Hindrances to Prayer
By Elder Prasad
Prayer is one of the greatest privileges we have in the Christian life, and God delights in answering our prayers. In Matthew 7:11 our Lord Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?”
The aim of prayer is communication with God. In prayer we praise God for His goodness and righteousness, and thank God for blessings received. Also we make requests for needs to be supplied. God then meets our needs and gives us directions and instructions. If no answer is forthcoming, the prayer is in vain. We must learn to have our prayers answered. Some people say that God does not answer prayer always. This cannot be true, because God always answer prayers: He either says “yes”, “no” or “wait. It is true that God sometimes delays in answering our prayers as His timing is different from our own. When Lazarus was very ill, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for the Lord Jesus. However, the Lord deliberately waited to come. When Lord Jesus finally arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Lord Jesus purposely delayed in order to bring greater glory to God by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). He delayed because the timing was not right for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.
In addition to timing, God sometimes delays or denies our requests because He has a greater blessing waiting for us. Therefore when we pray, we may have some of our requests changed or delayed for our good. God delights in answering prayers, however, there are times when God does not hear our prayers. These unheard prayers are not caused by His inability to hear or respond but by the hindrances in our hearts. God will not answer prayer just to pamper us, if the prayer is out of His will or inconsistent with His nature. The Bible lists a number of conditions for answered prayer. Let us look at some hindrances that cause our line of communication with God to be severed.
KNOWN SIN in our lives is one hindrance to prayer. Psalm 66:18 states: “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”. All of us in this world have a sinful nature, with the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though we possess a sinful nature, this alone does not hinder our prayer. It is our attitude to sin that causes our prayers to be hindered. Our ‘attitude’ here means to know and disapprove of something present in our life, but do nothing about it. If we are aware of some sin in our heart and acknowledge its presence yet unwilling to face it honestly and do something about it, then God will not hear us when we pray. 1 John 1:6 states, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” We are saying one thing but practising another. Ignoring our sin is a serious offence in God’s eyes.
When we are cherishing a known sin in our hearts, the Lord will not hear our prayer. To cherish a sin means to practise it secretly, to think about it, to enjoy the memory of it, and yet to be unwilling to face it honestly.
We must not allow sin to remain in our lives in this manner but must deal with it. Matthew 5:29 states, “And if your right hand offends thee cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body be cast into hell”. The Lord Jesus is telling us to deal drastically with sin before it spreads and destroys our entire being. Thus when we come to God in prayer, we need to have a time of confession and cleansing first. Confession of sin means we agree with God that what we have done or doing is wrong by His standards. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Failure to confess our sins and make things right with God and man is a major cause of unanswered prayer.
SELFISHNESS is another hindrance to prayer. James 4:1 tells us that when we are selfish in our praying, God will not hear us. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” The word “lust” means “pleasures”. The passage goes on to say “ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2, 3). While it is not wrong for us to pray for ourselves, it is wrong to put our requests so far ahead of God’s requests that we become selfish. In the Lord’s Prayer, we notice that God’s concerns come before ours: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:9, 10). Once we have prayed for God’s concerns, we can then say, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Vs 11). This shows us that it isn’t wrong to pray for ourselves. Many people in the Bible did so. In Psalms we see David often praying for himself for spiritual cleansing, for power, for physical protection and for deliverance from his enemies. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus prayed for Himself on several occasions. Likewise, Paul prayed for himself as well as for others.
Selfish praying, however, is not the same as praying for ourselves. We pray for ourselves that we might be able to serve others. We pray for our needs that we might be able to meet the needs of others. This is different from the attitude stated in James 4:2, 3. In this case, our sole purpose for praying is to satisfy our own pleasures and desires. The result of selfish praying often makes us hard to live with. We are constantly fighting and disputing with others. We also want our pleasures to be fulfilled. We are not interested in glorifying God, but only in pacifying ourselves.
The purpose of prayer is not self-gratification but rather to accomplish the will of God. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (1 John 5:14, 15). Thus we see that when we are asking according to the Lord’s will, God promises to grant our petitions. We must therefore seek the spirit’s discernment when we pray and have a life that is filled with the Word of God in order to know how to pray in the will of God.
REJECTION OF GOD’S WORD is yet another hindrance to prayer. Proverbs 28:9 tells us, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” The Word of God and prayer always go together. Our Lord Jesus said, “If ye abide in me, and my words adide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). In Acts 6:4 we see that the early church leaders devoted themselves continually to the ministry of prayer and the Word of God. The Word of God and prayer must go together because the Bible reveals to us God’s mind, heart and will. Once we know this, we can then claim His promises, His will and His provision for our needs in prayer. Prayer is not something we do ourselves. Prayer is the result of the Spirit of God using the Word of God in our lives. If we reject the Word, God cannot hear our prayer. He would be violating the holiness of His nature in doing so.
FAILURE TO RESIST SATAN: God wants us to pray, but Satan does not want us to. Satan in fact will do all in his power to hinder our prayers. He knows that we can accomplish more through our prayers than through our work. Satan would rather have us do anything else than pray. Ephesians 6:10-13 tells us that our battle is against the kingdom of darkness and against spiritual forces of evil. These forces are in the unseen realms of the spirit world. Too often Christians fight against the results of Satan’s work rather than against Satan himself. To fight this battle we must wear the full armour of God and become skilful in the use of the offensive weapons God has given us. These weapons are the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests.
God desires to answer our prayers. Unfortunately, God is not always able to do so because we have allowed hindrances to come between ourselves and God. Refusing to confess and forsaking known sin in our lives, praying with selfish motives, ignoring the Word of God and failing to resist Satan are some of the hindrances in our prayer lives. Perhaps we need to examine our hearts and lives and ask God to remove some of these hindrances. So may God help us.