Hindrances to Prayer
To have an effective prayer life we must remove all hindrances to our prayers. If our bank account is overdrawn, the first thing we do is try to find the accounting error and fix it. If our car won’t start we take it to a mechanic to trouble-shoot the problem and then repair the car. If a businessman discovers he’s running a loss he does a thorough investigation to find the culprit and correct it. Even so, if our prayer life isn’t being fruitful we must find the root cause and reverse it.
As we look at possible hindrances to prayer, we inevitably must deal with negatives. However, the reverse side to every negative is a positive. As we explore hindrances to prayer, let’s deal with the negative, but not forget to focus on the alternate positive.
Here are a few hindrances to an effective and fruitful prayer life:
Having a Wrong Relationship with God
The Bible says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). Prior to coming to Christ we were at enmity with God. The first and primary hindrance we must clear up is our relationship with God. We do this by being “reconciled to Him (God) through the death of His Son.” The moment we come to Jesus for forgiveness and reconciliation, we are no longer enemies but beloved children.
The opposite of having a wrong relationship with God is maintaining a close and intimate relationship with Him. This is the first step in having a good and fruitful prayer life. Much of our prayer time should be consumed in communing with God. As we spend regular time in fellowship with the Lord, developing a right relationship with Him, we will begin to discover our prayer life being more and more effective.
Having Sin in Our Lives
Sin is a barrier to fellowship with God and a major hindrance in our prayer life. The Psalmist said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18). To regard is to esteem, care for and hold dear to our heart. It is not necessarily something we did or fell into once but something we cling to. It is something we are clinging to and won’t let go of. It may or may not be something that is outwardly visible to others, but something of the heart.
Isaiah said, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin must be dealt with and taken to the cross. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Looking on the positive side, “If we walk in the light (of His exposure) as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Don’t hide or cling to sin of any kind but immediately bring it before God, confessing it, and let the blood of Jesus cleanse you of all sin. We should continually be asking God to turn His search light on in our heart to expose any area where we may be falling short. This is consistent with maintaining a right relationship with God.
Not Believing God
Do we really believe and expect God to intervene and answer our prayers. Faith is the primary key to answered prayer. Paul said, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed (Romans 10:14)? James wrote concerning prayer, We must “ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). Clearly unbelief is a major hindrance to prayer.
On the other hand, faith is a great asset to an effective prayer life. If unbelief is a hindrance then faith promotes powerful praying. Jesus said faith has the power to move mountains (Mark 11:22-24). He said, “All things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). There is power in believing God. Let’s spend time cultivating and building our faith so we can believe God for great things. Below are a few ways to build strong faith.
- Pray in accord with His will (1 John 5:14-15). When we know we are praying in line with His will, we can have faith and confidence He will grant the petitions we desire of Him.
- Study the Word (Romans 10:17). Spending time in the Word of God helps build and strengthen our faith. Read and study it.
- Meditate on the Word (Psalm 1:2-3 and Joshua 1:8). We need more than a casual reading of the scripture. We must spend time not only reading the Word but meditating on it. This means we take a passage, verse or phrase and toss it over and over in our mind, letting it sink deep within our spirit. This will build and strengthen our faith.
- Use your imagination (John 5:17 and 19). See God doing what you’re praying for. See it as a done deal. Jesus saw what the Father was doing in the spiritual realm before He did anything and then acted accordingly. If we really believe something our imagination will be stirred and our imagination will stir our faith.
- Pray in the Spirit. Jude said, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20).
Having Idols in Your Life
God demands to be first in our life (Matthew 6:33 and Exodus 20:3). We must not allow anything to take priority in our life above Him. If we do it is idolatry. The elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to inquire of God and God spoke to Ezekiel saying, “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” (Ezekiel 14:3)? God would not even listen to their prayers because they had “set up idols in their hearts.” In contrast, if we are putting God first in our life, our prayers will flow before the throne of grace unhindered.
Neglecting to Pray
James said, “You have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2). Neglect is inevitably a great hindrance to prayer. Someone will say, “But God knows what I want without my asking. He will do what He wants anyway.” Of course He does, but God wants us to ask. Though God desires certain things for His children, He refuses to act until we ask.
Isaiah cried, “There is none that calls upon Thy name, that stirs up himself to take hold of Thee” (Isaiah 64:7). The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Let’s spend time laying hold of God and telling Him what we need and desire (Psalms 37:4-5) .
