CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Prayerless Christians

Jun 3, 2020

We all need to pray more – I sure do:

Just in case you are thinking: ‘Here goes Bill again, bashing other believers’ – not so. If anything, I am bashing myself here, while trying to encourage others. I have not prayed anywhere near as much as I should have, and it has not been the priority in my life that it should be. So I am preaching to myself as much as to anyone else.

And sadly, it is true that far too many believers are not praying Christians. The evidence is all around us, including anecdotal evidence. Attend any early morning prayer meetings – if you can still find one. Most are sparsely attended, with a handful of elderly folks involved.

Many churches – at least in America – used to have midweek prayer services. There are few of those around nowadays it seems. And just this past week I was involved in a prayer and repentance day which was live-streamed. It was put on by an English Christian group. I was told afterward that several thousand folks tuned in. England has a population of 56 million.

But perhaps one line of evidence that is most telling of all is this: the majority of Americans still claim to be Christian. That is close to being the case in Australia as well. But if there are so many Christians, why are our nations such cesspools? Why is there so little evidence of God anywhere? Why does evil, sin and sensuality prevail everywhere?

Could it be that most Christians simply are not praying? Or not praying enough? That must be part of the explanation. One can only guess here, but I would not be surprised at all if the average Australian Christian spent perhaps 4-5 hours a day on various forms of entertainment, while spending perhaps a minute or two a day in prayer.

If that figure is even remotely accurate, then no wonder we are in such a bad way. A prayerless people will have zero impact on the surrounding culture. A prayerless church will not be making much of a difference in a dark and needy world. So we all need to lift our game here.

Sure, there is a difference between a calling to prayer and the normal Christian life. Some believers have a special ministry in prayer, spiritual warfare, and intercession. But all Christians can pray – and pray more. I am mainly called to blog, to lobby, to write, to deal with public policy battles, to engage in culture wars, to teach, etc. But I can pray more as well.

So praise God for the dedicated prayer warriors and intercessors. We sure do need them, especially at times like this – especially with all the cities on fire in America right now. Those with such a special prayer focus are the real champions of our day – much more than someone like myself.

But for what it is worth, let me tell you a bit about my own prayer habits – as meagre as they are. I must first say that we are all different. There are no cookie-cutter Christians out there, and there is no one-size-fits-all form of prayer. What I do may be interesting or helpful to others. If not, stick with, or devise, your own prayer life.

The key is of course to pray daily, be it in the morning, the evening, or throughout the day. I have two brief times of prayer. In the morning I will read the Word, and then try to go for a walk to pray for my day. I prefer walking about as I pray, and not sitting still. It also allows me to get a bit of exercise.

It is especially inspiring when the sun is shining, the skies are blue, and the trees are green. It is a bit less inspiring on cold, wet and dark days! In this morning prayer time I reflect on what I have just read, I pray for some folks, and I commit my daily work to the Lord – which means what articles I might write, what comments I might make, or how I might reply to folks on my website or on social media. A bit of thanks and praise will also be a part of this.

In my prayers at night in bed, there may be some confession of sin for what happened during the day, and then I pray for a bunch of folks. My list keeps growing, and I will eventually have to write these names down, but I have around 40 people I pray for every single night.

There are some 20 of them in Australia, another dozen in the US, and another 8 or so worldwide. These include all sorts of folks, including friends, loved ones, and even the President of the US. He is probably one of the most hated and abused men around right now, so I do pray for him, as Scripture commands (1 Timothy 2:2).

Some of these folks I am praying for their salvation, and some their spiritual growth and resilience. Some of these folks I have been praying for for many years now. We need to persist. And there will be times when we can cross someone’s name off our prayer-for-salvation list when they have moved into the Kingdom.

Image of E. M. Bounds: Power Through Prayer (Classic Prayer books) (Volume 1)
E. M. Bounds: Power Through Prayer (Classic Prayer books) (Volume 1) by Array Amazon logo

All this is simply what I have been doing with my prayer times. As stated, we all can have differing ways in which we pray, how we pray, and who we pray for. But the main thing is that we pray. And as I said, I am preaching to myself here. I need to hear such exhortations – badly! If my ruminations are a bit useful for some others, that is great as well. But it is mostly myself that I need to say this to.

Let me conclude with a few powerful quotes on prayer. There would be plenty of Christians to choose from here, and plenty of great books. Let me focus on just one from E. M. Bounds. He was an American clergyman (1835–1913), who wrote a number of excellent books on prayer. One of them was his classic short volume, Power Through Prayer. Here are a few gems from it:

“Men are God’s methods. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”

“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use, men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.”

“It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God – men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These men mould a generation for God.”

“Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”

“The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who have spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature in their lives.”

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

“Spiritual work is taxing work, and men are loath to do it. Praying, true praying, costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish. Few persons are made of such strong fiber that they will make a costly outlay when surface work will pass as well in the market. . . . Hurried devotions make weak faith, feeble convictions, questionable piety. To be little with God is to be little for God. To cut short the praying makes the whole religious character short, scrimp, niggardly, and slovenly. It takes good time for the full flow of God into the spirit. Short devotions cut the pipe of God’s full flow. It takes time in the secret places to get the full revelation of God. Little time and hurry mar the picture.”

