The Untimely Death of a Prayer Life
The death of a prayer life starts long before we recognize it. We’re still praying. Spending our few minutes a day, maintaining our routine. But its form over substance. There is a coldness to it, a boredom, a monotony, rather than the Spirit filled time we used to enjoy.
The 19th Century preacher Octavius Winslow has some questions you can use to diagnose your prayer life:
Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart; have you this? It is communion and fellowship with God; know you what this is? It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of his goodness and his love shed abroad in the heart; is this your experience?
There’s a progression to declining prayer:
- our private prayer time goes
- then our “walking around” prayers- the spontaneous prayers we offer God
- next is family prayer (say goodbye to family study and praying at meals)
- and finally social prayer- with other Christians
What you exchange for prayer: The absence of prayer does not leave a vacuum. Something else fills it. Humility, dependance on God and desperation to share the gospel gets exchanged for self-reliance, judgmental-ness, and a lack of interest in increasing the Kingdom of God.
Winslow chronicles the final result:
Satan, the subtle and sleepless foe of the soul, is prepared with a thousand enticements to smooth the downward path; the world appears with some new attraction; sin tastes less bitter, and appears less “exceeding sinful”; objects of sense become familiar, are looked at, admired, then embraced: and now the soul, but for preserving and restraining grace, has taken a farewell forever of God.