John Piper:

But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.

The Duty of Prayer

And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? Do I go to pray with many of you on Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., and Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., and Friday at 6:30 a.m., and Saturday at 4:45 p.m., and Sunday at 8:15 a.m. out of duty? Is it a discipline?

You can call it that. It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.

Means of Grace: Gift of God

I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.

God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there are spiritual means of grace.

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20 thoughts on “To Hell with the Devil and His Destructive Lies”

  1. steve says:

    Thanks.

  2. Flyaway says:

    God graciously made a way for me to put prayer and Bible study as my number 1 priority. First I had a two year old who drove me to my knees. Then I came down with fibromyalgia so had to give up almost all of my activities. I joined a Moms in Prayer group and have been praying with other moms, at church prayer groups, and at home as there is no where else to go but to the Lord.

  3. Wesley says:

    I have ever loved the fire and passion with which J Pipes exhorts and prays and preaches and loves the body of Christ. This is something i feel i should read at the beginning of each week to remind me of the vital importance of prayer; individual and corporate. Continue your work through us O Lord that you have been doing since the garden in destroying the works of the devil. amen.

  4. This was very needed for me. Thank you for your discipline of spreading Gods word. I do have a question about the last sentence. What do you mean by “there spiritual means of grace?”

    1. Wesley says:

      ‘Spiritual means of grace’ = grace communicated to us by the Spirit, to our own spirit. We are ministered to in communion with God through prayer in a way we aren’t ministered to by the common grace of, say, eating and breathing, medicine, and the earth’s gravitational axis. They are all from God, but some (as in prayer for example) minister to our spirit in a direct way as opposed to an indirect one. The sacraments are also considered to be a means of God’s grace to us.

  5. Shammah says:

    Thank you so much! You woke me up! Jesus prayed for hours which is what we should do.

  6. Thanks Pastor John for your discipline in digging more about how Satan easily deceive Christians.

    But yes you are right it’s our duty to do our job to pray constantly, more diligent and be alert at all times, and to use the word of God to knock him down as well as His Armour.

    We have the power and the authority trough the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, His blood is a blessing to our lives as well as a Powerful weapon to kill any weapon that comes from all evil.

  7. Rebecca says:

    AbsoLUTEly. God help me.

  8. Christopher H. says:

    All you really have to do is listen to the Holy Spirit, the inner witness, and when you do (because you do if you are a believer), obey Him, because He desires us to have an intimate prayer life. I know that is a simple thing to say, but it IS simple.

    I began to sense the Holy Spirit telling me, “Chris, God wants to talk to you, to communicate. The time you are spending online is a poor substitute for intimacy with God. Perhaps it is because the internet doesn’t challenge you the way I do. Have you lost your passion for your first love? Well, I am here waiting for you…”

    This went on a few evenings, and finally I “gave in”. I wanted to give in! This isn’t a guilt thing, it’s a relationship thing. The internet is a potential idol for any believer. We just need our ears open to the Spirit. I had a professor tell me once: The difference between Christians and pagans is that pagans are eye people, while Christians are ear people.

    Interestingly, the internet is primarily a visual experience. It’s just not an intimate experience, unless you want to spend all your time talking to a machine. Talking to God is so much more life sustaining, and ultimately more fulfilling.

    1. Wesley says:

      The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are a visual, visceral experience as well, aren’t they?

  9. Marisme says:

    Written to complement what John Piper stated …

    Prayers of the Lame

    I can’t say I’ve ever thought of this before
    in fact, this is the first time
    it’s ever crossed my mind
    God must really be bored
    with the sound of our prayers

    Though we are a class of renegades
    risk takers, poets and clowns
    we inflict him over and over
    with litanies of colorless words

    Monotonous mantras
    sung by a choir predictably dull
    boring him with broadcasts
    that his carnival has shut down

    Prayers without passion
    ignoring the dreams of our hearts
    prayers disclosing nothing
    he doesn’t already know

    Whatever happened to imagination
    running wild as furious flames?
    whatever happened to creation
    pulsing through our veins?
    whatever ever happened to thrill and awe
    when speaking his name…

