HINDRANCES TO PRAYER

The aim of prayer is communication with God. In prayer we praise God for His goodness and righteousness, and thank Him 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. The Bible lists a number of conditions for answered prayer. When God does not listen to us we must fine the reason why. What is in our lives that is preventing God from answering our prayers? God delights in answering prayers, so why are they not answered? Following are a number of the reasons why God does not answer our prayers.

1. OBEDIENT CHILD OF GOD:
Before addressing God as Father we must first be His child. Calling God our Father means being under His authority, obeying His commands, and doing His will. When we call Jesus "Lord" yet do not do His will, we are not acting as children of God. God will on occasion answer the prayers of nonchristians, but only God's faithful children will consistently have their prayers answered.

Beloved, if our hearts don't condemn us, we have boldness toward God; and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded. He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us. 1 John 3:21-24.

2. SIN:
God does not answer those who cherish sin in their heart. To cherish sin in your heart means there is a sin which you love so much that you will not give it up. If you conceal your sins your prayers are not answered, but if you confess your sins in repentance you will find mercy and your prayers will be answered. Confession of sin means you agree with God that what you have done or are doing is wrong by His standards. Failure to confess your sins and make things right with God and man is a major cause of unanswered prayer.

"If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord wouldn't have listened." Psalm 66:18.
"When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." "Come now, and let us reason together," says Yahweh: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:15-18.
"Behold, Yahweh's hand is not shortened, that it can't save; neither his ear heavy, that it can't hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Isaiah 59:1,2.
"He who conceals his sins doesn't prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Proverbs 28:13.

3. LACK OF FAITH:
Faith is believing that you have received what you are praying for. If you doubt, when you pray, you should not expect that you will receive anything from the Lord. Faith is more than believing God can answer or is able to answer prayer. Faith is knowing that God has heard and the answer is on the way. We should not use the expression "If it by Thy will" for this is an expression of doubt. We must pray with confidence that God has heard and the answer is on the way. See Matthew 21:21,22; Mark 9:21-24; 11:22-24; Hebrews 4:16; 11:6; James 1:5-8

Thus says Yahweh: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose trust Yahweh is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:5-8
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, "Why weren't we able to cast it out?" He said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For most assuredly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:19,20.

4. WE DO NOT ASK:
Often we do God's work with our planning, and in our strength, and at the time and place we think best. The result is a job poorly done at the wrong time and our needs are not completely supplied. God does not open doors until we knock. We do not find because we have not sought God's will. And we do not receive for we have not asked.

Asking must be specific. Usually a general prayer is not asking, for how can we know when the prayer is answered if it is not specific? We do not go to the grocery store and ask for "food." We ask for the specific items we need. We do not ask the pharmacist for medicine. We ask for the specific medicine we need. So, we must take everything to God in prayer making specific requests for our needs.

"I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened. Luke 11:9,10.
"You don't have, because you don't ask." James 4:2b.

5. WRONG MOTIVES:
At times our requests are not answered because the wrong motives are behind our asking. God does not hear when we ask to satisfy our own selfish pleasures or our own interests. Asking with the wrong motives, is asking beyond our need. God promises to supply our needs whether great or small. But requesting beyond our needs is a prayer God usually does not answer.

"You ask, and don't receive, because you ask amiss, so that you may spend it for your pleasures." James 4:3.
"When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most assuredly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Matthew 6:5,6.

The motive behind your asking should be to bring glory to God and to express your love to Him. Since all you receive comes from God, how can you boast as though you had not received it from Him? (1 Corinthians 4:7).

"Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, keep my commandments." John 14:13-15.
"Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1Corinthians.10:31.

6. NOT PRAYING IN GOD'S WILL:
You can approach God with confidence knowing that when you pray according to His will, He hears you and you have the thing asked of Him.

"This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him." 1 John 5:14,15

Since God wants only the best for you, He does not answer those prayers that will do you harm. God knows the future, you don't! He knows what is best, for we do not make wise choices. This is why it is so important to know God's will. Knowing His will involves a commitment to God of every thing that comes into our lives. It means praying, "Lord, I want your perfect will for me and my family." It involves asking, seeking, and knocking, for God reveals Himself only to those who are willing to do His will.

To pray "If it be your will..." and to pray, "Your will be done," are two entirely different prayers. The first is a prayer of doubt and should never be used. But to request "Your will be done," is asking God to reveal His will in regard to the thing asked. Learning God's will involves changing our thinking, our emotional reactions, and our desires. The Holy Spirit tells us to let God change our thinking so that we can learn what God's will is. Romans 12:2.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21.
"Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more. For you know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don't know God." 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5.

