The Prayerlessness of the Guilty

The stories of evangelism shared between believers are often very similar. As a result, many of us can relate to a time when sharing the gospel, the recipient(s) would not respond, would not commit to Christ because he or she was simply not good enough. Yet, that is the very point of the gospel, that none of us are good enough. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ died and why we need Him. Thinking about how this mindset affects our response to Him, we may be compelled to also ask, “Does this same attitude affect our prayer life?”
No doubt prayer is one of the great struggles of the Christian life, despite the ease at which it can be accomplished. At any time and at any place, we can come before the Lord with words that lack eloquence and clarity because the Lord hears and understands. Yet, prayer is underutilized and while the reasons are many, perhaps greater weight should be given to Thomas Watson’s following words:
The pardoned soul may go to God with boldness in prayer. Guilt clips the wings of prayer, that it cannot fly to the throne of grace, but forgiveness breeds confidence: he who hath his pardon may look his prince in the face with comfort.
Perhaps the burden of guilt acts as a greater influence upon our deficiency in prayer than we consider.
Many are of the mindset that they can earn their way to the heart of God and obtain forgiveness. Even professing Christians often find themselves entrenched into the works of the Christian life, not out of a loving obedience, but from a depth of guilt that makes them hopeful they will earn favor. Not only does Scripture assure us though, that salvation is a gift from God, but that there is nothing to be done to earn that gift. Even more, if we grasp the depths of salvation, there comes a recognition that the covering of our sins is insufficient by our work alone. The consequence of this mindset is a guilt that cannot be overcome, a guilt that hinders our ability to come before God’s throne of grace in prayer.
Dwelling upon this, three distinctive conditions cause an insurmountable guilt to lay upon the heart of a person:
  • Unconfessed Sin: One of the very reasons given in Matthew for coming to the Lord in prayer is the confession of sin (Matthew 6:12). Instead, the guilt that comes from our sin causes us to hide in shame rather than see our desperate need.
  • Unconvicted Spirit:  A truthful examination would reveal how frequently we justify our sin. Rather than be convicted by it, we are content in it. Despite the rationalization though, vindication is far from being found because fundamentally, the truth of sin will eventually reveal itself.
  • Unconverted Soul: Finally, there are those who have an unconverted soul. An unconverted soul finds no necessity in prayer because there can be found no sufficient propitiation to remove the guilt that comes from a life born into sin.
Guilt over sin has the potential to create a barrier with our Lord, or as Watson said, “Guilt clips the wings of prayer.”
To think of how our prayer lives may be eclipsed by the burden of guilt seems a bit awkward, after all, the lament over sin should cause us to draw nearer to God and not further from Him. The great need for a Savior is revealed over our inability and He has proven Himself to be faithful to forgive. Therefore, our burden should not be weighted by our inability, but lightened by His sufficiency, compelling us, even more, to come to Him in prayer. After all, His grace is greater than our guilt.
Photo “Empty Pews” courtesy of user Carol Von Canon and Flickr.