Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Living a Prayerful Life

Living a Prayerful Life. Andrew Murray. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

Why is prayerlessness such a serious sin? At first it would seem to be merely a weakness. So much is said about lack of time and all sorts of distractions that the deep guilt of the situation is not recognized. From now on, let us acknowledge prayerlessness as the sin that it is.

How's your prayer life? Andrew Murray discusses prayer and  prayerlessness in Living A Prayerful Life. It's a subject that he writes passionately about. Murray argues that if you're not praying, something is wrong, and you need to be honest about it.  Again and again he tells readers, you can do something about it, don't accept this as your fate, your weakness, just who you are. Now what he is not saying is that you can do it all on your own. In fact, that's the opposite of what he's saying. He's not saying, be better, do better, try harder. He's saying, go to God, talk to God, be honest with Him, trust Him, trust Him to teach you and guide you and help you.
Do you see that there are two kinds of warfare? The first is when we seek to conquer prayerlessness in our own strength. In that case my advice to you is: ‘‘Give up your restlessness and effort; fall helpless at the feet of the Lord Jesus; He will speak the word, and your soul will live.’’ If you have done this, I give you the second message: ‘‘This is only the beginning. It will require deep earnestness, the exercise of all your power, and a watchfulness of the entire heart— eager to detect the least backsliding. Above all, it will require surrender to a life of self-sacrifice, which God desires to see in us and that He will work out for us.’’
The greatest stumbling block in the way of victory over prayerlessness is the secret feeling that we will never obtain the blessing of being delivered from it. Often we have tried, but in vain. Old habits, the power of the flesh, and our surroundings with their varied attractions and distractions, have been too strong for us. What good does it do to attempt what our heart assures us is out of our reach? The change needed in the entire life is too great and too difficult… ‘‘Is a change possible?’’ our sighing heart says, ‘‘For me it is entirely impossible!’’ Do you know why we answer like that? It is simply because we have heard the call to prayer as the voice of Moses and as a command of the law. Moses and his law have never given anyone the power to obey… Do you really long for the courage to believe that deliverance from a prayerless life is possible for you and may become a reality? Then you must learn the great lesson that such a deliverance is included in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, that it is one of the blessings of the new covenant that God himself will impart to you through Christ Jesus. As you begin to understand this, you will find that the exhortation ‘‘Pray without ceasing’’ conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart that the Spirit—who has been bestowed on you to cry constantly, ‘‘Abba, Father’’—will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken not in the spirit of discouragement but in the gladness of hope to the voice that calls you to repentance. 
I learned so much from reading this little book.

