By Andrew Murray
The greatest stumbling-block in the way of victory over prayerlessness is the secret feeling that we shall never obtain the blessing of being delivered from it. Often have we put forth effort in this direction, but in vain. Old habit and the power of the flesh, our surroundings with their attractions, have been too strong for us. What good is it to attempt that which our heart assures us is out of our reach? The change needed in the entire life is too great and too difficult. If the question is put: 'Is a change possible?' our sighing heart says: 'Alas, for me it is entirely impossible!' Do you know why that reply comes? It is simply because you have received the call to prayer as the voice of Moses and as a command of the law. Moses and his law have never yet given anyone the power to obey.
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. As you begin to understand this you will find that the exhortation, 'Pray without ceasing', conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart that the Spirit - who has been bestowed on you to cry constantly, 'Abba, Father'- will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken, not in the spirit of discouragement, but in the gladness of hope, to the voice that calls you to repentance.
Many a one has turned to his inner chamber, under bitter selfaccusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come - there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus, If he had only understood, he would have said: 'Lord, thou seest how cold and dark my heart is: 1 know that 1 must pray, but I feel 1 cannot do so; 1 lack the urgency and desire to pray.'
He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in his tender love was looking down upon him and saying: 'You cannot pray; you feel that all is cold and dark: why not give yourself over into my hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer; I long greatly to shed abroad my love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on me to bestow the grace of prayer. Just as 1 will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will 1 deliver from the sin o prayerlessness - only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before me as one who expects everythin from his Saviour. Let your soul keep silence before me however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of thi - I will teach you how to pray.'
Many a one will acknowledge: 'I see my mistake; I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleans me from this sin also. I had not understood that he wa with me every day in the inner chamber, in his great lov ready to keep and bless me, however sinful and guilty felt myself to be. 1 had not supposed that just as he will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, above all and before all, he will bestow the grace of a praying heart. What folly to think that all other blessings must come from him, but that prayer, whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! Thank God I begin to comprehend - the Lord Jesus is himself in the inner chamber watching over me, and holding himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. This only he demands - that I, with childlike confidence, wait upon him and glorify him.'
Brethren, have we not seriously forgotten this truth? From a defective spiritual life nothing better can be expected than a defective prayer life. It is vain for us, with our defective spiritual life, to endeavour to pray more or better. It is an impossibility. Nothing less is necessary than that we should experience that he who'is in Christ Jesus is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new.' This is literally true for the man who understands and experiences what it is to be in Jesus Christ.
Our whole relationship to the Lord Jesus must be a new thing. I must believe in his infinite love, which really longs to have communion with me every moment and to keep me in the enjoyment of his fellowship. I must believe in his divine power, which has conquered sin and will truly keep me from it. I must believe in him who, as the great intercessor, through the Spirit, will inspire each member of his body with joy and power for communion with God in prayer. My prayer life must be brought entirely under the control of Christ and his love. Then, for the first time, will prayer become what it really is, the natural and joyous breathing of the spiritual life, by which the heavenly atmosphere is inhaled and then exhaled in prayer.
Do you not see that, just as this faith possesses us, the call to a life of prayer which pleases God will be a welcome call? The cry, 'Repent of the sin of prayerlessness', will not be responded to by a sigh of helplessness, or by the unwillingness of the flesh. The voice of the Father will be heard as he sets before us a widely opened door and receives us into blessed fellowship with himself. Prayer for the help of the Spirit to pray will no longer be in fear of an effort too great for our power; it will be but falling down in utter weakness at the feet of the Lord Jesus, to find there that victory comes through the might and love which stream from his countenance.
If the question arises in our mind: 'will this continue?' and the fear comes: 'You know how often you have tried and been disappointed', faith will find its strength, not in the thought of what you will, or do, but in the changeless faithfulness and love of Christ, who afresh has succoured you and assured you that those who wait on him shall not be ashamed.
If fear and hesitation still remain, I pray you by the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, and by the unspeakable faithfulness of his tender love, dare to cast yourselves at his feet. Only believe with your whole heart that there is deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness. 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness' (1 John 1.9). In his blood and grace there is complete deliverance from all unrighteousness and from all prayerlessness, Praised be his name for ever!
How deliverance from prayerlessness may continue
What we have said about deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness has also application as answer to the question: 'How may the experience of deliverance be maintained?' Redemption is not granted to us piecemeal, or as something of which we may make use from time to time. It is bestowed as a fullness of grace stored up in the Lord Jesus, which may be enjoyed in a new fellowship with him every day. It is so necessary that this great truth should be driven home and fastened in our minds that I will once more mention it. Nothing can preserve you from carelessness, or make it possible for you to persevere in living, powerful prayer, but a daily close fellowship with Jesus our Lord.