James wrote, “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). We so often pray with wrong motives. We go to God in prayer thinking, “I don’t care what God desires as long as I get what I want.” Prayer is about implementing God’s will in the affairs of men (Matthew 6:10 and 1 John 5:14-15). It’s for His purposes and His glory (John 14:13-14). Let’s make sure our motives are right when we seek Him in prayer. If we do, we will find our prayers unfettered.
Indifference to God’s Word
When beginning our first church, I went to visit a young man who had missed a few services. He began to complain that God wasn’t answering his prayers. I asked if he had been spending time in God’s Word. He said he hadn’t. I quoted Proverbs 28:9, “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law (Word), Even his prayer is an abomination.” Then I looked him in the eye and said, “Case settled!”
Spending time in the Word is the key to a powerful prayer life. Jesus said, “If you maintain a living communion with Me and My words are at home in you, I command you to ask, at once, something for yourself, whatever your heart desires, and it will become yours” (John 15:7 – Wuest Expanded Translation). The Word is paramount to maintaining a living communion with the God, praying in accord with His will and maintaining an effective prayer life. See also James 1:22-25; Hebrews 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:2; Psalms 1:2-3; Joshua 1:8.
Having an Unforgiving Spirit
Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25). If you harbor resentment and unforgiveness toward anyone or anything, including situations and even God, it will greatly hinder your prayer life. You may have been legitimately wronged, but we must forgive as God has forgiven us. Paul wrote, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). A forgiving spirit is essential to a good prayer life. See also Matthew 18:21-35; Colossians 3:13.
Jesus said, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus was essentially saying, before you go to God in prayer, do your best to make things right with anyone who thinks you have wronged them in anyway. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily right, but just if they think you have wronged them. If so, do your best to make amends with them. It’s up to them if they will accept your apology or not. You must simply make a sincere attempt before God and the rest is up to them.
The opposite stands true. If someone has offended you, you must go to them and attempt to make things right. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). Notice he said, “If he hears you.” He may or may not listen to you. It is your responsibility to go to him nonetheless, with hopes they will reconcile with you. You must take care to go to them in the right way. You must not go to them in pride and arrogance, but in humility. As we try to be in right relationships with all we know, we will see our prayer life flourish.
Not Keeping Your Marriage Strong (1 Peter 3:1-7)
In addressing the relationship between a husband and wife, Peter ends by saying, “That your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). The relationship of a married couple can be very powerful in the spiritual realm. It can also be a great hindrance if the relationship is not right. This is why the devil does all he can to come between a couple and make them at odds with one another. This is also why it is imperative we do all we can to deepen our relationship with each other, fight for one another and quickly reconcile when ever there is strife or disagreement. This is true physically, emotionally, spiritually and even sexually (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Let’s fight for our marriage relationships “That your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7) but flourish.
Stinginess in Our Giving
The wise man wrote, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). There is something about generosity that touches the heart of God. No, we can’t buy the favor of God, but liberality in our giving and attitude reveals something about our heart. When we give liberally, with a right attitude, it releases the power and generosity of God in every aspect of life. We reap what we have sown. Diligently study Malachi 3:8-12; Luke 6:36-38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-10; 2 Corinthians 9:11-15; Galatians 6:6-10; 1 John 3:16-22.
We are in a constant struggle with the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-12). They will fight us every step of the way. Daniel had been fasting and praying for twenty-one days when an angel appeared to him saying, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13). There was a spiritual battle raging from the time he first began praying. The devil hates praying people.
This is why we must engage in spiritual warfare. Prayer is more than just asking and receiving, it is a spiritual battle. We must bind the strong man and all that stands against us (Mark 3:27, Matthew 16:19, 18:18-20); join in agreement with other believers (Matthew 18:18-20, Acts 4:23-24, 12:5; 12:12); pray in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2); persist in prayer (Genesis 32; Luke 18:1-8; Daniel 10:12-13); and yes, even fast as Daniel did if we are to gain ground in prayer. Let’s not sit back casually letting the devil attack us but aggressively fight in prayer until we have been triumphant over every foe. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force (Matthew 11:12).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we humbly come before You asking You to remove all hindrances to us having a productive prayer life. Please forgive us for the hindrances we have allowed to come into our life. We commit to prayer afresh and anew. Increase our faith so we can once again believe You for great things. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!