What you believe (or don’t believe) about prayer matters. It’ll have a huge impact on your life for good or bad. Maybe you’re feeling too busy, tired or immoral to pray. The reality is that only a relationship with God can unravel the ultimate meaning of your life. Only through a connection with God is there hope in this life and the next.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
If you want to know why a book was written, you have to ask the author. When you wish to understand why a product was made, you go to the inventor. But, when you desire to know why you were made, the only one to ask is your Creator. He knows everything, including all the hidden secrets and revealed truth relevant to your life.
The short answer to “What if I don’t believe in prayer” is that you’ll miss out on some seriously great things in life (even life itself) if your view on prayer doesn’t change. But, as we’ll also see, today is the best day to change your belief about prayer. You can ask God to help you see the value of it. Let’s dig a little deeper into disbelief in prayer.
Religious and Non-Religious People Disbelieve in Prayer
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, even for some professing Christians, their prayer life is minuscule to nonexistent. At the same time, many others would say they aren’t Christians at all. So, some involved in Christian activity and others with no connection to Christianity disbelieve in prayer.
Since the only way to salvation is through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we’ll define “Christian activity” as a religious system where salvation through Jesus is the prevailing belief about how one is made right with God. Let’s briefly look at both kinds of individuals who don’t believe in prayer.
Those Who Don’t Claim to Be Christians
The first group of people who disbelieve in prayer are those who don’t claim to have trusted Jesus as their personal Savior from their sin. Because they’ve rejected God’s salvation up to this point, if they were to die, they’d die under God’s wrath and face eternal punishment and separation from God.
This group is easier to understand than the next major group. After all, it’s quite obvious why someone who doesn’t put their faith in Jesus wouldn’t believe in prayer. Yes, people who don’t believe in the true God may pray in some cases but those prayers can’t make them right with God. Only faith in Jesus can ever do that.
It’s only through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus covering our sin that we can be viewed as perfect by God. And once we’re viewed as perfect, we can enter into a relationship with God and have the ultimate hope of Heaven when we die. But until that moment of salvation happens, we disbelieve in real prayer whether we pray or not. Real relational prayer is impossible if it’s directed to a fake God or a fatally skewed idea of who God is.
The relationship with our Creator must first be restored through belief in Jesus before prayer can ever mean anything–before those prayers can be heard by God and taken into consideration. Until we come to Jesus, we’re enemies of God. We can never hope to have meaningful interaction with our enemy (God) if we willingly ignore the only way to be made right with Him (Jesus). However, when we trust Jesus as our Savior, we go from being an enemy of God to a friend and child of God.
Professing Christians Who Don’t Believe in Prayer
In many ways, the second group of those who don’t believe in prayer is far more concerning than the first one (if that were possible). Let’s face it, unbelief is terrible no matter what but “Christian unbelief” is a whole different level of concern. Disbelief in prayer goes hand-in-hand with disbelief in God whether that happens in a religious context or not.
What do we mean by “Christian unbelief”? Those who say they’re Christians but don’t show evidence of it. Or, to put it a different way, these are people who say they are Christians, believe they are Christians but, in reality, are deceived.
Similar to how Jesus told the indignant Jews in John 8 who thought they were true children of Abraham (AKA children of God) that they were actually children of the Devil or Satan. There’s a moral smugness and superiority in the heart of fake Christians. A spirit of humility is missing that marvels at the incredible grace of God to save such an undeserving and despicable sinner as themselves.
One of the key marks of a true Christian is obedience to God including regular meditation on God’s word and prayer as the lifeblood of our faith. Prayer is one of the most foundational aspects of someone in an authentic relationship with God. This all needs balanced out with the fact that although Christians should be growing more like Jesus every day, we’ll still struggle with sin until the day we die.
By connecting with God through prayer and the meditation of his word, we find the power to overcome sin and to do his will. Neglecting prayer but trying to fulfill God’s word on our own will never work. It’s not nearly enough to save us from the penalty of our sin or to sanctify us (sanctify meaning the gradual process of a person becoming more like God in character once they turn to Him in faith).
Without God’s power, much like the Pharisees, we’ll actually become worse by reading the law if there’s no desire to live in relationship with God. Knowledge by itself is not nearly enough–that relationship with God is key. Even the Apostle Paul said that, apart from the relational power of Jesus, God’s laws actually made him want to sin more in Romans 7. We need the power of God through prayer to be able to live how He wants us to live and to be victorious in this life.
This Article Isn’t Meant to Scare You Unless it Should
It once was said that a pastor’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This article isn’t meant to scare every professing Christian who’s struggling in their prayer life into thinking they aren’t saved. On the other hand, it also isn’t meant to communicate that prayerlessness isn’t a big deal because it is. Where we stand with our Creator is something we all ultimately have to work out between ourselves and God.
