The Cause of Prayerlessness

Andrew MurrayThis is Part Six in a series on The Sin of Prayerlessness. The excerpts come from the first chapter of the book The Prayer Life, by Andrew Murray. Click here for an introduction and links to the other posts in the series.

The Cause of Prayerlessness:

In an elder’s prayer meeting, a brother put the question: “What, then, is the cause of so much prayerlessness? Is it not unbelief?”

The answer was: “Certainly; but then comes the question what is the cause of that unbelief?” When the disciples asked the Lord Jesus: “Why could not we cast the devil out?’ His answer was: “Because of your unbelief.” He went further and said: “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17.19-21). If the life is not one of self-denial — of fasting — that is, letting the world go; of prayer — that is, laying hold of heaven, faith cannot be exercised. A life lived according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit — it is in this that we find the origin of the prayerlessness of which we complain. As we came out of the meeting a brother said to me: “That is the whole difficulty; we wish to pray in the Spirit and at the same time walk after the flesh, and this is impossible.” …

Scripture teaches us that there are but two conditions possible for the Christian. One is a walk according to the Spirit, the other a walk according to ‘the flesh.’ These two powers are in irreconcilable conflict with each other … ‘The flesh’ cannot be improved or sanctified. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8.7). There is no means of dealing with ‘the flesh’ save as Christ dealt with it, bearing it to the cross. “Our old man is crucified with him” (Rom. 6.6); so we by faith also crucify it, and regard and treat it daily as an accursed thing that finds its rightful place on the accursed cross.

Here then we have the deep root of evil as the cause of a prayerless life. ‘The flesh’ can say prayers well enough, calling itself religious for so doing and thus satisfying 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 …

O my brethren, do not seek to find in circumstances the explanation of 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.

When a Christian does not yield entirely to the leading of the Spirit — and this is certainly the will of God and the work of his grace — he lives, without knowing it, under the power of ‘the flesh’ … I pray you take time and give an answer to the question: Have I not found here the cause of my prayerlessness, of my powerlessness to effect any change in the matter? I live in the Spirit, I have been born again, but I do not walk after the Spirit — ‘the flesh’ lords it over me. The carnal life cannot possibly pray in the spirit and power. God forgive me. The carnal life is evidently the cause of my sad and shameful prayerlessness.

Thoughts: This is a long excerpt but a good one. The takeaway line for me comes right near the beginning: “We wish to pray in the Spirit and at the same time walk after the flesh, and this is impossible.” Our prayer life is integrally connected with the rest of our life. How we live affects how we pray and vice versa. As someone once said, “Prayer will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from prayer.” How will you live differently this week knowing that walking according to the flesh rather than the Spirit is the cause of prayerlessness?

Next post in series:  The Storm Center on the Battlefield


  1. John Ayan says:

    Well, Ray, this has certainly been a super series on prayer. One thing it brought to mind throughout: do people know how to pray? When you first become a Christian, people tell you to talk to God as you would talk to anyone. However, there are many “new” Christians who would claim not to know how or what to say to our Creator. Perhaps, this a sermon series here??? Just a thought. :o)

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    John – Thanks for the positive feedback on the series. And yes, we can always use more encouragement and instruction on prayer. A sermon series on this would be good at some time.

  3. kenneth says:

    i want to be notified about any updates and neccesities if ther be any.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Kenneth – Thank you for visiting. The best way to be notified of updates at the blog is to subscribe by email or feed reader. This is a free service. If you subscribe by email, at the end of each day you will get a single email containing the posts for that day. This is through a service called FeedBurner, and they do not give away your email address or use it for anything else. Anyways, feel free to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out for you, you can always unsubscribe.

  5. kimera David says:

    Glory be to the lord Jesus We need to wake up in prayer as a
    church or the body of christ because the only ministry Jesus
    is still doing upto now is PRAYER

Leave a Reply