Prayer is a vital part of any Christian’s life. I know for me personally, when I am really struggling with having a negative attitude, being snappy with my hubby or kiddos, or even struggling physically with feeling tired and worn-out, nine times out of 10 my recent prayer life has been lacking. I know we say that God doesn’t do miracles today, but on my end, it seems nothing short of miraculous the way things in my life– and my attitude in particular– turn around as soon as I start making a concentrated effort to keep a running dialogue with my Lord throughout the day. We are all familiar with James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV). We know that prayer has tremendous power in our lives; we have all seen it in our own lives, and in the lives of others.
Unfortunately, as important as prayer is to our Christianity and as powerful as it is, we oftentimes ignore the Scriptures’ teaching that our prayers can be hindered. While God is an almighty and loving God, and as much as He wants to be there for us, we can do things that prevent Him from being able to.
We oftentimes ignore the Scriptures’ teaching that our prayers can be hindered. While God is an almighty and loving God, and as much as He wants to be there for us, we can do things that prevent Him from being able to. – Lacy Crowell
First and foremost, if we have intentional sin in our lives, God will not hear our prayers. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 28:9 says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
While this may sound pretty cut and dry, we really need to think long and hard about this. When we leave Sunday morning worship and go about our daily lives who, or what, are we worshipping? When we walk out those doors, does our focus become material things? Is our primary concern obtaining our personal goals and gaining what we want? Is the majority of our time spent on television, sports, etc., rather than focusing on Spiritual things? If so, I suggest that maybe we are not truly worshipping God.
We also need to consider how well we are listening to God. I will be the first to admit that there are some very hard teachings in Scripture. It was not an easy thing in Ezra when God commanded his people to send away their pagan wives and children, yet he still expected obedience, and He expects no less from us. I recently heard it said that God’s Word is not a buffet where we can pick and choose what we want. This is so true! If we want God to hear our prayers, we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) and listen (meaning obey) to what He has commanded us (John 14:15). We must remember that Isaiah 59:2 reads, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
However, sin is not the only thing that will prevent God from hearing our prayers. I remember when I was a little girl praying DAILY for two years that God would send me a hot pink Barbie corvette (the cool kind that you could ride in) for Christmas. I never did get my Barbie corvette, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I finally realized why. James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” You see, the best reason I had for wanting a Barbie corvette was the fact that my best friend had one. Unfortunately for me, in eternal terms, that’s not a very good reason. I’ve noticed that even as an adult if I’m not careful, I pray to God with the same selfish motivation I had when I was a child.
If we are truly living Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” our prayers will reflect this mindset. I periodically have to stop and do some serious self-evaluation and ask myself WHY I am praying for the things I’m praying for. “Dear God, please bless me with a new car!” While it’s true that a new car could be used to further the Kingdom by taking elderly members to the doctor, driving people to worship, etc., is that really my motivation, or am I embarrassed by what my friends call the “ghetto van”? I can fool myself about what my true motivation is, but God knows what’s really in my heart, and if I’m asking for things of Him for purely selfish reasons, that is a prayer that He will not answer.
The third reason God doesn’t hear our prayers is another one that I really have a hard time with, but not for the reason people typically think. “James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” If we doubt when we pray, we are defeating the purpose of praying to an Almighty God.
For me, the problem is not doubting God’s power, but rather my own. When I am pouring my heart out to God in prayer about something that’s very serious to me, I often find myself doubting whether or not I’m “good enough” for God to have enough confidence in me to answer my prayer. However, James doesn’t specify a particular doubt that will hinder our prayers, it’s doubt in general. I need to remind myself that God thought enough of me to send His Son to die for me (John 3:16). If I am doing my best to live my life for Him, that’s all He expects from me. He loves me and is there for me, whether I “feel” worthy or not.
Finally, when we pray to God, we must make sure that our attitudes are right. I Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” Ouch. Anyone who has had one of, “those” days understands how tough this can be. At least I hope I’m not the only one who struggles with being self-controlled and sober-minded. We all have days when we struggle more than others, but I don’t necessarily think those days are what Peter had in mind in this passage.
I believe Peter is talking about how we strive to conduct ourselves on a daily basis. We all know people who don’t really struggle so much with self-control because they just don’t worry about it. They say whatever is on their mind, they “lose” their temper at the drop of a dime (truth be told they never, “had” their temper to begin with), or they just have an overall bad attitude. These behaviors are indicative of a much deeper heart issue, and they will hinder our prayers if left unchecked.
We all know how important prayer is to the Christian. Without it, we lose half of our communication with God, and we also hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Romans 8:26). This means that not only do we need to be sure we are making a conscious effort to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), but we need to make sure that there is nothing in our life that is hindering our prayers. Sin, selfishness, doubt, and a bad attitude can all come between us and our communication with our Heavenly Father if we aren’t careful. May we all strive daily to rid our lives of these hindrances, and conform more and more to the Savior that we serve.
by Lacy Crowell
Lacy is the Ministry of the Month Editor for CFYC and the co-host of our podcast, Fresh Blends. She and her husband Jonathan are both graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute. They currently live in Holdenville, Oklahoma, where Jonathan serves as an evangelist for the East Main church of Christ in Holdenville. Lacy enjoys writing and speaking for ladies’ days. She spends her days at home caring for her husband and her three daughters and son.