|HINDRANCES TO ANSWERED PRAYER
HIS GLORY REIGNS
December 14 2007 8:00 AM
The Amplified Bible is used throughout this lesson.
Our prayers are not answered when we do not pray. James 4:2 says, "You do not have, because you do not ask."
We have to ask for what we want and need. When we have a need or a situation that concerns us, we are only
praying when we talk to God about it. And know that God is waiting for us to make requests of Him in prayer. Matthew
7:7 and Isaiah 65:1,2 tell us that He is ready to act for us if we will only pray. Our prayerlessness hinders God from
working in your life and the lives of your loved ones.
LACK OF BOLDNESS
Not only do we need to pray in order to have our prayers answered, we also need to pray boldly, which means without
fear and unreservedly. Jesus has made a way for us to approach God with boldness because He made us righteous
through his death on the cross. Because of what He has done for us, we can go to God with total confidence and pray
unashamedly, knowing that He loves us, hears us, and will answer our prayers in the best possible way. There should
be no thoughts of unworthiness, but we must always remember that Jesus has made us worthy, and when we
approach God boldly, we can count on Him to be merciful to us. Mercy means that God will give us what we do not
deserve and bless us when we do not deserve to be blessed - if we are bold enough to ask. We should ask in Jesus'
name, not in our own name. That means we are presenting to the Father all that Jesus is, not all that we are for we
are nothing without Jesus. Approach God with confidence as confidence breeds confidence. Don't ask God for less
than you would like to. Be bold and be confident. Ask Him for great things and open the door for Him to show just how
great He really is.
Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." In other words, sin that we are aware of
and refuse to deal with is a hindrance to answered prayer - none of us are perfect. We may all have something in our
lives that displeases God, but it may be unintentional and we may not even realize it. Once God convicts us of sin and
makes us aware of it, we must deal with it. Otherwise, we are regarding iniquity in our hearts, and in that case, God will
not hear us. If we have sin hidden in our hearts, we cannot pray with confidence that God will answer. However, if we
ask Him to reveal those hidden sins, He will. When He does, we must respond if we want to keep the lines of
communication open with Him. We cannot take something He shows us and sweep it under the rug. Instead we have
to admit that we have sinned, repent for lying, and receive His forgiveness. When God reveals in our lives, we need to
stop what we are doing and repent. We need to revere Him so much that we take Him seriously - immediately! This
means we do everything within our power to make sure that our relationship with Him is clean and pure and
unobstructed by sin, otherwise our prayers will go unheard and unanswered.
PRAYING OUTSIDE OF GOD'S WILL
Not praying according to God's will, of course, keeps our prayers from being answered. The best way to make sure we
are praying in the will of God is to pray the Word as much as we can: a verse, a passage, or a principle in God's Word
to back up what we are praying. We will not find scriptures that address all of our needs or wants in detail, but we will
find scriptures that tell us God will meet our needs. Sometimes there are things we want to pray for, but we are not
sure whether those things are God's will for us, according to scripture. In those cases, we simply need to ask God to
give it if it is His will to do so, and to help us be satisfied with His decision. On the other hand, there are other things we
know to be part of God's will because He does specify them in His Word. When we pray in agreement with God's will,
we will have what we ask for. We may have to wait, because God's timing is part of His will, but it will come to pass. We
all ask for things amiss at times, but God knows our hearts. He may not give us what we asked for , but He can will
give us something better if we keep a good attitude.
PRAYING WITH THE WRONG MOTIVE
James 4:2 says, "You do not have, because you do not ask," but James 4:3 says "(or) you do ask (God for them) and
yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is (when you get what
you desire) to spend it in sensual pleasures." A motive is the "why" behind the "what." In prayer, the reason we pray is
much more important than the words we say. God looks at our hearts, and when He see an impure motive, He cannot
answer prayer. Having a pure heart that truly loves God and loves people is always an acceptable motive to the Lord.
Selfishness is unacceptable; revenge is unacceptable; manipulation and control are unacceptable; jealousy is
unacceptable; pride is unacceptable - everything that is selfish and unloving is an unacceptable motive. We need to
ask God to purify our hearts on a regular basis so that we can pray with the right motives.