Scripture teaches us that there are only two conditions possible for the Christian: one is to walk according to the Spirit and the other is to walk according the flesh. These two powers are in irreconcilable conflict with each other. So most Christians—even though they may be born again through the Spirit and have received the life of God—still continue to live their life not according to the Spirit but according to the flesh… Here, then, we see this deep root of sin as the cause of the prayerless life. The flesh can say prayers well enough, calling itself religious for so doing, and thus satisfy the conscience. But the flesh has no desire or strength for the prayer that strives after an intimate knowledge of God, that rejoices in fellowship with Him, and that continues to lay hold of His strength. So, finally, it comes to this: the flesh must be denied and crucified.
Do not seek to find in circumstances the explanation for this prayerlessness over which we mourn. Seek it where God’s Word declares it to be—in the hidden aversion of the heart to a holy God.
The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian—and above all, the minister—to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. When the church closes herself in to the power of the prayer meeting, and the soldiers of the Lord have received on their knees ‘‘power from on High,’’ then the powers of darkness will be shaken and souls will be delivered. In the church, on the mission field, with the minister and his congregation, everything depends on the faithful exercise of prayer.
How does Satan stand in the way of prayer? He hinders it by the temptation to postpone or curtail it; by bringing in wandering thoughts and all sorts of distractions; and through unbelief and hopelessness.
See that your relationship to the living Savior is what it ought to be. But this is exactly what will make it possible for you to live the life of prayer.
We must not comfort ourselves with thoughts of standing in a right relationship to the Lord Jesus while the sin of prayerlessness has any power over us and while we, along with the whole church, complain about our weak life that makes us unfit to pray for ourselves, for the church, or for missions as we should. But if we first recognize that a right relationship to the Lord Jesus above all else includes prayer, with both the desire and power to pray according to God’s will, then we have something that gives us the right to rejoice in Him and to rest in Him.
We must secure a right concept of faith and stand fast in our faith. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of faith. When we come into right relationship with Him, we can be sure of His help and power. Just as earnestly as we must in the first place say, ‘‘Do not strive in your own strength. Cast yourself at the feet of the Lord Jesus and wait upon Him in the sure confidence that He is with you and works in you’’; so do we in the second place say, ‘‘Strive in prayer; let faith fill your heart—so will you be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’
Many a person has turned to his place of prayer under bitter self-accusation that he has prayed so little, and he has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come—there has not been the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance has had no power because his eyes were not fixed on the Lord Jesus. If he had only understood, he would have said, ‘‘Lord, you see how cold and dark my heart is. I know that I must pray, but I feel I cannot do so. I lack the urgency and desire to pray.’’ He did not know that at that same moment the Lord Jesus in His tender love was looking down upon him and saying, ‘‘You cannot pray. You feel that all is cold and dark. Why not give yourself over into my hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer. I long to pour my love into your heart so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on me to bestow the grace of prayer. Just as I will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver you from the sin of prayerlessness—only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before me as one who expects everything from his Savior. Let your soul keep silence before me, however lame you feel your state is. Be assured of this: I will teach you how to pray.’’ Many will acknowledge: ‘‘I see my mistake. I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleanse me from this sin also. I had not understood that He was with me every day as I prayed, ready in His great love to keep and to bless me, however sinful and guilty I felt myself to be. I had not supposed that just as He will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, first and most of all, He will bestow the grace of a praying heart. What folly to think that all other blessings must come from Him, but that prayer, on which everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! Thank God, I have begun to comprehend: The Lord Jesus himself is in my prayer closet, watching over me and holding himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. He only asks that I, with childlike confidence, wait upon Him and glorify Him.
Our whole relationship to the Lord Jesus must be a new thing. I must believe in His infinite love, which longs to have communion with me every moment and to keep me in the enjoyment of His fellowship. I must believe in His divine power, which has conquered sin and will truly keep me from it. I must believe in Him who, as the great Intercessor, through the Spirit, will inspire each member of His body with joy and power for communion with God in prayer. My prayer life must be brought entirely under the control of Christ and His love. Then for the first time prayer will become what it really is: the natural and joyous breathing of the spiritual life, by which the heavenly atmosphere is inhaled and then exhaled in prayer. Do you see that when this faith possesses us, the call to a life of prayer that pleases God will be a welcome call? The cry ‘‘Repent of the sin of prayerlessness’’ will not be responded to by a sigh of helplessness or by the unwillingness of the flesh. The voice of the Father will be heard as He sets before us a widely opened door and receives us into blessed fellowship with himself. Prayer for the Spirit’s help to pray will no longer be in fear of an effort too great for our own power. Instead, it will be merely falling down in utter weakness at the feet of the Lord Jesus to find there that victory comes through the might and love that stream from His countenance.
Are you beginning to see that the sin of prayerlessness has had a greater effect than you first thought? Because of hasty and superficial communion with God, the sense of sin becomes weak and there is no motive strong enough to help you to hate sin and flee from it. Nothing except secret, humble, constant fellowship with God can teach you as His child to hate sin as God hates it. Nothing but the close fellowship and unceasing power of the living Christ can make it possible for you to understand what sin is and to detest it. Without this deeper understanding of sin, we cannot truly appropriate the victory that Christ made possible for us.
Prayerlessness is not something that can be overcome as an isolated thing. It is related to the state of the heart. And it is a way of life. True prayer depends on an undivided heart. And I cannot give myself an undivided heart—one that enables me to say, ‘‘I seek God with my whole heart.’’ It is impossible for us in our own strength; but God will do it. He said He would give us a heart to fear Him. He also said He would write His law on our heart. Such promises serve to awaken a desire to pray. However weak our desire may be, if there is a sincere determination to strive after what God has for us, He will work in our heart both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is the great work of the Holy Spirit in us to make us willing. He enables us to seek God with our whole heart. May we acknowledge that we have been doubleminded, because while we have given ourselves to many earthly things with all our heart and strength, we cannot always say that we have given ourselves to fellowship with God with our whole heart.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Cathy said...

This looks like a book I'd love! Andrew Murray is one of my favorites. I love what you said here about the book:

'Now what he is not saying is that you can do it all on your own. In fact, that's the opposite of what he's saying. He's not saying, be better, do better, try harder. He's saying, go to God, talk to God, be honest with Him, trust Him, trust Him to teach you and guide you and help you.'


hopeinbrazil said...

I have this on my Kindle.Thanks for the great review. Andrew Murray is always convicting and nourishing.