The desire of a person’s heart is to get far away from God, and have nothing to do with him. Their feelings towards him is nothing but fear. Why then should a person pray when they have no real sense of sin, no real feeling of spiritual needs, no thorough belief in unseen things, no desire after holiness and Heaven? Of all these things, the vast majority of people know and feel nothing. . . . There are hundreds who would rather storm a breach, or lead a forlorn hope — than confess publicly that they make a habit of prayer. There are thousands who, if obliged to sleep in the same room with a stranger, would lie down in bed without a prayer. To dress well, to go to theaters, to be thought clever and agreeable, all this is fashionable — but not to pray. I cannot forget this. I cannot think a habit is common which so many seem ashamed to admit. . . .
Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — 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 interest to serve him at all? Oh, no, it is as plain as daylight, that the great majority of people 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. I cannot forget this. I look at people’s lives. I believe that few pray.
Adapted from J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer