The renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens was dying. By his own admission, decades of heavy drinking and smoking had given him cancer of the esophagus, and now he was facing a brutal regimen of chemotherapy and a bleak prognosis. His thinning hair, weary eyes, and parched, halting voice were signs of a beaten man—yet he softly reaffirmed his unbelief in God.

Hitchens said that others could pray for his recovery if they wished, but he did not believe that such “incantations” made any difference. The only way he would ever pray for healing is if the cancer spread to his brain and turned him into a “raving, terrified person.” As long as he remained in his right mind, he would “not be taking part in that.”

Despite his tragic response, Hitchens has hit on something important: Prayer is the proof of faith. Psalm 14 declares that “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’ ” (Psalm 14:1), and they show their commitment to atheism by refusing to pray to Him.

If someone proves his lack of faith by not praying, how do we who believe in Jesus demonstrate our faith? You guessed it. John Calvin observed, “The principal exercise which the children of God have is to pray; for in this way they give a true proof of their faith.” He added that anyone who does not run to God dishonors Him “as if they made new gods and idols, since in this way they deny God is the author of every good thing.”

We may say that we believe in God, but if we can make it through our day without prayer how different are we than Hitchens? Carve out some time to talk with God today. Ask Him for whatever you need, pray for what’s on your heart, and give thanks as you praise Him.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 13:1-21