In a recent book on prayer by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom titled simply Praying, they give a few extracts from J. C. Ryle who published a booklet 150 years ago titled Do You Pray? (PDF). Below are a few excerpts which I shared at the conclusion of my sermon this past Sunday morning.
I ask again whether you pray, because a habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.
All the children of God on earth are alike in this respect. From the moment there is any life and reality about their religion, they pray. Just as the first sign of life in an infant when born into the world, is the act of breathing, so the first act of men and women when they are born again, is praying.
This is one of the common marks of all the elect of God, “They cry unto Him day and night” (Luke xviii. 7). The Holy Spirit, who makes them new creatures, works in them the feeling of adoption, and makes them cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. viii. 15). The Lord Jesus, when He quickens them, gives them a voice and a tongue, and says to them, “Be dumb no more.” God has no dumb children. It is as much a part of their new nature to pray, as it is of a child to cry. They see their need of mercy and grace. They feel their emptiness and weakness. They cannot do otherwise than they do. They must pray. . . .
Many, even of those who use good forms, mutter their prayers over after they have got into bed, or scramble over them while they wash or dress in the morning. Men may think what they please, but they may depend that in the sight of God this is not praying. Words said without heart are as utterly useless to our souls as the drumbeating of the poor heathen before their idols. Where there is no heart, there may be lip-work and tongue-work, but there is nothing that God listens to,—there is no prayer. . . .
Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. I cannot forget this. I look at men’s lives. I believe that few pray. . . .
What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference in nineteen cases out of twenty arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.
So I ask you, my reader, do you pray?