DOUBT AND UNBELIEF
Faith in God is foundational to answered prayer, so it stands to reason that doubt and unbelief - which are opposites
of faith will keep our prayers from being answered. Faith is a powerful spiritual dynamic, and is something God
responds to and blesses. But our faith is not without opposition. Satan will attach our minds with doubt, unbelief, and
questioning and when he does, we need to check in with our hearts and see what they say. Many times doubt and
unbelief start with distraction. When we are distracted from God's promises or God's ability to come through for us,
then we begin to doubt. We start thinking more and more about our problems or our challenges, and then our faith
begins to diminish. But we need to do what Hebrews 12:2 says to do and keep looking to Jesus. In order to resist
doubt and stay in faith, we need to stare at Him, at His goodness, at His ability to help, at His love for us, and merely
glance at our problems. Keeping our eyes off everything that would steal our faith or distract us from what God says is
the antidote to doubt and unbelief. We have to remember that He is the Source of our faith and He finishes what He
starts-so there's no reason to doubt. The Apostle James said that when we doubt, we become double-minded and the
double-minded man receives nothing he asks for from God because he is unstable in all of his ways (James 1:6-8).
Another reason people do not have their prayers answered is that after they pray, they worry. Philippians 4:6 says,
"Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition
(definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God." When we pray and then worry, we
are not exercising trust in God. We are not fully releasing our burdens or needs to Him; we are "taking them back" and
working them over in our minds. When we insist upon keeping our hands on the situations we pray about, and not
letting God have them completely, He does not have much freedom to answer our prayers. Worry is meditating on our
problems, but we are told to meditate on God's Word, not our problems. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus is telling us not to
spend today worrying about tomorrow. Just as each day has its own trouble, each day has its own supply of grace.
God does not give us grace today to live tomorrow.
LACK OF GRATITUDE
A lack of gratitude is a hindrance to answered prayer. A lack of gratitude indicates that something is not right in a
person's heart. The reason people grumble and complain is not that they do not have what they want; it is that they
have a character problem. People of godly character are thankful, always appreciative of what God does for them.
Thanksgiving keeps us focused on God and a thankful person is a powerful person whereas God is able and willing to
do more for them than He has ever done before. A lack of gratitude causes people to never be satisfied and to talk
about their discontent. It does not take much to open the door for the enemy to influence a person's life. Murmuring
and complaining are door openers because we are agreeing with him when we grumble. The Apostle Paul, who knew
much suffering during his life, and certainly had reason to complain about some of his circumstances, said this: I have
learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: (Philippians
4:11-12). In other words, we need to stay thankful in every situation, no matter how we feel. When God sees that we
are thankful no matter what, He can answer our prayers.
We can render our prayers ineffective with negative confessions. When we allow doubt and unbelief to take root in our
minds and then begin to speak negatively, we can hinder our prayers. "I am afraid God will not come through for me,"
is a negative confession. The words we speak are powerful, more powerful than we realize. Proverbs 18:21 says,
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it (for death or life)." In
other words, we will have what we say, so we need to be speaking positively, not negatively. Isaiah 53:7 says about
Jesus, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth". Jesus "opened not His mouth" and
did not speak negatively because He knew that He could thwart or delay God's plan by speaking negatively at the
wrong time. Sure, His trials were difficult - unimaginably grueling - but He did not complain. Our words do not exist
independently of who we are. Instead, our words represent who we are because they reveal what is in our hearts.
Matthew 12:34 says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." When our hearts are full of doubt, we
will make negative confessions, but when they are filled with faith, our words will reveal our faith and trust in God.
When God hears a prayer followed by a negative confession, He does not respond. But when he hears a prayer that
is accompanied with words that express confidence in Him, He delights to answer.
FAILURE TO FOCUS
Prayers are not answered when we do not stay focused when we pray and we are not diligent to keep our hearts
connected to heaven. Lacking focus, before we realize it, we are saying words that have little meaning or we are
distracted by the many pressures or activities of life. We end up not concentrating on talking to God, not really paying
attention to Him. If we do want to receive from the Lord - if we do want our prayers answered - we need to learn to stay
focused not only in prayer, but also in life. We need to know what God has called us to do, prioritize that, focus on
that, pray about that and watch as God answers our prayers and does great things through us. Know what God has
called you to do; be responsible for and pray consistently concerning those things. Whatever God assigns you to do,
stay focused. Focused prayer is powerful prayer.
