Prayer and Sin - Can They Co-Exist?

By Pastor Brady Wolcott

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin night and day, when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world, when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him, when they do not show the slightest desire to serve him at all? Oh, no, it is plain as daylight that the great majority of men either ask nothing of God or do not mean what they say when they do ask, which is just the same thing. Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer.

When Pastor Jamie read this excerpt from A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle on Sunday it really struck me. I sat there thinking about my own sin. The sins of my heart and thoughts (yes a lot of my sins are invisible). I thought about how I often pray AFTER I’ve sinned - to confess. But do I pray BEFORE I sin?

What I mean is, do I pray? Does praying choke out sin in my life? Does it replace the selfish, lustful, anxious, proud, insecure, and callousness that creeps into my heart every day?

Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart.

So if you know me at all, you know that Brady is going to have a problem with this statement by Ryle. It’s too extreme of a statement. It doesn’t allow for grace and struggle. It fails to understand the battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

And maybe I’m right.

But then I go back to that question I just asked. “Does praying choke out sin in my life?” Yes, there is a battle for my heart between the flesh and the Spirit. But am I fighting that battle with prayer?

As I sit here writing and contemplating I wonder if I have tried to fight this battle with only my mind through study, reading, and thinking, and not so much with my heart through prayer.

Could it be that prayer would allow Christ to capture my affections and the Spirit to win the battle?

I know the answers, but have I truly desired the answers? Have I allowed prayer to be that means of grace that connects me to the glory of God that surpasses all others and drives out the selfishness, lust, pride, anxiety, insecurity, and callousness?

Have you?

I fear that I have a long way to go here. But I’m not afraid to declare that at any given moment of my life sin and prayer cannot live in the same heart.