And two closing quotes from Scripture:

“Devote yourselves to prayer.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

[1449 words]

20 Responses to Prayerless Christians

  • Hmm, not a comfortable read. I’m in the middle of reading “Revival! A people saturated with God” By Brian H. Edwards, Evangelical Press 1990. Inspiring – but like your article Bill, not a comfortable read because I don’t like to be reminded that I fall short so often. But we are not supposed to be comfortable. So thanks again Bill.

  • Thanks Peter. And yes the Edwards’ book is very good.

  • Thanks Bill, God is SO Good….

    This message from you personally is just what my exhausted soul needed after once again being the object of a hate-filled, cynical attack by our anxious, world-deceived son.

    Take Heart & ALL blessings & encouragement to you – Culture Watch Bill – Prayer Warriors are lining in up in Geelong and beyond.
    We have our offensive weaponry – in place – God’s Mighty Word & Voices lifted in Praise & Worship & knees bowed in repentance & homage to Our Lord & Saviour, Jesus Christ.

    Bill, We are seeing & experiencing an Outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit & homes being opened up in Fellowship & Hospitality down here whilst all adhering to strict hygenic standards….

    Personally, I’m in constant convo with God – there is no other way to survive in a non-believing household.
    And we were made for such times as these….

    Love Your Work, Brother in Christ – Keep Teaching & Preaching – We SO appreciate it..

  • Many thanks indeed Melinda. Bless you heaps.

  • You write from a man’s point of view, Bill. How many women, especially with young children can take that time in the morning, especially going for a walk. I have never heard of early morning prayer meetings, maybe an American thing? I have heard of Saturday Men’s Breakfast Prayer meetings. People pray when they can, frequently while they are attending to other things, especially wives and mothers,

  • Thanks Joanna. Being a man, yes, I do tend to write from a man’s perspective, just as you, being a woman, write from a woman’s perspective! However, if you had actually read my piece carefully, you would have seen that I clearly said that this is simply how I tend to do prayer. I did say this: “I must first say that we are all different. There are no cookie-cutter Christians out there, and there is no one-size-fits-all form of prayer. What I do may be interesting or helpful to others. If not, stick with, or devise, your own prayer life.”

    And of course not all women have young children – or any children, or a husband, for that matter. So some women may indeed enjoy a morning prayer walk. As I say, we are all different.

    Yes, as an American, I do write in part about what I have experienced there. But in over 30 years of being here in Australia, I have been involved in numerous early morning prayer meetings. So they certainly do exist here.

    But I am a bit sad that I must have done a rather poor job of saying what I wanted to say in this article, given your various complaints, and that you seem to have missed the point, which was simply to encourage us all to pray more, in whatever way we feel comfortable in.

  • Very appropriate Bill, I also fall short of ‘time with God’. If we tithe our day of 24 hours, then 1/10th of 24 hours is 2 hours 24 min that should be spent either reading God’s Word, praying, listening to worship music, etc. Daniel prayed morning, moon and night. I must admit that the coronavirus shutdowns have given me more time at home and thus more time to listen to preaching on internet and time to look up this website. Praise God.

  • Joanna, you are making some sweeping generalisations here. As a woman and a mother I have in the past been a regular morning walker and 5.00am prayer attendee – one of many people (men and women) who are/have been involved in such things. In the early morning prayer meetings I attended the majority of the attendees were mothers, with very few men attendees. And now that my kids are adults I still do the morning walks – plenty of men out there and mothers at sunrise pushing strollers where I live. And Bill is not saying that we all need to do sunrise walks to pray, or that we must attend morning prayer meetings to pray. The article is an exhortation for Christians to pray more – as to how and where and when, the ‘sky is the limit’.

  • There’s an excellent chapter in Derek Prince’s book, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior called “Kingdom Praying on Earth”. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book! (as you often say Bill). Prince speaks on much of what you have addressed here and notes that our primary priority in prayer is to pray for our government leaders as commanded in 1 Timothy 2:2. I was just discussing some of these matters today with a friend and we have decided to set aside more time for prayer. How interesting it is then to read this article today!

  • Many thanks for that Annette.

  • Hang in there Joanna Skinner. It is tough to do the juggle and the guilt of not spending as many hours on prayer as we’d like is so real. With all this crazy shutdown going on and kids at home 24/7 my prayer life has morphed into praying whilst I vacuum or whilst Im showering. It says in the Word ‘pray without ceasing’. One evangalist explained that as meaning always be in a prayerful state ie: be ready to pray at a moments notice. Eg: see a need whilst you’re shopping – pray. Hear some sad news of a families heartache on the news – pray for them. Some people may not have hours all at once to pray, but they can be uttering prayers all day long as you said. Personally, I pray best when Im away from the house and its distractions- but that only works when all the kids are at school and kinder! Oh, and early morning prayer meetings are a thing in some Australian churches, not all. Ours for instance has lunchtime prayer meetings that people who work can attend on their lunch breaks – small town, easier to coordinate. My husband cant make it to them, he tries to pray at work but doesnt often get breaks to do so and home is just chaotic with no peace and quiet between homework, lunches, washing uniforms etc. But he often prays walking in between his factory buildings or sneaky hideouts in our back yard, tho not as often as he’d like either! Cheers

