Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on the problem of prayer.
Have you ever felt discouraged in your prayer life? Does it feel as though God is not answering your prayers? Maybe it feels like you can’t connect with God like you used to, or like your prayers stop at your ceiling and do not reach God. Maybe you lack a desire to pray and wonder what the big deal is?
The truth is, if you have felt this way, you need to examine your life and see what may be killing your ability or desire to pray. Use this post as a tool to diagnose what may hinder the effective prayer life that God desires.
1. Unconfessed Sin
Unconfessed sin is probably the most common prayer killer. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” When the Scripture talks about wickedness, it’s referring to unconfessed sin. God is perfect and can’t abide sin in us. If we knowingly tolerate sin in our lives, it pushes God away from us. As a result, it makes our prayers powerless.
The good news is that when we confess sin, God forgives it, and it’s gone. The slate is clean and we are no longer held accountable. Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Not only are we forgiven, but God chooses to truly forget our sins of the past. At that point, our relationship is restored, and our prayers regain their power. Our past actions may still have consequences, but the sin itself is forgiven.
2. Lack of Faith
Lack of faith has an incredibly negative impact on a Christian’s life. Without faith, prayer has no power. Even Jesus was powerless to perform miracles in Nazareth because of the people’s lack of faith (Mark 6:1-6)… James calls one who doubts “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8)
The word double-minded speaks of a condition where a person is emotionally divided, almost as if he had two souls. That condition makes a person unstable and incapable of hearing from God or receiving His gifts.
If we are to grow in our relationship with God and become strong people of prayer, we must learn to obey. Keeping free from sin is not enough. Neither is faith. If our mouths say that we believe, but our actions don’t back up that belief with a strong display of obedience, it shows the weakness of our belief. Obedience should be a natural outgrowth of faith in God. He that obeys God, trusts Him; he that trusts Him, obeys Him. John 9:31 says “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will (is obedient), God listens to him.” (italics mine)
4. Lack of transparency with God and with others
James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” James is sharing a true thing about God: When we confess our sins to one another, which requires us to be transparent, God can heal and cleanse us. We experience spiritual, physical, and emotional restoration. In addition, our transparency helps others, because it shows them that they are not alone in their difficulties.
...Why is forgiveness so important? The answer is found in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgiving and being forgiven are inseparable twins. When a person refuses to forgive another, he is hurting himself, because his lack of forgiveness can take hold of him and make him bitter. And a person cannot enter prayer with bitterness and come out with blessings. Forgiveness allows your heart to be made not only right but light.
6. Wrong motives
When our motives are not right in prayer, our prayers have no power. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”
Sometimes even just knowing our motives can be difficult. In my experience, I’ve observed two things that quickly expose wrong motives: (1) a project greater than ourselves and (2) prayer.
7. Idols in our lives
Ezekiel 14:3 clearly shows the negative effect of anything that comes between a person and God. It says, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” God does not even want an idol worshiper to talk to Him. On the other hand, when we remove idols from our lives, we become ripe for a personal revival.
One way to know that something in your life is an idol is to ask yourself, “Would I be willing to give this thing up if God asked me to?” Look honestly at your career, possessions, and family. If there are things you wouldn’t release to God, then they’re blocking access to Him.
8. Disregard for others
Scripture is full of verses supporting God’s desire for unity among all believers–between Christian brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, laypeople and pastors. For example, in John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”…
The Apostle Peter made special mention of the relationship of a husband to his wife and the importance of living with her in an understanding way lest his prayers be hindered. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
9. Disregard for God’s Sovereignty
When Jesus showed the disciples how to pray, the first thing He did was teach them to honour God for who He is, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). That is a clear acknowledgement that God is in charge, that He is sovereign. And it establishes our relationship to Him: that of a child under the authority of his Father. Anytime we disregard the divine order of things, we’re out of bounds, and we hinder our relationship with our heavenly Father.
10. Unsurrendered will
…A person whose will is surrendered to God has a relationship with Him similar to the one described in the parable of the vine and the branches. It says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). The branch depends on the vine and lives in one accord with it. In return, the vine provides it with everything it needs, and the result is great fruitfulness.
There are great benefits of surrendering your will to God. One is that God promises to answer your prayers and grant your requests. Another is that we get to receive the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Just as with the vine and the branches, He flows through us, gives us power, and produces fruit.
What about you? Is there one of these hinderances to which you are especially prone? Do you have another hindrance not listed? What do you to correct the situation when you become aware that there is a hindrance?
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