Charles Stanley - The Price of Prayerlessness
Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened". Then He said, "And whatsoever things you ask in prayer believing, you shall receive". Then He said, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask what you will and it shall be given to you". And then John said, "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petition that we desired of Him". And Paul put it this way. He said, "Don't be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and thanksgiving with supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all of human understanding," he says, "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus".
When I think of all the awesome promises that God has given to us in His Word, and they're so simple. Listen to this, "Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you". A very clear promise from the Lord Jesus. And you remember when He was talking a prayer, He didn't say, "If you pray," but He would begin by saying, "When you pray". In fact, the disciples watched Him, and they were so impressed, they said, "Lord, teach us to pray". They certainly heard Him praying, and they watched Him pray. When you look at the prayer life of the Lord Jesus, it's very simple where prayer was in His life and in His ministry.
And if you'll turn to, for example, Mark chapter one, and look, if you will, in the thirty-fifth verse of this first chapter of Mark, and here's what you'll find. You'll find a habit that Jesus had about His relationship to the Father. The thirty-fifth verse of the first chapter says, "And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed into a lonely place and was praying there". The Lord Jesus Christ began His days alone with the Father. Look, if you will, in Luke chapter five. Luke chapter five, here's what you'll find. It says that He was healing and preaching and teaching and so forth, and the fifteenth verse says, "But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him to be healed of their sickness. But," in spite of all that, "He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray".
Then if you just turn over to the sixth chapter for a moment and look at that, if you will, and what you'll find is, again, where Jesus placed the priority of prayer. It says in the twelfth verse of the sixth chapter, "And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God". Now, I don't have to read the scriptures and wonder where Jesus placed prayer in His life. And you'll recall that the Apostle Paul on three occasions, in Colossians chapter four, look at that for a moment. This is just one of them, but on three occasions he said the same thing to those who read His epistles. He said in this particular chapter, the fourth chapter of Colossians and the second verse. Remember what he said there? He said, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving".
Prayer had a priority in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and prayer had a priority in the life of the Apostle Paul. In fact, prayer has a priority in the life of every person mightily used of God, those who are walking in the Spirit, and those who are living a holy life. Prayer isn't sort of a something that we have on the periphery of our life. Prayer will be at the priority of our life. So, I want you to look, if you will, in James chapter four. And I want you to look at the fourth chapter, if you will, because what I want to talk about in this message is "The Price of Prayerlessness". That is, we do pay a price when we set prayer aside, when we flounder in our prayer life, when it no longer becomes the priority of our life, when we just call upon the Lord in times of emergency.
Look, if you will, in James chapter four. He says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is it not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so, you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so, you fight and quarrel. You do not have because," what? "You do not ask". Then he says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures". Now, I want you to look at that phrase. He says, "You do not have because you do not ask". When you think about it, you think about the fact that God has offered us this awesome opportunity. If you have a need, you ask. If you're trying to find and seek some answer, he says, "You seek and you'll find". And if you want God to open up the door of His Will for your life and walk through something, he says, "You knock and it shall be opened to you".
God has made these awesome promises about what He's willing to do in our life. And the only thing that, primarily, the primary two things, He says if we ask in His Will. And of course, we're to ask by faith and we're to ask out of a clean heart. And sometimes the reason we ask and we do not receive, one of those reasons is we're not asking out of a pure heart. But the whole emphasis is that God is so willing to meet our need and answer our prayers. When the Body of Christ fails to pray, the whole nation suffers as a result of it. When an individual ceases to spend time alone with the Lord, that individual's going to suffer.
What I want to do in this message is to give you a list of words. These words will sorta be descending words into what the average person, or any believer will descend into ultimately if they do not pray. The first word I want you to jot down is prayerlessness. Well, if I should ask you in this past week, I mean time that you set aside that just you and the Lord spent time together. I wonder how many people could just come up with five minutes or ten minutes or fifteen minutes. That I mean, just God had you all to Himself, just you and Him. Nobody but just the two of you. How much time did you spend with the heavenly Father who loves you, who wants you above everything else, who doesn't want what you have necessarily, He just wants you.
