a taste of the pleasures of the world the deception became greater and greater until a relationship with God became almost impossible.
But nothing is impossible with God. He is always taking the initiative to bring us back to Him. All we need to do is listen, just a little, and He will tell us how much He loves us and desires our prayers. If we keep listening to Him our desire for Him will grow a little at a time and our prayer time will increase.
But if you close your ears to Him, if you listen instead to the sounds of the world, your desire for Him will fade in the wind and your will to pray will be lost. That is the sad condition of most believers today. Our love for Him has grown cold, which is surely evident by our empty prayer rooms and our packed movie houses. I wish this was not true, but it is. Let us be diligent to change that around. Listen to Him earnestly. Give Him your life and all your time. Get the coals of love burning! He is waiting to receive you and bless you with all the blessings of heaven.
The forth deadly sin is…
4. Unbelief. It is very simple when you think about it: the reason why we don’t pray is because we don’t believe Him. We don’t trust that He will give us answers to prayer, so we say to ourselves, why bother. This attitude, this state of prayerlessness, is a terrible, deadly sin.
According to John R. Rice,
Prayerlessness is a terrible sin. For the lost sinner, it is a part of his wicked rejection of Christ. For the child of God, it is identical with backsliding. Prayerlessness is another name for unbelief. Prayerlessness is the father and partner of every vile sin—as much as the saloon is the father of drunkenness, and lust is the father of adultery… Prayerlessness is the very heart of the carnal mind itself, a state of alienation from God.
But for those who will take the time to listen to God and get to know Him, who are diligent in growing their faith, God will supply the gift of prayer as well. E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer is not the fruit of natural talents; it is the product of faith, of holiness, of deeply spiritual character. Men learn to pray as they learn to love.”
In 2 Peter 1: 1-7 you will find seven character qualities—moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Though prayer was not mentioned among any of these qualities, I take from this passage that faith is the foundation for each of them; and therefore, prayer is in them all. I personally see pray most in perseverance and godliness. Also, without brotherly kindness and love our prayers would be cold and worthless.
So I think we can see that prayer is a gift, a gift that grows larger in proportion to our faith. It is not a talent or an achieved discipline; it is rather a gift from God that comes by our obedient faith as we are diligent to develop godly character. As godly character is a product of faith, so also is godly prayer a product of faith. In fact we cannot really separate the two. In godly character we find prayer, and in prayer we will always find godly character.
Here’s a good verse for you to take to heart: Hebrews 11: 6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” We may conclude from this verse that the only prayers that will please God are believing prayers. No other kind will please Him, nor will we be rewarded with an answer. Let us be diligent to develop our faith. For out of a growing faith comes prayer, prayer that is pleasing to God.