He said to his disciples: 'Ye believe in God, believe also in me... Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me ...He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do' (John 14.1, 11, 12).
The Lord wished to teach his disciples that all they had learned from the Old Testament concerning the power and holiness and love of God must now be transferred to him. They must not believe merely in certain written documents but in him personally. They must believe that he was in the Father, and the Father in him, in such a sense that they had one life, one glory. All that they knew about Christ they would find in God. He laid much emphasis on this because it was only through such a faith in him and his divine glory that they could do the works which he did, or even greater works. This faith would lead them to know that just as Christ and the Father are one, so also they were in Christ and Christ was in them.
It is this intimate, spiritual, personal, uninterrupted relationship to the Lord Jesus which manifests itself powerfully in our lives, and especially in our prayer lives. Let us consider this and see what it means: that all the glorious attributes of God are in our Lord Jesus Christ. Think of-
1. God's omnipresence
God fills the world and every moment is present in everything. Just as it is with the Father, so now our Lord Jesus is everywhere present, above all with each of his redeemed ones. This is one of the greatest and most important lessons which our faith must learn. We can clearly understand this from the example of our Lord's disciples. What was the peculiar privilege of the disciples, who were always in fellowship with him? It was uninterrupted enjoyment of the presence of the Lord Jesus. It was because of this they were so sorrowful at the thought of his death. They would be deprived of that presence. He would be no longer with them. How, under these circumstances, did the Lord Jesus comfort them? He promised that the Holy Spirit from heaven should so work in them a sense of the fullness of his life and of his personal presence that he would be even more intimately near and have more unbroken fellowship with them than ever they experienced while he was upon earth.
This great promise is now the inheritance of every believer, although so many of them know little about it. Jesus Christ, in his divine personality, in that eternal love which led him to the cross, longs to have fellowship with us every moment of the day and to keep us in the enjoyment of that fellowship. This ought to be explained to every new convert: 'The Lord loves you so that he would have you near him without a break, that you may have experience of his love.' This is what every believer must learn who has felt his powerlessness for a life of prayer, of obedience, and of holiness. This alone will give us power as intercessors to conquer the world and to win souls out of it for our Lord.
2. The omnipotence of God
How wonderful is God's power! We see it in creation; we see it in the wonders of redemption recorded in the Old Testament. We see it in the wonderful works of Christ which the Father wrought in him, and above all in his resurrection from the dead. We are called on to believe in the Son, just as we believe in the Father. Yes, the Lord Jesus who, in his love, is so unspeakably near us, is the almighty one with whom nothing is impossible. Whatever may be in our hearts or flesh, which will not submit to us, he can and will conquer. Everything that is promised in God's word, all that is our inheritance as children of the New Covenant, the almighty Jesus can bestow upon us. If I bow before him in my inner chamber, then I am in contact with the eternal, unchanging power of God. If 1 commit myself for the day to the Lord Jesus, then I may rest assured that it is his eternal almighty power which has taken me under its protection and which will accomplish everything for me.
Oh, if we would only take time for the inner chamber so that we might experience in full reality the presence of this almighty Jesus! What a blessedness would be ours through faith! An unbroken fellowship with an omnipresent and almighty Lord.
3. The holy love of God
This means that he, with his whole heart, offers all his divine attributes for our service and is prepared to impart himself to us. Christ is the revelation of his love. He is the Son of his love - the gift of his love - the power of his love; and this Jesus, who has sought on the cross to give an overwhelming proof of his love in his death and blood-shedding, so as to make it impossible for us not to believe in that love - this Jesus is he who comes to meet us in the inner chamber, and gives the positive assurance that unbroken fellowship with him is our inheritance, and will, through him, become our experience. The holy love of God which sacrificed everything to conquer sin and bring it to naught, comes to us in Christ to save us from every sin.
Brethren, take time to think over that word of our Lord: 'Ye believe in God, believe also in me'...Believe me that I am in the Father ... and ye in me, and I in you' (John 14. 1, 11, 20). That is the secret of the life of prayer. Take time inthe inner chamber to bow down and worship; and wait on him till he unveils himself, and takes possession of you, and goes out with you to show how a man may live and walk in abiding fellowship with an unseen Lord.
Do you long to know how you may always experience deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness? Here you have the secret. Believe in the Son of God, give him time in the inner chamber to reveal himself in his ever present nearness, as the eternal and almighty one, the eternal love who watches over you. You will experience what, up till now, you have perhaps not known - that it has not entered into the heart of man what God can do for those who love him.