On The Difference Between a Prayer Life and a Life of Prayer

May 28, 2018

Genesis 4:25-26

25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.


We find ourselves in the first generation of grandchildren who are the second generation of people who have no direct memory of Eden. Perhaps the experience of “walking with God” had been shared with Cain and Abel and later Seth. Perhaps the shame was still too great. Regardless, there is no mention of walking with God beyond what we imagined happening in Eden.

We do see this interesting development in today’s text.

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

It sounds like prayer doesn’t it? It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand what has been lost when you never experienced that which has been lost. Let’s consider prayer as an example. We can hear and read about the depths of a prior generation’s experience of faith and prayer and the nearness of God, and assume we are enjoying the same thing; if only to a lesser degree. The danger of the assumption is exposed only when someone has the audacity to ask the unthinkable question, “What if we aren’t even close?”

I grew up in a church and a community probably like many of you. I had a sense there must be more to faith than I was getting, yet I was surrounded by people who seemed quite contented to accept that what they were experiencing must be “it.” The only ones who can’t be awakened are those who are sure they are already awake. Again, it is impossible to understand what has been lost when you never experienced that which was lost.

It reminds me of those haunting words from the opening monologue of the movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, “Much that once was is no longer, for none now live who remember it.”

Something happened in that first generation of grandchildren that had not happened before. The bible describes it as follows:

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

Did someone tell them the story of Eden and of a God who once walked with their grandparents in the garden in the cool of the day? Nostalgia for bygone days produces sentiment but rarely any noteworthy movement. It takes something approaching neediness or holy discontent before someone will “call on the name of the Lord.

This is the seduction of liturgy. Liturgy attempts to capture the memory but it cannot carry the movement. Entire generations can be lulled to sleep while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Saying prayers, no matter how powerful the words, can often only amount to the motions. It takes digging beneath the water table of our own surface level needs, to get down to the deeper thirst, where we finally, “call on the name of the Lord.” This is where going through the motions breaks down and awakening to the movement breaks out.

And let’s be clear. To “call on the name of the Lord,” is a step in the right direction, but it does not yet even approximate what it means to “walk with God.” Said another way, to “call on the name of the Lord,” is the beginning of a “prayer life,” but to “walk with God” is of another order—it means a “life of prayer.”

The seeds of awakening go into the ground when a generation begins to “call on the name of the Lord.” The fruit of awakening appears when a generation rises to walk with God.


Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. I confess my own tendency to think that I have gotten what there is to get, when I know that is more of you than I can ever comprehend. Put me more in touch with my need of you that I might more readily call on your name. Even more, I need you to take me by the hand and walk with me into a way of life I do not yet know. Right here Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.


  1. What do you think of this distinction between the motions of faith and prayer and the movement of faith and prayer?
  2. When did your neediness or holy discontent reach a level where you began to really “call on the name of the Lord?”
  3. Reflect on how you understand the difference between a “prayer life” and a “life of prayer.”

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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