The Sin of Prayerlessness | 1 Samuel 12:19-25
Bill Moyers, a television personality, was at one time press secretary for Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson called Moyers his "Baptist preacher" and would often call upon him to give thanks before the meal. On one such occasion the President, who was having difficulty hearing, interrupted him in the middle of his prayer. "Louder, Bill!" he said. Moyers replied, "I wasn't talking to you Mr. President."
In a cartoon called Punch there is a man praying by his bedside saying, "Is there some way you could help me, but make it look like I did it all myself?"
A little child was once praying her bedtime prayers as follows:
Now I lay me done to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my toys to break So none of the other kids can use 'em...Amen.
Prayer, perhaps, is the greatest untapped and misused resource of the Christian life. "The world has yet to see a person totally committed to prayer," said Charles Spurgeon.
Many folks can characterize their prayer life like Jim Davey, a pastor in Seattle, Washington:
On a very fews days out of the year, Mount Rainier is visible to us. On most days it isn't. It's shrouded by clouds, haze, and mist. My prayer life is like that. Several times a year I see and love God clearly, in an especially profound way. On most days, however, I pray out of desperation, need, or blind faith. Without a simple, mundane commitment to pray, I would skip it."
P.T. Forsythe once said, "The worst sin is prayerlessness. Overt sin or crime or the glaring inconsistencies which often surprise us in Christian people are the affect of prayerlessness or its punishment. We are left by God for lack of seeking Him."
A thousand years before the birth of Jesus, a man named Samuel stood before his nation. Forty years earlier, in one of the darkest periods of Israel's history, he had assumed national leadership. The government was corrupt and the people were morally degenerate.
He was a man of strong, dominating personality. But Samuel was pre‑eminently a man of prayer and intercession. Throughout I Samuel, you can read his incessant, impassioned prayers for his nation.
As Samuel grew older, the people became anxious for a change! They did not merely want a replacement for Samuel. They demanded comprehensive government reform. They were tired of being led by a prophet, They wanted to be like all the other nations. Give them a king!
Reluctantly, Samuel yielded to the people's demand and anointed Saul to be King of Israel. But, as the transition in governments was being made, the people became aware of the Lord's disfavor upon what they were doing. So, they asked Samuel: "Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our other sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king."(I Samuel 12:19)
And Samuel replied: "...Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you..." (I Samuel 12:24)
It's a remarkable statement. In essence, Samuel said: "I have always prayed for you and I will never give up ‑ even when I disagree with you, when I'm peeved and frustrated with you! To ever quit praying for you would be a sin against the Lord!"
Samuel believed that there is no more significant involvement in another person's life than prayer. And if that is true, prayer is more powerful in its positive impact upon your children than anything you can give them including money, cars, and college tuition. Prayer is more helpful to you co‑workers than a compliment, more encouraging to your friends than any thoughtful act or gesture you can imagine, demonstrates more love for your husband or wife than a tender embrace!
I doubt that in a congregation like this, there are many people who do not pray at all. Prayerlessness, however, is not only the complete disregard for prayer. It also means the failure to pray less than we need to, less than the Father desires, and less than we know we should. And that definition cuts a wide swath which includes us all.
Why do we fail to pray as we really should especially for whom we care so genuinely ‑ our children, our husband or wife, our friends at the church, our neighbors next door, our co‑workers? Samuel viewed the problem as radically more serious than a mere character flaw, personal weakness, or indication of an overcrowded schedule and poor time management skills.
If you and I are able to explain away our prayerlessness with the same alibis we use to make allowances for forgetfulness, short tempers which flare up without warning, chain smoking, or dependance on valium or relaxing substances, we will likely never become prayer‑ful individuals. Self‑improvement programs simply do not strengthen all the areas of weakness and failure in our life.
Samuel identified prayerlessness as sin! It is sin because it is a violation of God's command. Jesus said: we "...ought always to pray and not lose heart." The word, "ought" implies moral obligation, a sacred duty. It is then, a responsibility place upon every Christian by the Lord himself.
There are many things we ought to do. We ought to give our money regularly and generously to support his work. Giving is a sacred duty.
We ought to obey God rather than people. If we are ever forced to choose between obedience to God and obedience to men, we must be true to God. It is a sacred duty.
Husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loved the church. As Jesus died for the church without murmuring and complaining, men ought to gladly and joyfully sacrifice for their wives. Most marriages and homes would be radically changed if men did what they ought to do.
These are just a few oughts of the Christian life. And the obligation to pray is just as much an obligation, a responsibility, as any of these oughts. Just as surely as we ought to give, and we ought to love, and we ought to live right, and we ought to help people, so we ought to pray.
Prayerlessness is a sin because it is opposed to the purpose and plan of God. What God does in the world and individual lives, He does through prayer. The Apostles James wrote:
...pray for one another. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man just like us and he prayed fervently for rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. (James 5:16‑18)
Prayer has great power. It can change a life. Prayer can save a soul. It can revive a church. Prayer can empower a person. It can turn a life around. Knowing what power there is in prayer it is a sin to fail to use it.
Prayerlessness is sin because it denies pleasure to God. The wise man of the Old Testament wrote: "The prayer of the upright is His delight." (Proverbs 15:8) Imagine that! God enjoys my praying! Besides all the benefits I derive form praying, God also finds joy! There is another reason why prayer is a sin: it defeats the power of God. Because he was a man of prayer, the Apostle Paul could write: "I am ready for anything through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)
To the Romans, he confessed that he did not always know how or what to pray. But in those moment, "...the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. ...the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (8:26,27) And because, Paul never gave up praying for those whom he loved ‑ even when he did not know how or what to pray ‑ he had a confidence that "...in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us." (Romans 8:37)
A young football coach was hired as a scout for his college. Before his first assignment, He said, "Coach, what kind of player are you looking for?"
The coach said, "Well, there is a kind of guy who when you knock him down, just stays down."
"We don't want him, do we coach?"
"No. Then there is the kind of guy who, when you knock him down, gets up; knock him down, gets up; knock him down, gets up; knock him down, and he gets up every time."
"That's the guy we want! Right, Coach?
"No, We don't want him either. What I want you to find is the guy who is knocking all the other guys down. That's the guy I want."
Yes, if you pray, God will give you strength to keep getting up and starting over every life or sin knocks you down. But if you pray, by God's grace, you shall eventually be able to stand your ground, hold your position, and win the victory over sin.
What's more, you will even be able to influence the outcome of similar situations in others' lives. The Apostle endured many hardships as a missionary. His life was often threatened and he faced constant danger as he preached the gospel. But he wrote to thank his Christian friends by saying, "You have helped us through your prayers." (II Corinthians 1:11)
You need to see that. Prayer is a way to help people. Is it any wonder, then, that Paul urged us to pray for everyone?
To fail to pray, however, is a sin! And sin can only be dealt with through confession, repentance, forgiveness, and cleansing. If you are convicted today, because of prayerlessness in your own life; and, if you are convinced that prayerlessness is a sin; then don't wait to confess it honestly to the Father, repent right now, and receive the glad forgiveness of God along with his cleansing.
Don't wait. Do it right now.