Let me ask any woman or man in here. What is it that is the most meaningful about your home? Is it what car you drive, where you live, how you dress, who you know? No. What is it that makes a home a home? It is relationships. It is relationship with a husband and wife. It is two people loving each other, learning how to love one another, and learning how receive that love. That's what makes it work. It isn't all the things. And you know what happens in the Christian life, what makes it work? It's relationship. It isn't how much you give, though that's important. It isn't how much you teach or how much you preach or how much you sing, none of those things. Those things are important, but what makes the Christian life work is relationship. It is the Father and the child, it is the Son of God, it is Christ and that person coming together. It's loving relationship.
When that's not right, it doesn't make any difference what else we do. And what is it that makes that relationship right? Spending time together with the one we love, listening to Him, talking to Him, receiving from Him, giving to Him. That's what makes it work. It takes time to build a relationship. It takes listening and forgiving and sensitivity and all the rest to build intimacy. That's what He wants. And so what happens? We say, "Well, you know, I'm just too busy". There's not a single solitary person in the world who's too busy to pray. Now, we may have busied ourselves. But the problem is that our priorities are wrong. God created us to love Him. And therefore, that's the priority in life. There's not a single solitary thing that you and I do that even begins to equal the importance of spending time with Him. Well, what happens? First word is prayerlessness.
Here's what happens. Now, watch this. Here's what happens. When you and I cease to spend time alone with our Lord, one thing that I've noticed, and you will know it, agree also. You know what, when you don't pray, your burdens, they don't go away. Problems don't go away. Heartaches don't go away. Suffering, pain, all the difficulties, they don't go away. What happens to them? Here's what happens to them. The second word is burden bearing. Because here's exactly what happens. When we do not take our burdens to the Lord, when we do not spend time alone with Him, when we're not fellowshipping with Him, our focus is not on Him, then what happens? We begin to feel spiritually, emotionally, and even physically the weight of the circumstances and the situations that we find ourselves in life. God never intended that. I put it this way, this is my way of looking at it, and that is that prayer, spending time with the Lord, inflates the burden, so that it's lighter.
And so therefore, I don't have to bear the weight of it. And there are many believers today who are carrying things in their life, having to deal with situations and circumstances. And feel like they either have to manipulate their way through, or they feel burdened down because of the circumstances of their life. Now, God never intends for one of His children to live like this. He intends for us to live standing straight and tall, as the sons and daughters of the living God. We have a relationship with One who has strengthened us and who says He'll sustain us. God doesn't want us carrying the burdens.
Now, when they hit us, and oftentimes they hit us on a blind side, we've got 'em. So, what we have to figure out is, and what we have to learn is this, He doesn't intend for us to carry it. It may hit us hard, but we think, "Lord, You said I could cast my burden upon You because You said, God, You bear our burdens," when? He said, "Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burden". Suppose He said, "Yearly bears our burden". I'd think, "Oh, God, three hundred and sixty-four days of the year I've got to carry this". No! He bears our burdens daily. You know what that means? That when you and I get up tomorrow morning, we can get up and you may lie in the bed, almost have a nervous breakdown thinking about all the things you've got to deal with before you even get out of the bed. You know what He says? He bears our burdens daily.
So we can get up in the morning thinking, "Lord, I want to thank You that today, no matter what I face, the things that I'm expecting to face, the things that are gonna be an absolute surprise to me, You said, Father, You bear our burdens daily. So I just lay the burdens of this day before You now". Now, as I said before, we're gonna be prone to pick up some things. We're gonna be prone to be hit from the blind side. And for that moment, we're gonna feel it. Listen, the pattern of God, the will and plan of God is that His children lay their burdens upon Him, that we do not carry them ourselves. He is the one who sustains us, and He says that He will do this daily. Not yearly, not monthly, but He says "daily".
So, what's the first word? Prayerlessness. Now, I want you to wake up. Now, come on. What's the first word? Prayerlessness. What's the second word? Burden bearing. Well, what happens when you and I carry these burdens over a period of time? If we do not know how to cast them on Him, if we allow them to take their normal course, we will feel something because the third word is weariness. You don't carry weight very long until you begin to feel weary and worn. And that word weary means simply to be tired and to be beaten down. And you see, sometimes you think, "Well, you know, I can stand this for a little while, Lord," or, "I can handle this for a season of time. But God, I can't handle it for long. It certainly is not Your will for me to handle this for a long period of time". You know what, none of us know how long we can stand anything. But you remember what He said? He says He daily bears our burdens. Cast your burden upon the Lord, for He sustains you.