    …today, oh God
    I ask that you draw me near
    revealing a world I cannot see
    stir me to explore secrets that you only know
    ones you wait with excitement to reveal

    …today, oh God
    make your truth blaze brighter than the sun
    blinding me with the joy of being close to you
    searing my brain with the brand of the one I love

    …God
    hit me with the full force of your words
    hurl them as lightning smashing a glass jar
    make my bones rattle with riddles of another world

    These are prayers to open God’s ear
    the ones he lives and died for
    the voices he longs to hear

    Why must the sound of our souls
    be the sound of the lame
    dragging their feet through streets of town
    instead of jumping for joy that heaven has been found

    It’s the least we can do for the creator of all
    igniting our tongues when talking to God
    instead of boring him with propriety
    we reserve solely for him
    as if he doesn’t know the talons of trials
    that tear us apart or
    the crazy things that turn us on

    If I was God
    I’d probably prefer taking a trip to a zoo
    just to hear the glorious cackles and roars
    emitted from throats that are true

    Humble, yes
    contrite, repentant for sure
    but, nothing compares
    to daring questions and exhilarating dreams
    coming from me and you

    And maybe,
    maybe just once
    God would like us
    to tell him a joke

    1. John Joseph says:

      That was just what I needed to hear. Great post!

  10. Pursiomniapura says:

    If we only ever pray when we feel like it….we’ll almost never pray because we don’t desire to do things we’re not naturally good at. NOBODY is good at praying …but we can ALL be disciplined in our duty to pray. Thankfully God accepts our feeble prayers offered out of duty, as well as desire!

  11. Brenda says:

    Yes, yes, YES! Thank you! This is so true. Praying goes against our flesh; I’d rather eat brownies while reading a novel. But is that what’s best for me? I began praying daily after a seminar that changed my life a few years back and not just before dinner; I committed to 30 minutes a day, plus I go to regular (twice weekly) prayer meetings at my church. It’s changed my life and my relationship with my God. I need this as much as air and food and water. It is not legalistic or duty (although I agree that it’s duty like it’s “the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater” etc). It’s my lifeline. Also, it’s strange how many people do see it as legalistic! Satan sure has pulled one over on us here.

  12. Lenni says:

    Challenging article. I also REALLY enjoyed reading your poem Marisme, you are talented!

  13. Seth Fuller says:

    I have a huge amount of respect for Piper but I somewhat disagree with this.

    Scripture does not command us to schedule prayer or devotional time. What the Bible does commend us to do is to meditate on the Word morning, day, and night. Paul says that we should pray without ceasing. What the Bible does *command* us to do is to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, and might, which cannot be done without much prayer and meditation on His Word and living in the Spirit. But I don’t think one can make a biblical argument that strict schedules are required, or that it is necessarily a sign of immaturity if a believer does not do this.

    The truth is, many like myself have work/family schedules that are too unpredictable to follow strict schedules. In fact, my schedule is so chaotic that sometimes I forget even to eat. I think a lot of people share the same struggles. So while I think I understand exactly what Piper is trying to say, I think in this case I would suggest he is drawing lines where lines should not be drawn.

    There is without question a great lack of and emphasis on prayer in the Christian church. It is also true that Satan certainly seeks to deceive us and encourage us to rationalize or justify a lack of prayer or meditation on the Word. But I don’t believe that it necessarily because we aren’t scheduling it. I believe it is because we are not fostering a glowing hot zeal for Christ from which outflows a life full of prayer and meditation on His Word.

    I have found that the most important aspect of living according to the Spirit is bearing our cross, dying daily to the flesh, and putting every thought, word, or deed in complete submission to holiness, rejecting absolutely every temptation to sin and holding fast to the truth of God’s Word, while meditating on it and praying through it daily. When I do this, I find myself praying constantly without need of a schedule.

    I’m not saying schedules are inherently bad. They can be good, I’m simply saying that Piper’s words, though very well-intentioned, I feel are missing the heart of the matter and potentially do lay unnecessary guilt on Christians.

    That’s my position anyway.

    If interested, I recently wrote a post about my struggle with this issue here:

    http://apoorwretch.com/the-burden-of-daily-devotions/

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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