I've been reading a book simply called Prayer (originally published 1662/1692; Banner of Truth, 2012), by John Bunyan, the puritan pastor who also wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. It's been very helpful for ordering my heart and my thoughts toward God. Bunyan goes to great lengths to humble his readers with the awareness of their own sin and weakness. He brings you low under the weight of your guilt and depravity, and for good reason. Here's his explanation of why:
Here is the life of prayer, when in or with the [Holy] Spirit, a man being made sensible of sin, and how to come to the Lord for mercy, he comes, I say, in the strength of the Spirit, and cries "Father" [Romans 8:15]. That one word spoken in faith is better than a thousand prayers, as men call them, written and read in a formal, cold, luke-warm way.
O how far short are the people of being sensible of this, who count it enough to teach themselves and children to say the Lord's prayer, the [Apostles'] creed, with other sayings; when, as God knows, they are senseless of themselves, their misery, or what it is to be brought to God through Christ! Ah, poor soul! study your misery, and cry to God to show you your confused blindness and ignorance, before you be too ready in calling God your Father, or teaching your children so to say. And know that to say God is your Father, in a way of prayer or conference, without any experiment [experience] of the work of grace on your souls, it is to say you are Jews and are not, and so do lie [Revelation 3:9]. You say, "Our Father"; God says, "You blaspheme!" (28)
If Bunyan's right, it's probably because you are not sensible of the depth of your own sin and misery. In other words, your prayer life is likely cold and dead because you don't see the extent of your need to go to God. Sure, you might run to Him when you have a crisis to be rescued from: illness, stress about school, heavy traffic, or some other uncomfortable situation. But these things will only bring you to God periodically and selfishly. The question is, Are you aware of your constant, complete dependence on God because of your sinful misery? Do you feel a perpetual need to call upon God to sustain you in the midst of your battle with your sinful flesh? Do you live in the mercy of Jesus Christ? And if not, why not? Because you are not sensible of your sin.
Lately, I've been seeing a glaring reason we have little to no sense of our sinful misery. And that is that we are worldly.
Now, I suspect that's a vague and mysterious word to our ears. Worldly. But it's really quite simple. Worldly = World-like. Like the world.
But what does it mean for us to be like the world? Here's an idea…