Prayer is essential for the Christian, as much for what it says about us as for what it can do through God.  The simple act of getting on our knees (or faces or feet or whatever) for 5 or 50 minutes every day is the surest sign of our humility and dependence on our Father in heaven.  There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not. or we think God can give not.   Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side.  We do not trust in God alone.  Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.

Too often when we struggle with prayer we focus on the wrong things.  We focus on praying better instead of focusing on knowing better the one to whom we pray.  We focus on our need for discipline rather than our need for God.  Almost all of us want to pray more frequently, and yet our lives seem too disordered.  But in God’s mind our messy, chaotic lives are an impetus to prayer instead of an obstacle to prayer.

You don’t need to work and work at discipline nearly as much as you need faith.  You don’t need an ordered life to enable prayer, you need a messy life to drive you to prayer.  You don’t need to have everything in order before you can pray.  You need to know you’re disordered so you will pray.  You don’t need your life to be fixed up.  You need a broken heart.  You need to think to yourself: “Tomorrow is another day that I need God.  I need to know him. I need forgiveness. I need help. I need protection. I need deliverance. I need patience. I need courage. Therefore, I need prayer.”

If you know you are needy and believe that God helps the needy, you will pray.  Conversely, if we seldom pray, the problem goes much deeper than a lack of organization and follow through.  The heart that never talks to God is the heart that trusts in itself and not in the power of God.  Prayerlessness is unbelief.

Prayerfulness, on the other hand is an evidence of humility and faith, which is why God loves it when we pray.

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36 thoughts on “Prayerlessness is Unbelief”

  1. Spike says:

    “Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.”

    How unfortunate the materially comfortable are. To not witness God’s provision on a daily basis robs one of many joyful faith-building moments. The human condition forever calls us back to trust and validate our “self” as opposed to trusting God for our daily bread. How hard it must be to trust God when we don’t need to. Do we end up at “O Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way?” I know some folks in ministry that would deny it but are blind to it. There but for the grace of God go I…

  2. There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not or we think God can give not.

    I think you could add a third reason: We think God does not want to give. When I was a Calvinist, I figured if God didn’t want to save everyone then surely it was possible for him not to want to help everyone. Rightly or wrongly, this was paralyzing. And to be clear, this is not a problem unique to Calvinism. Anyone can have unbelief in God’s willingness to meet us in prayer.

  3. Dave Hammer says:

    Wow. Thanks for another great post!

  4. Dan Smith says:

    I have many problems when it comes to prayer…all of them my fault. My faith has gone through many, many trials and during those trials, I will be driven to God (sometimes in anger), but once things are good, and God blesses, I struggle to keep up with the prayer. It’s an ugly cycle that I would like to break.

    Bible reading causes the same strain in my mind. Do you feel that way too?

  5. John Starke says:

    Thanks Kevin. This was great!

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  7. ValleyGirl says:

    LOVE that third paragraph! I may type that up and stick it on my fridge.

    Kevin, I grow to appreciate your blog on a daily basis. I’m a 37-yr old housewife who’s been a professing Christian almost all her life but only just in the last year has FINALLY developed a passion for God. It’s been exciting and uncomfortable all at the same time, but I am loving the unquenchable thirst. Thank you for your thought-provoking, often-convicting, ALWAYS inspiring words. God is indeed using you to work in my life.

  8. da says:

    thanks for this reinforcement..

  9. paul choi says:

    prayerlessness is a sin

  10. Gods helps none but the needy.

  11. Cristiano says:

    Jesus himself made the example on this: He prayed constantly. We need also to do so.

  12. Erik says:

    Thank you for your honest approach to the subject of prayer, especially for his part:

    “We focus on praying better instead of focusing on knowing better the one to whom we pray. We focus on our need for discipline rather than our need for God.”

    This post reminds me of J.C. Ryle’s helpful instruction on the subject of prayer. Both are extremely encouraging.

    Thanks again Kevin.

  13. ScottL says:

    Thanks Kevin. One thing I have begun to realise in my life is prayer becomes a drudgery or just another thing on the daily list when I regard it as obligatory rather than an opportunity to listen to and commune with our Father. But when I see it through the relational focus that God desires (though yes, we are dependent ones on our Father, but that is still relational), then I am encouraged of the important contact. Good stuff.

  14. Ephrem Hagos says:

    Without excusing lazy ignorance, there is no unbelief worse than prayer reduced to a shopping list; as well as prayer the answer for which has long been long anticipated and provided for by God the Father (Matt. 6: 5-34).

  15. yingzhi says:

    Rev DeYoung, thank you for sharing this. It pierced my heart. It has always been that my ill-disciplined life was an obstacle to prayer. Thank you for reminding me that in the end, it’s all about a dependent, loving relationship with God.

  16. Excellent post, Pastor Kevin. Thank you so much.

  17. John says:

    “But in God’s mind our messy, chaotic lives are an impetus to prayer instead of an obstacle to prayer.”

    It’s interesting to me that you know what God thinks about our chaotic lives. The implication of this statement is not only that God has a mind with which he thinks, but that as a human, you have somehow come to understand how this mind works.

    Secondly, prayer is a tool which “some” people use to have a closer relationship with God. It is not necessarily “unbelief” to not pray. Many people have a strong relationship with God through the way they live their life. Not necessarily through their use of prayer.

  18. Kirstin says:

    This is a fabulous post, and I honestly don’t understand John’s problem with it. God does have a mind, which is different from saying that He has a brain. We can’t fully comprehend God, but we can have insight into the mind of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 2:16b says, “But we have the mind of Christ.”

    I agree with Kevin that it is unbelief not to pray. I don’t know a prayerless person who has a strong relationship with God through the way that person lives his/her life. Prayer is communication with God. We can’t have a strong relationship with God (or anyone) without communication. Jesus prayed. We’re exhorted to pray in the Bible.

  19. Matti says:

    I recommend reading book called A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Praying-Life-Connecting-Distracting-World/dp/1600063004/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257714531&sr=8-1

    It’s the best book on prayer I’ve read and it has a lot same points that this post has.

  20. Greg says:

    I appreciate your ideas on prayer because they seek to get to the root of our prayerlessness. I agree that we pray not because we trust not…prayerlessness is tangibly and fundamentally practical atheism.

  21. Glynn says:

    Kevin,

    Thank you for the post on prayerlessness, I am a deacon and for the past couple of years my prayer life has been pitiful..I kind of forgotten what my first love was, with the pressure of career and family time. Keep the faith and I appreciate your blog..

  22. Stuart Read says:

    Great article. There is one thing, however, that I would add:

    “You need to think to yourself: “Tomorrow is another day that I need God. I need to know him. I need forgiveness. I need help. I need protection. I need deliverance. I need patience. I need courage. Therefore, I need prayer.””

    This strikes me as being a rather self-centered motivation to praying. We need to move beyond this motivation alone to thinking to ourselves: “Tomorrow is another day that the world needs God. The world needs to know His glory, His forgiveness, His help and protection. The world needs God’s deliverance. Therefore I need to pray.”

    Prayerless is unbelief. Prayerlessness is also a misunderstandind of why the church exists!

    http://www.jooan.or.kr/board/view.php?id=e_pastor_blog&page=1&sn1=&divpage=1&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&select_arrange=headnum&desc=asc&no=90

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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