  • mea maxima culpa

  • Dear Bill, Thank you for your article and your honesty. I would say few of us pray as much as we should. I know I don’t. However, I do know of a few prayerful souls who do make significant sacrifices to spend time in prayer. At the risk of provoking a response like I did before with one of your readers which is not intended I would like to tell you I know of people who spend time in the dead of night to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This is what they believe in and they are entitled to pray as they believe. I know this because there is a roster which is recorded on a time sheet and adorers have to volunteer for a time slot.I would still have nothing but admiration for the generous souls who go without sleep to pray whatever way they did it. My mother was a Methodist and on my visits to England I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and see a light under her bedroom door and I know she would be reading her Bible so her sacrifice would also be pleasing to God.

  • Dear Bill, thank you for your timely piece. During the 100 year period the Moravians prayed – from the time of their ‘Great Spiritual Renewal’ at Hernhut August 13th 1727, momentous events transpired that may well have been influenced by their prayers. Keith Windshuttle in his article “The Possession of Australia” in Quadrant (June 2020) relates key events of that time. In October 1766, Louis XV gave orders to Captain Louis Bougainville to explore the Pacific Ocean and examine the ‘lands sighted by navigators and called Van Diemen Land, New Holland, Carpentaria, Land of the Holy Spirit, New Guinea etc’ and to set up posts bearing the arms of France and draw up Acts of Possession in the name of His Majesty. He failed to follow orders, and sighting the area near present day Cooktown on June 4th, 1768, chose to head north and home rather than sail south. Two years later after circumnavigating New Zealand, Cook found the Australian mainland near the mouth of Bass Strait on April 19th, 1770. From there, he sailed and charted the entire east coast up to Cape York. In his journal he wrote he had declared the entire coast possession of George III. “It was the key move in the grand strategic contest for domination in the Pacific…Had Cook and Bougainville, faced with the perils of the Great Barrier Reef, not made the critical decisions they did, when they did, modern Australia would have been a very different place.” It is surely time for another prayer movement like that of the Moravians today – that will impact the Lands of the Holy Spirit in this time when the Chinese Communist Party contends for dominance in the region.

  • Thank you for this encouragement Bill. We all need to be reminded.
    Joanna, as a mother of six under twelve- I hear ya. Hang in there, do what you can.
    A woman, who has more children than I, once challenged me about prayer, “Do you ever forget to eat?”
    For some long time I ‘prayed’ by learning the lyrics to an old hymn (new to me) and singing that to the Lord throughout the day as I went about my work. Often this was when I had a newborn, and then quick morning and evening prayers.
    Eventually we were given old psalters and I learned to sing psalms as well. I taught the children to pray with me in the morning at the start of the day (short prayers, and often interrupted with baby crying etc of course)
    Personal solitary prayer is always a challenge. I think it is for most everyone because it is often a struggle with the flesh. We are certainly all at different points in this- but hopefully it at least IS a struggle- and we have not become weary in doing good, then given up.

  • The more prosperous a nation the less need for prayer because money takes the place of God. I’ve heard it said that Christians in China pray that Americans won’t have it so good we forget about God. There are some powerful remnants in the U.S. & one of them is under Mark Taylor, firemen prophet that pray over the phone 7 days a week in the morning & evenings. One can get on their prayer lines almost anytime & be around a group of people who love the Lord, want His laws put into affect and bring America back to God. A lot of us have had it with organized religion & pastors who are silent on evil because of the 501c3 tax exempt status. We do a lot of repenting – target focused repenting – not the generalized repenting which does little good. This prayer remnant is growing and taking a lot of ground. Justice has come to America that’s why the dark side is rioting so much – they know their time is short. We aren’t seeing the justice yet but we will I believe after the next election.
    Heads will roll & Git Mo will be full
    Time is up for those who are corrupt
    & this progress is all happening because of a praying remnant in America.

  • Hi, I am a pentecostal Pastor of 30 years of experience in urban, country and mining towns and I agree with the article entirely. E.M.Bounds’s works (referred here) on prayer are memorable and reflect a profound relationship with God. I think that the lack of prayer zeal in the church today is due to a shallow spiritual relationship which is promoted by many churches by a culture of what I call the GOLDEN TAP, where the speaker speaks for 30 to 50 minutes on Sunday and remains the only voice, therefore the main culture maker. In most churches, any differing opinion is discouraged and seen as dissention. The book of Ephesians makes it clear that the church is to grow up to see every member grow to personal spiritual height to do the work of the ministry and “be” the church in a dying world. The salvation message is also rendered almost ineffective in that by just receiving Jesus as Saviour in a simple payer makes the message of the Gospel shallow and false. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God primarily: the cross (awesome as it is) as a means to an end for the reconciliation of man to God but was not the main message of Jesus. His message was the need for a relationship with the Father who is compassion and goodness personified in all that He thinks and does. When we see God in this light, our prayer life is bound to change and become a deeper and more scripturally based experience.

Leave a Reply