7. UNFORGIVING SPIRIT:
The forgiveness of our sins is dependent upon how we forgive the sins of those who have sinned against us. The measure we use for others is the measure God uses for us. An unforgiving and judgmental attitude is a major cause of unanswered prayer.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' {5:44} But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:12,14,15.
"Don't judge, and you won't be judged. Don't condemn, and you won't be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:37,38.
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32.

8. LACK OF PRAISE, THANKFULNESS, AND LOVE:
The language of the kingdom of God is praise and thanksgiving. The language of the kingdom of darkness is complaint. When Israel complained in the wilderness, God answered their prayers and also punished them.

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
"I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men." 1 Timothy 2:1.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God." 1 John 4:7.

9. FAILURE TO RESIST SATAN:
God wants you to pray, therefore Satan does not want you to. He will do all in his power to hinder your prayers. He knows that you can accomplish more through your prayers than through your work. Satan would rather have you do anything else than pray. Your 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 than against Satan himself. To fight this battle you must wear the armor of God and become skillful in the use of the offensive weapons God has given you. 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 prayers and requests.

Jesus prayed, "I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth." John 17:15-17.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6:10-13.
"Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings." 1 Peter 5:8,9

10. PRAYING TO OTHER GODS:
Some Christians are receiving answers that are not from God. They get them from astrology, Ouija boards, Transcendental Meditation, yoga, palm readers, seances, etc. Our Father in heaven to whom we address our prayers is very jealous. Any attempt to find guidance from other sources will cause God to turn His face away from us. He alone is truth and only from Him can we learn to live correctly on earth. Even reading your horoscopes for the fun of it will hinder your prayers. See Exodus 20:3,4; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Ezekiel 14:1-11.

"What am I saying then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don't desire that you would have communion with demons. You can't both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can't both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" 1 Corinthians 10:19-22.
"Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people." Therefore, "'Come out from among them, And be separate,' says the Lord, 'Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

Attempts to find healing by use of New Age medication, charms, folklore superstitions, witchcraft medicines, pilgrimages to holy places, will make God jealous and He will not listen to your prayers. God may make use of medicine and medical advances, but He expects these to be used with liberal amounts of prayer to your heavenly Father. You should find what God's will is in your illness and also call the Elders of the Assembly to lay hands on you when you are ill.

"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your offenses to one another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effective, earnest prayer of a righteous man is powerfully effective." James 5:14-16

11. NOT WAITING ON GOD:
If we do not receive an answer the first time we ask, we should pray again. And if we do not have an answer the hundredth time, we should go on praying until we do get an answer. If we request something and stop praying, forgetting what we asked for, God will also forget and not answer our request. The women who asked Jesus to heal her daughter would not give up until her plea was answered. When Daniel prayed for understanding, God sent a messenger the same day, who was hindered and arrived twenty one days later. If Daniel and given up before the messenger arrived his prayer would not have been answered. Let us not grow weary but be constant in prayer. Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8.

Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prayed three times concerning God's will, and Paul prayed three times concerning his thorn in the flesh. These are examples to us that we must continue to pray until we receive an answer from God. Not that we pray only three times, but to pray until the Holy Spirit reveals that the prayer has been heard and the answer is coming. Jesus' parable about the persistent widow teaches us that we should always pray and not give up. Sometimes our prayers are not answered because we stop asking, seeking, and knocking.

12. REFUSING TO DO OUR PART:
You cannot sincerely pray, "Your kingdom come" unless you are doing what God desires you to do to hasten the coming of His kingdom. As a servant of your Lord you cannot say, "Lord, do this or that." Servants say, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" The satisfaction of a servant is to see his Lord satisfied. You may see a work someone else is doing and desire to do the same, but it is hot yours to do until God assigns that work to you.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'" Matthew 7:21-23.
"But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say, when he comes in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down at the table,' and will not rather tell him, 'Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.'" Luke 17:7-10. "He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. {12:26} If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." John 12:25,26.
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord's work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58.
"Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Romans 12:6-8.
"Don't withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do it. Don't say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, Tomorrow I will give it to you," When you have it by you." Proverbs 3:27,28.

13. STINGINESS IN GIVING:
One of God's principles is that you do not receive until first you have given. The measure you use in giving to others is the measure God uses in giving to you. If you sow nothing, you reap nothing, and if you sow much you will reap a bountiful harvest. Also, if you do not listen to the cry of the poor, God will not listen to your prayers. Luke 6:38; Colossians 9:6-11; Galatians 6:7-10.

