Hindered Prayer

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 30, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

What stops our prayers from being answered? What hinders our prayers? I am not talking about what keeps us from praying. I am talking about when we pray, what stops them? Throughout this series, I have been learning about how to pray, what kind of prayers to pray, and much more. This is the 11th post of this series and I am almost halfway done… for now. This week, I am going to introduce a mini-series on what hinders prayer.

First, we need to be praying God’s prayers. Praying our own prayers for our own purposes will not be productive nor answered. We need to pray the prayers that God places upon us. This post is about what happens when we pray the kinds of prayers that God wants us to pray, and they do not get answered.

Second, we need to understand the nature of prayer and the character of God. One of the greatest misunderstandings about prayer is that it acts like a formula or a process. Let me re-iterate. Prayer is not a process. It is not a method that you follow like an instruction manual where if you say this in this certain way then it will be answered. Prayer is about our relationship with God. Prayer is about bringing God’s will to earth into reality. God will answer the prayers he initiates. They WILL be answered. So if prayer is about bringing God’s will into reality and God always answers prayers, why are they stopped at times? The first question we have to ask: Is the problem with God or is the problem with us? Too often, if our prayers go unanswered, we assume the problem is with God. We must get this straight. If God’s prayers go unanswered, the problem lies with us.

I have often heard that prayer is like a circuit board. God is looking for “switches” (our prayers) to make the circuit complete. Does this mean we can stop God from accomplishing his will? Absolutely not. It just means we can remove ourselves from having a role in it. If we do not participate with God’s plan, he will find someone who will. In every circumstance except for the work on the cross, God found a man who would pray his prayers, who would speak his words. Even in that exception, Jesus, God in the flesh, did it as a man. Jesus could not do what he did as God. He was God, but he had to do it as a man. He taught us how prayer truly works.

Now what stops these prayers? Let me explore several issues in this post, then in the next two weeks, I will hit some specific ones. The first thing that hinders prayer is doubt. If we get the message from God that we need to pray for a specific thing or issue, do we pray with faith? Or do we doubt that God will come through? Often, when we pray “if it be your will…” it is with doubt because we do not have the confidence that what we are praying for is indeed God’s will. I am not talking about when we do not know it, but rather when we do know it and we still question it. Doubt is a very easy prayer killer.

Here is an example of how doubt affected an entire nation. In Numbers 13-14, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out Canaan. When they returned, ten of the twelve spies brought a bad report. They had doubt. They knew God promised them the land, but they did not believe that God would carry them through to the end. They thought the giants would wipe them out. Only Joshua and Caleb believed. Because of this doubt, God cursed them to wander the wilderness until every person of that generation age 20 and up, except Joshua and Caleb, died. Doubt is a very easy prayer-killer.

Another prayer-killer is quitting, and when we stop praying. Sometimes we do not see the results we would like to see in the time we see and we simply stop praying. There are times where I wonder if things I have sought never came because I stopped praying about it. In this whole series up to this point, praying with perseverance has been the big one. Even after my last few posts on this very topic, I am still struggling with praying and praying and praying until the answer comes. But this is not merely praying all night, even though that plays a big role in this concept. This is talking about praying day after day after day until the answer comes. Too often we give up too soon. But back to how Israel refused to enter the Promised Land. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram accused Moses of failing to bring the people to the Promised Land. It was not Moses nor God that prevented them from entering. It was their own doubt, their own quitting of believing God that kept them out. If you know what God wants you to be praying, do not stop until you know the answer has come.

Another cause of prayers not being answered is because there is a battle going on in the heavens. Daniel gives the great example of this. He saw a vision of a man and prayed immediately for an answer. But none came for three weeks. When it came, the angel revealed that he came with the answer immediately but was delayed by the Prince of Persia. Sometimes our prayers are hindered because the enemy is fighting to keep it from being answered. This is why praying with perseverance is so important. Sometimes prayer is a war, and that is another topic I will address in a couple months. We may need to pray in spiritual battle to see our prayers through to fruition.

Allow me to hit a few other quick points that I learned from Eric Ludy in his sermon Praying Through. Sometimes, our prayers are not answered because we simply miss the mark. Like in archery if we miss the target, this is when our prayers are not aligned with God’s will. Sometimes we pray for selfish reasons. Sometimes we waiver in our prayers. We are only half-hearted in it. Sometimes we pray and we are living in disobedience. How can we expect God to answer our prayers if we are living contrary to his will? If we are living in sin, God has no obligation to answer anything we pray. Just ask Saul. Sometimes God will not answer our prayers because we are dishonoring to the authorities God has placed over us. Jesus understood the importance of authority. So did the Roman Centurion. If we disrespect our parents, bosses, administrators, and even our government (the position, regardless of who is in it), it very well reflects our respect of God’s position of authority. Why should he honor our prayer requests if we are fighting against the very principle that makes our prayers work? The last thing Ludy mentions is a lack of abiding in Christ. We have got to live in Christ and his will. When we do that, our prayers will find their answers.

Joshua had a prayer go unanswered. He had just conquered Jericho and was going against the tiny town of Ai. He was beat soundly. Joshua begged God to reveal why he failed them, and God said: “You have sin in the camp.” Achan had disobeyed God by taking some spoils from Jericho, and it cost Israel a battle. Sometimes it is someone else’s sin that is hindering our prayers. Sometimes it is someone we are associated with who is hindering our prayers. Joshua found Achan and had him executed. If someone we are associated with is sinning and causing God to curse us because of that, we need to cut off that relationship. Jehoshaphat was a righteous man, but God got on his case twice for allying himself with wicked men. Sometimes our allies will hinder our prayers. Be careful who you unite with.

There are two other major things that hinder prayer and they deserve a separate post. Next week I will address the fickle prayer and the selfish prayer.

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