The Deadly Sin of Prayerlessness
Few Christians consider prayerless to be a mortal sin that can ruin their life. Yet, the Scriptures say just that. Those who deem God’s command to “pray without ceasing” to be a nice, nonbinding suggestion reveal an abundance of self-confidence, an abundance of pride (1 Thess. 5:16-18). They ultimately rest in their own abilities, believing they have made their bank accounts, careers, and families what they are by their own power. Like King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:38, they declare, “Is this not great Babylon, which I have built by my might power, as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty.” The flip side of the pridefulness has always been prayerlessness. Leham Status notes,
No one can both sin and pray. True prayer will prevent us from sinning or sin will prevent us from praying.
And like Nebuchadnezzar their lives descend into chaos when God removes his blessing. The king of Babylon was not alone nor especially pagan. King David, God’s king, almost died because of his prayerlessness. He recounted his story in Psalm 30:6-7, writing:
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
As David sailed down into the gulf of success, he lost sight of God’s merciful saving hand. He forgot that God had delivered him from, Goliath, Saul, and numerous other well armed enemies. David attributed his success to his wisdom, skill, and insights. Essentially, David prayed for God blessings and then congratulated himself for that fulfilling that prayer. He thought himself to be an immovable castle that could repel any attack. Like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, David had no reason to pray for he had everything under his control. He had done it all and done it all well.
Then, God removed his blessing. David’s castle of stone was exposed as being nothing more than a house of nicely decorated index cards. The storm hit and the paper beams collapsed into a mushy mess. Separated from God, David was powerless to stop armies or even tiny germs. Like the apostle Peter who denied Christ three times while standing in his own power, David’s life spun into ruin because of his pride. His body become deathly ill. He had had neglected prayer.
Thankfully Psalm 30 does not conclude with a funeral oration. Though the heavy hand of God descended upon David, God’s mercy remained ever close. Psalm 94:12 notes, “blessed is the man You discipline, O Lord, and teach Your Law.”
The great theologian John Calvin wrote,
Though our lives may be daily full of grief and fears, and though God may humble us with various signs of his displeasure, he always sprinkles them with the sweetness of his favor to assuage our grief.
God heard David’s cry and saved him. David noted, “For his anger is but for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy came to the apostle Peter who found restoration at the hands of Jesus. God awoke Nebuchadnezzar from his insanity and restored the king to power.
Indeed, God heals physical disease as evidence of his power to heal the sin that ruins our hearts. Jesus, the great physician, came to seek and to save the lost, the broken, the sinful. The gospel spins upon the axis of God’s mercy. Jesus saved us because he loves us irrespective of our earthly accomplishments. For this reason, those who walk away from God can always call out to him when the find themselves careening head first into the depths of doom. God hears their cries because he mercy last forever.
If we found ourselves in the bucket descending into the dark waters of poor health, bankruptcy, or failing relationships, we should call out to the Lord. As Martin Luther’s best friend, Philip Melanchthon noted,
Prayer is always necessary for deliverance.
Salvation comes through prayer and not apart from it. Many Christians do not know joy because they do not know prayer. They are still attempting to solve their problems through self-help books, blog tips, and the occasional social media poll. They have nothing to praise God for because they have asked for nothing. Do not make this mistake. Pray.
So does the message of Psalm 30 mean all suffering is birthed from our sin?
No, suffering descends upon the human soul for a variety of reasons. But the believer’s response to suffering should always be the same: prayerful dependence upon God. The moment God feels distant is the moment when Christians should pray. Salvation, repentance, restoration, deliverance, and hope all begin with prayer. The faithful Christian prays. By contrast, prayerlessness is sin and faithlessness.
Martin Luther once remarked,
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.
Do you pray regularly and then take every new concern that floods your heart to the Lord? Friends, do you breathe?