"Honor Yahweh with your substance, With the first fruits of all your increase: So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine." Proverbs 3:9.10. "IWhoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard." Proverbs 21:13

14. REPETITION:
Repeating the "Lord's Prayer" in a worship service or reading a printed prayer is not praying. Prayer is communication with God in our words for specific requests, with thankfulness for specific blessings, and praising God for specific things He has done. Too often we pray the same general prayer, repeating them daily, weekly, monthly, or as often as we pray. This is not prayer. See Ecclesiastes 5:1-5.

"In praying, don't use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore don't be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him." Matthew 6:7,8.

15. BELIEVING GOD IS OBLIGATED:
Some Christians believe that God is obligated to answer their prayers because they are faithful in attendance, tithing, Bible reading, praying, and doing good. Doing all these things does not obligate God to answer us. Our works do not give us a claim on God that He must provide our needs or give us all the things on our "want list." Our prayers are answered because of our relationship with Jesus. Only when we are in Him and He in us can we approach God with our requests and expect answers. Our attitude should be the same as Habakkuk's, who said he would rejoice in the Lord regardless of what happened. See Habakkuk 3:17,18.

"My God, turn your ear, and hear; open your eyes, and see our desolations, and the city which is called by your name: for we do not present our petitions before you for our righteousness, but for your great mercies' sake. Lord, hear; Lord, forgive; Lord, listen and do; don't defer, for your own sake, my God, because your city and your people are called by your name." Daniel 9:18,19.

16. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS:
God has revealed to us, in the Bible, what He expects of the family unit and the relationships between its members. In God's sight the family unit is holy and He hates anything that destroys that unit. Therefore, Satan will attempt to destroy all strong family ties. When we fail to abide by God's rules in family relationships our prayers are hindered.

"You husbands, in like manner, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered." 1 Peter 3:7.

17. LACK OF TIME:
It is strange that we have time to eat, to entertain, to visit, and to do many other things, but we cannot find time to pray. Also, when we pray our mind wonders, the telephone rings, or someone comes to the door. This is the work of Satan. He purposely creates these obstacles to keep us from praying. We must find time to pray. If we wait until we are at leisure to pray, we will never have the opportunity to do so. All who desire to do intercessory work or to make progress in their prayer life must make the time by setting aside a period for prayer. We must beg God to protect our prayer time so that our enemy may not snatch it away.

Also, we must pray without ceasing. Pray for your children as they leave for school. Thank God for His provisions as you prepare meals. At work thank God for the job; pray for His blessings for the company, your boss, and fellow employees. When you lay awake at night, pray for those the Lord's puts on your heart. As you meet those you love, thank God for them. If you meet a person who irritates you or has hurt you, pray, "Lord, give me the attitude you want me to have toward this person." When tempted to sin pray for relief and protection. In all things, at all times, continually communicate with your heavenly Father. See Luke 18:1-8.

" With all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints." Ephesians 6:18.

18. NOT PRAYING IN JESUS' NAME:
The night Jesus was arrested He spent considerable time instructing the disciples. Seven times He told them to begin praying in His name. Praying in the name of Jesus means that you have been given the power and authority of Jesus to do the work of God. All authority has been given to Jesus, which in turn has been made available to us. Therefore there is no excuse for not accomplishing the work of God. Whatever task God has assigned you, you can do with the authority of the name of Jesus.

In baptism, you were buried with Christ in the name of Jesus. Demons are cast out in the name of Jesus. Peter healed the lamb man in the name of Jesus. His name has not changed. The authority is still there in His Name. So, today you can do the same in the name of Jesus.

Just adding the words, "In the name of Jesus" to the end of your prayers does not guarantee that your prayers will be answered. To pray "in the name of Jesus" means you are making your request to God by the authority of His Son to whom all authority has been given. Jesus only gives this authority to those who know the will of God and pray accordingly. Your will must be in complete harmony with the will of the Father. God's will is that you become like His Son. When you remain in Jesus and His words remain in you, you will know His will. Then, you can ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. You cannot seek wealth, health, prosperity, success, ease, comfort, spirituality, or fruitfulness for our own enjoyment, advancement, or prosperity. Prayers that are answered are those that bring glory to the Father. (See John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23,24.).

Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:10-14

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Revised June 2000. Scriptures changed to The World English Bible Version.
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