Let me ask you a question. How long does God's sustaining power last? You believe that? Forever and ever and ever? All right, fine. Let me ask you this. How long does it last in your life? Mm-hmm! Right? How long does it last in your life? Well, let me ask you this. When God was feeding His children in the wilderness, and He fed them manna, how much did He give them every day? Enough for one day. And you know what, when they tried to get enough for three or four days, what happened? Spoiled. You know what, God is only gonna give you and me enough, listen, He says, "Give us today our," what kind of bread? He didn't say weekly, did He? He didn't say monthly. Give us today our monthly bread. No. You know why? Because God wants us depending upon Him daily. You and I have the privilege of waking in the morning saying, "Lord, I'm laying it before You".
When we don't do that, when we wake up in the morning and we pick up the burden, we take it with us. After a while, we are going to get weary. We're gonna become weary in our emotions. God, how much longer do I have to handle this? We'll get weary in our spirit between us and Him. We become weary physically and it begins to take its physical toll upon us. God never intended for His children to carry and to carry and to carry the weighty burdens. And that's why oftentimes we look at people and watch people go through difficulty and hardship and pain and suffering and death and sorrow and the families and so forth, and their businesses. And somehow, they've still got a smile. Somehow, they just keep going. Somehow, they still have the energy and the enthusiasm of their Christian life. We think, "God, how in the world could You do that"?
Exactly what He said. He is the one who has the sustaining power. That person or those persons have learned to roll their burdens upon the Lord. They may have to roll some three or four times a day, but you know what? God understands that. Because we're growing and we are learning how to lay our burdens upon Him. And so, if we don't, the natural recourse is we're gonna get tired and weary and worn. And as He says, we are going to be very, very weary. Now, I want you to turn back, if you will, to Isaiah chapter forty. One of my favorite chapters in Isaiah and probably one of yours. How many times I've had to read this for myself. And I want you to begin, if you will, in verse twenty-eight of Isaiah forty. And this is one of those you certainly may want to underline. He says, "Do you not know? And have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired".
Aren't you glad that God is not huffing and puffing? "Whew! Having to put up with him again today". And you know, if God were like us, that's what He'd probably say about me and probably some of you, at the end of every day. "Whew! Am I glad that's over with". Listen to what He says. He says He "does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary". Those who wait upon the Lord. What's he talking about? Waiting upon the Lord in prayer. Waiting upon the Lord as we are meditating upon His Word. Waiting upon the Lord is a reference to our spending time with Him, being quiet with Him.
What does it do? It deals with our weariness. He knows how to strengthen us. We don't have to get weary doing the Lord's work. We don't have to get weary in well doing, as the Bible says. He says, listen, even the young people shall falter and fall and stumble. He says but listen, He says when we learn to wait upon Him, to spend time with Him, listening to Him and giving ourselves to Him and loving Him and being loved by Him, He says we'll mount up with wings like eagles. And what is it that keeps that eagle up there? Not the flapping of His wing, but the wind currents. God, listen, the Spirit of God is the wind current under us. He can sustain us through anything and everything. He can keep us going when everything around us looks like it's falling apart. We do not have to be weary, but you stop praying and down you're going. Because that's the way God has made us.
God has made us, He says, for daily bread. God has made us to sustain us. He is the one who sustains us. We don't sustain ourselves by manipulation, by conniving our circumstances, by trying to outsmart situations and listen, we are sustained by the grace and the goodness and the love and the power of Almighty God. I do not know a child of God who goes through great difficulty and hardships, and walks through it victoriously and courageously and comes out on the other side who does not know how to fellowship and have an intimate relationship with Him. You see, if the devil can get you tired, if he can get you weary, he has you on the way down to where he's headed you. I don't care how spiritual you may be today.
What's going on? When you neglect time alone with God, you neglect the reading of the Word, you neglect spending time listening and fellowshipping with Him. What's gonna happen? When prayerlessness sets in, there's burden bearing. It's going to happen. When there's burden bearing, there's going to be weariness. That is, we are going to sense it in our physical body, we're gonna lose our enthusiasm. You show me a weary person and I'll show you someone who has lost their enthusiasm about life.
