Reaping a Cold Prayer Life
by Joseph Franks
You who are in Christ Jesus, you need not fear the wrath of God. All your sins have been paid for; there is no judicial debt left of you to cover. Jesus has paid it all. You are free from the condemnation of the just Judge.
However, the Heavenly Father promises to discipline all his children, and oft times he allows his discipline to be the sad consequences of your sinful decisions. Yes, you are free in Jesus Christ, but you are not free to sin and avoid the consequences which result from your evil decisions and actions. Yes, sometimes God shows mercy, but quite often he will lovingly allow you to reap that which you have sown. And quite often, one of your sad “reapings” will be a cold prayer life.
So why does God not seem near? Why does your prayer life seem stagnant? There may be numerous reasons:
Perhaps the lack of communion and perceived distance between you and God is the result of your failure to pray. You have been commanded to pray without ceasing. You have been promised that if you draw near to God, he will draw near to you. Scripture tells you that you have not because you ask not. Spiritual vibrancy is found as one stays close to the vine. Yes, perhaps your prayer life seems futile and empty because you pray less than you text. It may be the Spirit that moves you to prayer is grieved and quinched.
Perhaps the experiential static between you and God is the result of idolatry in prayer. Scripture commands you to love God and his kingdom more than yourself. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with God’s will, kingdom and glory first and foremost in mind. However, do you pray primarily to coax God into giving you what you want? Do you find yourself more consumed with your kingdom than his? Surely you would never say this aloud, but in reality, do you view God as your magic genie who exists to grant you your three daily wishes? And when he fails to perform according to your expectations, do you become irritated at his lack of customer service? God will not answer prayers which are offered out of accord with his will; and perhaps with your grieved Spirit those are the only sort of prayers you are offering.
Or, perhaps the distance between you and God is the result of relational sin. Perhaps you have not loved your neighbor as yourself, and the consequences have been a lack-luster prayer life. This reality is presented in the third chapter of 1 Peter:
1 Peter 3:1-12 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” ….
In these passages, Peter addresses three groups of people. He reminds wives to worship God by respecting the leadership of their husbands and by living life with humble, stately beauty. Peter commands husbands to honor their wives as fine china. These ladies are to be treated as delicate woman of incredible value and worth. Then, Peter transitions to address the Christian community at large. Believers are to strive for humility, compassion, forgiveness and unity. Christians are to be known by their pure conduct and conversation. Then comes the warning. One must be cognizant of his or her relationships so that:
“One’s prayers may not be hindered” (vs. 7)
“One may obtain a blessing” (vs. 9)
“The eyes of the Lord might be on him who is righteous” (vs. 12)
“The ears of God might be open to his prayers” (vs. 12)
“The face of the Lord might not be against them.” (vs. 12)
Putting these thoughts together we see the following principle: A sweet hour of prayer is somewhat conditioned upon sweet and godly relationships with our neighbors. Either Peter is mistaken, our God does not respond well to the prayers of those who ignore their relational responsibilities.
Therefore, what ought you to do? First, you ought to talk with God about his law. You need to remind yourself of his priorities in seeing us love him and our neighbors properly — after all, these are the two greatest commandments. Then you should meditate on Scripture, recognizing God has given you specific principles to guide you in your worship of him and love of others. In the Bible, God describes the ideal husband, wife, parent, child, elder, employer, employee, citizen, etc … We need to begin with the proper standard in view.
Then you ought to run to the gospel of grace. You should recognize there is not a righteous wife, husband or disciple out there; you are not the exception. You need to see yourself as as sinner in need of God’s daily grace and follow up by running to the cross. Confession precedes communion!
Thirdly, following your confession before God, you might need to send an email or make a phone call to someone you have offended. It is my contention that as you do this, you will find yourself worshiping God and being warmed by the Holy Spirit. You, who have formerly grieved others and the Spirit, will now find yourself being nourished and restored by his grace.
Finally, you should then find yourself longing to continue your worship by conversing more with God. His presence will be more enjoyable, and your prayers will be sweeter, less self-centered, less sporadic, and more voluminous.
So why miss the blessings of the Lord? Why not confess your sins to him and to others, and then enjoy confident intimacy around God’s throne of grace.