Prayer is often hard in a fallen world. For God’s children, there are Heavenly prayer moments where God’s unconditional love and peace wrap us like a blanket. But it’s equally true that prayer can sometimes feel like walking through a sweltering, mosquito-infested swamp. That’s because prayer is more than just connecting with God—It’s also making war with an enemy who viciously hates prayer and those who practice it. Prayer is also an act of faith and humility. Until the day we see our Maker face to face, it’s our primary way of strengthening our relationship with God.
True belief is always proven by actions. Jesus went as far as to say that those who love Him (are in right relationship with God as his children) are those who obey his commands which includes prayer (John 14:15). And yet, despite our best efforts, we fall miserably short of God’s standards. Praise God that Jesus kept the law perfectly and covers the sins of those who believe in Him!
It isn’t the fear of punishment that changes us into wanting to return our love back to God through grateful communication and obedience, either. Rather, the scriptures say that it’s “God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).” And again, it’s only by staying in connection with Him that we can ever begin to love Him because He’s the ultimate source and enabler of love. And so, those are the two options of people who don’t believe in prayer. Summing it up, a real Christian may struggle with prayer—many do. But a real Christian will eventually pray just as a professional baseball player hits baseballs, as a child communicates with their parent or a dolphin swims.
Just Saying that We Believe in Prayer Isn’t Enough
Virtually every professing Christian would say they believe in prayer. But the more important question to ask is, “Do those claiming to believe in prayer actually pray?” If not, they don’t believe in prayer no matter how much they talk about believing in it. When Jesus taught about prayer in Matthew 6:5, He didn’t say, "If you pray" but "when you pray." Prayer was just assumed for anyone claiming to be in a relationship with God.
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward." (Matthew 6:5)
Will the cooking channel, cookbooks, food conferences, and baking podcasts nourish your body? Not without putting that cooking advice into action by preparing some food. In the same way, reading about prayer, going to Bible studies about prayer, listening to sermons about prayer and going to prayer conferences hold little value by themselves. Those resources only become valuable when the people consuming them put prayer into practice.
The book of James says that true faith is proven by actions. The actions are never enough to save us from the penalty of our sin. Only the perfect sacrifice of Jesus can cover our sins and make us right with God. Rather, those good actions are evidence of a saved and changed heart that has turned to God in faith.
Can you imagine having a spouse, saying you love him or her but never communicating? Unthinkable, right? In the same way, saying we love God but never communicating with Him is even more unthinkable. Claiming to love the God of the universe without ever talking to Him is beyond absurd when you stop and think about it. Communication and loving action are the key ways of showing love in any relationship including our relationship with God.
The Idea that Prayer is Underused, Obsolete and Outdated
There are many reasons why someone may choose to disbelieve in prayer that go beyond the scope of this article. But we’ll briefly explore one major reason many don’t believe in prayer. Prayer is considered irrelevant to the large majority of people. Singer, Joan Osborne once wrote a song that briefly touched on the topic of prayer. Here’s what she had to say about talking to God:
“Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in Rome.”
Osborne’s song exemplifies what many either inwardly or outwardly have concluded about prayer. That it doesn’t matter, it’s antiquated and rarely ever practiced. The major problem is that viewing prayer as lacking relevance, by default, means considering God to be the same. But that couldn’t be further from the truth since God is unfathomably great. As we conclude, let’s explore the number-one reason why you should believe in prayer.
The Absolute Best Thing to Gain Through Prayer
The most compelling reason to believe in prayer is simple. The answer is God. You were made by Him and for Him. No one on earth can come close to loving you like He can. Until you come to faith in God, you experience a massive void in your life that only God can satisfy. Sure, there are a lot of good things God has made. And those things can sometimes bring temporary relief from the pain of not knowing God, but they won’t satisfy your deepest longings—only God can do that.
Unlike our flawed parents, He’s the perfect Father. Once you put your trust in Him as your Savior, the prayer process begins. It isn’t always pretty and sometimes is a struggle. The important thing is to keep going regardless of the obstacles that get thrown at you. What should you do if you don’t believe in prayer but want that to change? First, tell God how you feel. God loves authenticity and his shoulders are more than broad enough to handle your frustrations. Start talking to Him every day. Don’t worry if these aren’t long and drawn-out prayers. The more important thing is to pray from an obedient and sincere heart.
Prayer involves many things including discipline. As you pray every day, it’ll get easier to do. After building the habit for long enough, it’ll be difficult not to do! The greatest treasure of your earthly and future Heavenly life is on the other end of those prayers. It may not always feel that way but it’s not any less true during those moments of questioning. God loves you with an unrivaled passion and can’t wait to talk with you. He’s always ready to listen. Now, all we have to do is “pick up the phone”.