(Photo: Harvest Ministries)
These people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.
- Isaiah 29:13
You may have heard the old adage that says there are no atheists in foxholes. Actually, I think there may be some. But when the chips are down, most people will pray.
Remember the story of Jonah? He ran from God and boarded a boat that was going in the opposite direction of Nineveh, where God had told him to go. A great storm came, and the terrified sailors started calling on their gods. Meanwhile, Jonah had found his way to the ship's hold and was sound asleep. The captain found Jonah and said, "What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish" (Jonah 1:6).
That is the way most people are. When we are in danger, we will call on God. But it is possible to pray all day long and never communicate with God. We can fervently say our prayers and never be heard. In Luke 18 we find a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee "stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men' " (verse 11). Meanwhile, the tax collector prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" (verse 13). Jesus said that God heard the prayer of the sinner rather than the words of the self-righteous Pharisee.
You can pray and never really have a relationship with God. You can offer up prayers and never really pray. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." You can pray with all the passion and consistency in the world, but if your sin has not been confessed to God, then it won't do you any good.