Well, what's the first word? Prayerlessness. Second word? Burden bearing. Third word? Fourth word is exactly what's gonna happen, and that is discouragement. They begin to lose heart. Their courage begins to wane. And they begin to be fearful because what you're gonna find is wherever you find a lack of courage, automatically you've got fear. He said, "Joshua, be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest". He told Moses, He said, "Now you tell the children of Israel," He says, "You tell 'em, I'm going ahead of them. I'll be there".
What was to be their focus? Their focus was to be God, not Egyptians, not sand, not desert, but God. This is the reason He gave 'em a cloud by day and fire by night. That cloud not only covered them and kept the sun rays from 'em, but the fire at night not only kept 'em warm, and there was light. But what was God saying? Here's what God was saying. God was saying, "Look up here at this cloud. This is Me. I am the one up here who's watching over you". God gave them a physical symbol in their day to remind them of His presence. You and I have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to remind us of the presence of God. He is the sustaining power in our life. And when we allow those burdens to become heavy and we don't deal with 'em at burden level and we become weary and we don't deal with it at weary level, we are gonna be discouraged.
When we get discouraged, Satan has just got you primed to defeat you. Because what is it that follows discouragement? Doubt. Doubt always follows discouragement. Well, God, this is what I'm feeling, and I'm not sure, Lord, exactly what's happening here. And so we begin to doubt the Lord. And listen, whenever you and I begin to doubt Him, we're in trouble. Now, if somebody were to ask me, and nobody has, so I'm gonna tell you anyway. If somebody should ask me, "What is it you fear most"? Well, what I would fear most of all in the Christian life is that I would ever doubt God. That's the thing that I would fear most. And I can think about some times in my life when the Lord has given me a specific passage of scripture that was so crystal clear that it had my name, address, telephone number, social security number on it. I mean, it could not have been any more applicable to me. And I knew in my spirit God was saying, "Here's what I'm going to do".
I can remember sometimes when I knew that, what He said He would do, the time was coming. And I knew exactly what He said. There have been those times when I thought, "Lord, when I look around me, I don't see any possible way that You could do this". And so, the Lord would say to me, "Are you going to believe what you see, or are you gonna believe what you heard? Are you gonna believe your circumstances, or are you gonna believe what you heard"? And I can remember at times when I was learning how to listen to Him. I can remember being afraid, thinking, "Oh, God, I'm so absolutely sure You said this, but suppose it doesn't happen? Will I ever be able to believe You again"? Well, thank God, I've never had to say, "Yep, God blew it". Because you know what, I may blow it but He's not gonna blow it. If He makes a promise, He's gonna keep the promise. Listen, He'll move heaven and earth to keep every promise He's ever made.
So, what happens? We begin to doubt God. Now, let me ask you a question. What security, what security do you have today if you doubt God's love for you, His presence with you, His power to sustain you, His promise to provide for you? If all of that's gone, what security do you have? You can't have enough stock, you can't have a big enough house, you can't drive a big enough car, you can't dress enough, you can't have enough friends. You can't have anything that would give you the security that you have in knowing you have a personal relationship with a loving Father who loves you unconditionally, who's gonna provide your every need, who's gonna protect you, who's gonna walk with you, who will be there in the midst of every circumstance, providing for you, sustaining you, and enabling you to endure and persevere, even the most trying of times of life.
I'm here to tell you, my friend, prayerlessness, listen, prayerlessness will breed doubt. It may not come quickly, but it's coming. Prayerlessness is going to bring you into burden bearing, into weariness, into discouragement, into doubt. That's just the way life is. That's the way our old human nature is. And this is why the focus must always be on God. And at any point in this descending scale that you choose, you can turn it around. Any point you choose, you can stop and head back in the other direction. At any moment you realize, "God, I have put so many other things in place of prayer, and I'm willing to watch TV, read magazines, do all these things, keep busy, busy, busy, busy, busy".
