They say age is just a number. You’re as young as you feel, right? I feel great except for a few parts wearing out.
Like my hearing, for example. My slight hearing loss surfaces when background noise competes with my attempt to follow a conversation. So aggravating!
Thankfully, God doesn’t have a hearing loss. He hears our prayers. If our prayers seem held up, usually the problem is on our end.
In his study, The Doctrine of Prayer, T. W. Hunt lists six hindrances to prayer. I added four more. See if any are present in your life.
First, prayerlessness. Prayer doesn’t do any good if we don’t pray. I Samuel 12:23 reads, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” Samuel saw ceasing to pray as a sin against God Himself.
Jack Taylor defines prayerlessness as “that state in which one prays less than he ought, less than the Father desires, and less than that one himself knows he should.” Are you committing the sin of prayerlessness?
Second, a lack of effort. Lazy praying hinders our prayer life. Acts 12:1-11 records persecution pushed the church to constant, earnest prayer. This passage records a miracle prompted by prayer. Are we lazy at prayer?
Third, selfish motives (James 4:3). Though the Bible tells us to bring our requests before God, we must be careful not to make selfish requests. Selfish praying, Hunt writes, poses a danger to the purposes God wants fulfilled. God-centered, kingdom-oriented praying is about wanting God’s will accomplished, not getting our way.
Fourth, a lack of faith (James 1:6-8). A growing prayer life requires a growing faith. Failure to believe means we think God does not keep His promises.
Wavering is the very opposite of God’s character, for God does not change. God expects us believe not only that He can answer our prayer, but that He will answer our prayer. Never fear the thing we are asking is too great or too difficult.
Fifth, not abiding in Christ (John 15:7). A continuing, vibrant relationship with Christ enhances our prayer life. Jesus used the vine and branches metaphor to emphasize the vital connection we must have that brings nurture and demonstrates total dependence. Are you abiding in Christ?
Sixth, our rebellion and sin (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is rooted in our selfish pride. Psalm 66:18 reads, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” The Psalmist emphasizes rebellion in our heart hinders prayer. Isaiah also addressed the hindrance of unconfessed and unaddressed sin. Choosing disobedience hinders our prayers.
Seventh, an unforgiving spirit. Refusing to follow biblical directives concerning conflict hinders prayer. What did Jesus say? See Matthew 5:23-24. We must seek forgiveness from others and forgive those who offend us.
When we refuse to forgive, not only are we disobedient to a direct command from Jesus Himself, but we also hurt our prayer life.
Plus, we poison our lives. Living on this side of eternity certainly brings contact with imperfect people who sometimes hurt us, but bitterness smoldering in our heart will eventually destroy us. Forgiveness benefits us as much as it benefits the forgiven.
Eighth, a lack of persistence (Luke 11:5-13). Jesus taught persistence. God is always at work around us; He just doesn’t move as fast as we want Him to, so it seems. Be slow to give up. Persist and keep praying. Keep on knocking.
Nine, God waiting on you. God is waiting for your obedience. Psalm 84:11 reads, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Are we living in disobedience? God may be refusing to acknowledge your prayers to get you back into line with His will and purposes.
Ten, asking amiss (James 4:3). God’s idea of a good thing may different from our idea. God’s timing is better than our timing. See Matthew 7:11 – “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” God has our best in mind, so we must trust Him as our wonderfully good heavenly Father.
What should we do when prayers go unanswered? Start by examining our hearts and determining if any hindrances are working against us. Address any hindrances and never stop praying.
(David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Join them Sunday at 352 McDonough Road for worship at 9 and 10:55 a.m. or watch online at www.mcdonoughroad.org. Order Chancey’s book, The Day I Nearly Met Dolly, on Amazon, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org).