NOT CARING FOR PEOPLE IN NEED
If we want our prayers to be answered, we need to be compassionate and kind to the poor. Proverbs 21:13 says,
"Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor will cry out himself and not be heart." If we want God to hear our
prayers, we need to care for those who are less fortunate than we are. We close our hearts or stop our ears when we
hear about people who are needy for several reasons: 1) We may think some else should take care of them; 2) We
may be afraid to get involved because we think someone will take advantage of us - but we need to follow the leading
of the Holy Spirit to do what is right; 3) We may be just plain lazy. God has equipped us with compassionate hearts
and we are told in 1 John 3:17 not to close our hearts of compassion when we see needs. Satan would like for our
love to grow cold. The Book of James reveals the secret to having pure religion before God which is to "visit orphans
and widows in their trouble..."(James 1:27). Those two categories of people (orphans and widows) are very important
to God and they are mentioned often in the Bible, but in general, the phrase "orphans and widows" is also a way to
describe anyone who is hurting, lonely, oppressed, or in need of anything. When we do not extend the love of God to
people like this, our prayers will be hindered. We need to be a blessing to people, but especially to the poor and
needy and to the orphans and widows. If we will do that, we will be expressing the love of God and He will answer our
Being rebellious toward authority will keep our prayers from being answered. A submitted heart, which is the opposite
of a rebellious heart, is tender toward God and eager to obey Him. A rebellious person, on the other hand, will
intentionally disobey and God does not bless disobedience. We all need to stay under the authority He has put in our
lives so that our hearts will be right toward Him and our prayers will be answered.
It could be that unforgiveness is the number one reason prayers are not answered. God's Word contains many
Scriptures that emphasize the importance of forgiveness, which is nothing more than treating others the way God
treats us. Ephesians 4:32 says, that we are to forgive "one another (readily and freely), as God in Christ forgave
you." Because we live in a fallen world full of people who are as imperfect as we are, we cannot avoid being hurt,
offended, victimized, or betrayed. We will have reasons to be angry, but unresolved anger turns to bitterness and
unforgiveness - and that will hinder our prayers. Ephesians 4:26 says, "When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your
wrath (your exasperation, your fury, or indignation) last until the sun goes down." We simply cannot hold on to anger
and harbor unforgiveness in our hearts if we want God to answer our prayers. Whatever we have against anyone
must be forgiven. No matter how major or how minor an issue seems, we have to let it go. We do not wait until we feel
like forgiving; we forgive by making an intentional choice, a willful decision to let a matter drop. When we do, we make
a way for our prayers to be answered.
Pride is definitely a hindrance to answered prayer. When we pray and ask for God's grace in a situation, pride will
block it, but humility will pave the way for it. When we are proud, we do not think we need God or anyone else. We
feel self-sufficient; we are self-reliant. We think we are better than other people. Pride is very serious to God.
Proverbs 16:5 says, "Everyone proud and arrogant in heart is disgusting, hateful, and exceedingly offensive to the
Lord; be assured (I pledge it) they will not go unpunished." Pride will keep our prayers from being answered and we
must deal with our pride if we want God to hear and respond to us when we pray. We need to ask Him to show us
areas in our hearts where we are proud and we need to repent. The best way to turn from a particular sin or stop an
old attitude or thought pattern is to ask God's forgiveness for it and choose to develop the opposite attitude and
behavior instead. When overcoming the sin of pride, we need to ask God to help us develop humility and do
everything we can to cultivate humility in our hearts. We need to be humble not only before God, but also in our
relationships with other people.
One of the best ways to practice humility is through confession. James 5:16 says: "Confess to one another therefore
your faults (your slips, false steps, offenses, sins) and pray (also) for one another, that you may be healed and
restored (to a spiritual tone of mind and heart)." If the power to be healed and restored can come through confession
and prayer, then we need to know how to confess and how to pray. Confessing our fault to someone and asking for
prayer requires first of all that we find someone we truly trust and secondly that we are willing to put aside our pride
and humbly share our struggles. If you find that challenging, ask God to help you grow in humility because the results
are amazing if you find a friend you can trust, and you share with that person, "I'm struggling in this area and I don't
want to, but I'm hurting and I need you to pray for me." There is no need to be ashamed to tell a true, praying
confidant what our difficulties are. This is one way we keep pride out of our lives and exercise humility. We all need
help. We all struggle and your challenges probably are no worse than anyone else's. God has designed His family to
need one another. Sometimes we simply cannot carry the loads of our lives alone and sometimes we are too stubborn
or too proud to ask for the help we need. Remember, God will resist those who have pride in their hearts and their
pride will hinder their prayers. But God hears the prayers of humble hearts and sends His grace in response.
The Power of Simple Prayer, by Joyce Meyer, Copyright 2007, Hachette Book Group USA.
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