Somehow, we have to ask ourselves the question: Is it because we are uncomfortable being alone with God? Is it because we are uncomfortable just talking to Him and listening to Him? Is it because we're uncomfortable just sitting silently before Him that we don't? When, listen, it's what He wants above everything else. Doubt, listen, the seeds of doubt are always there in a prayerless heart. It is coming. It will come. It is absolutely a part of it. Now, what's gonna happen when you and I start doubting? Look at this, prayerlessness, burden bearing, weariness, discouragement, doubt. What's going to happen? Disillusionment. God, I'm just wondering, where are You, God? I know what You say in your Word. I understand what You're saying. I know the Bible's true. I know going to church is the right thing. I know reading the Bible's right, know praying's right, but God, I don't feel anything. Lord, what's happened?
I can tell you what happened. Here's what happens. Because at one time you were like this with the Father, look, now this is you and this is God. No, we don't want to put God on the left, do we? This is God. This is God, this is you. Here's what happens. Now, remember this, now, if you forget everything, now remember this. Here's God and here's you. This will never happen. That will never happen. God doesn't move. You and I may move, but God never moves. So, what happens? We have a wonderful relationship with Him, spending time with Him, and what happens? Oh, we get busy and things get so good, and we just get so blessed. And here's what happens. We begin to waver in our time with Him. And before long, what's happened? We're bearing burdens. We're become weary. We're feeling all this discouragement, and we begin to doubt God.
And you know what happens? Way over here somewhere, "Where's God? Where's the joy I used to have? Where's the thrill of the Christian life? Why don't I love church and the preaching of the gospel and gospel music? Why don't I love that? Didn't work". No, it's not that it didn't work. What didn't work is I didn't work. I didn't work at keeping my relationship right. I didn't work at keeping my fellowship strong and intimate and loving and warm with Him. And what happens, get disillusioned. "Doesn't work, Christian life doesn't work. Tried it, it doesn't work. Man, I tried that reading the Bible. I tried going to church. Just doesn't work. You can't trust anybody anymore. I mean, what's the deal"?
And so, people get very cynical in life, and cynicism, very critical, nothing's right, everybody's wrong. And then we come to the last stage, and the word is disaster. Because here's what oftentimes happens. In more intense degrees than others, a person comes to the place of being disillusioned, and then they willingly, deliberately choose to step out of the will of God. They deliberately, willfully choose to step out of the will of God because, you see, they don't look up back up the ladder. But I look back up the ladder and say, "Disaster came because you got disillusioned with God and the things of God because you began to doubt Him, because you got discouraged, because you got weary, because you began to bear burdens that God never intended you to bear because you ceased giving time with Him".
As I said in the very beginning, it can happen fast in some situations. It may take a long period of time. But one thing I know for certain, there is absolutely no substitute known to God or to man that takes the place of time you and I spend with Him, loving Him, listening to Him, talking with Him, reading His precious Word, and seeing what He has to say to us.
My friend, you may be one of those persons and you're sitting at home watching this program, and I have described your journey over the last few years, maybe, or few months. You were once excited, but you're no longer excited. And you wonder how you got off track and what happened back there, why you lost your joy in it all. Because you allowed something to become more important to you than the Father. The Father who blessed you with all that you have, you allowed the blessing He gave you to get between you and Him. And you know what happens? Here's where you are now. So, you say, "Well, what do I do about this? You described me, it's exactly where I am. What do I do about this"? I give you a real simple solution that works every single time. You get on your knees and you tell Him, you say:
Father, my priorities are out of order. I thought I could do this myself. I thought I could handle life. I tried, I've made a mistake. I've sinned against You. I've neglected You. I put other people in Your place. I put other things in Your place. I misused Your blessings. Materialism has slipped into my life. Relationships are not right. God, I have sinned against You. At the one point You wanted Me most, my relationship with you, I put everything else. I'm asking You to forgive me for my sins, and beginning today, Father, I'm getting in Your Word right now. I'm gonna start reading Your Word daily and spending time alone with You. I'm gonna trust You to speak to my heart. I'm thanking You right now that You're forgiving me of my sins, and I'm believing that, beginning today, your prodigal is coming back home to the Father where he belongs, and the security and the love that I once enjoyed.
And you know what's gonna happen? You can change it just like that. It's not anything anybody else can do for you. It's something that you choose to do for yourself. What do you choose to do? You choose to come back home to the Father.