Nine Things that Block Prayer
INTRODUCTION: Few subjects evoke a greater sense of guilt in the hearts of believers than when we begin to talk about prayer. Let's face it, if the truth were known, most of us would rather do just about anything than pray. We genuinely enjoy hours spent in fellowship with God's people, but we find it difficult to concentrate for five minutes when alone with God. It appears that
Attending church service,
Singing in the choir,
Serving in any area of the ministry,
Preparing and teaching a Sunday school lesson,
Visiting the sick, and
Preaching a sermon
are all easy tasks, compared to the work of prayer.
I read this some years ago, "The devil is not afraid of machinery; he is only afraid of God, and machinery without prayer is machinery without God." Prayer should become the first and most natural response to every circumstance of life during which we simply acknowledge His presence, His power, and His person.
As we surrender our wills, and seek His will regarding every decision, conversation, desire, and response, every moment of every day, we live a life of unceasing prayer, undaunted faith, unlimited power, and uncommon intimacy with the God of the universe.
The question we ought to ask ourselves is why don't we pray?
Is it because what the Bible teaches about prayer is not true? Not at all.
Is it because God in olden times answered prayer but does not answer it any longer? Not at all.
Is it because there is something in our lives, or in our hearts, that makes it impossible for God to answer your prayers?
Perhaps there are Prayer Barriers in our lives. In this message let’s focus our attention on the “Nine Things that Block Prayer.” In some of these we will just read the passage of scripture and in others we will expand with an explanation.
Prayer Barrier #1: Praying with the Wrong Motive: In James 4:1-3 we read,
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (2) Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (3) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
I wonder, do we ask for things that are in the will of God to give us, or do we ask for them to satisfy our own selfish gratification? What ought to be our motive in praying? The Bible answers that question from I Corinthians 10:31, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD."
Our supreme motive in our prayers should be that God may be glorified by answering that prayer. Here are several thought-provoking questions:
Do we pray for health to be free from pain and sickness, or do we pray for health to give God the Glory?
Do we pray for money to meet our needs, or do we pray for these so that God will be glorified through it all?
Do we pray for the ministry (be careful now).that we may have bigger crowds or something better than another's ministry, or do we pray for God to do a work so He and He alone may get the glory?
Do we pray for individual needs of our family members or circumstances to get what we want, or do we pray that God may be glorified by the answer to that need?
Our prayer ought to be such, that we can stand up and say "TO BE GOD THE GLORY, GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE." Psalm 100:4 tells us to, “Enter into His gates with THANKSGIVING, and into His courts with PRAISE, be thankful unto Him, and BLESS His name.”
Prayer Barrier #2: Praying from an Unrepentant Heart: Our second prayer barrier is set forth in Isaiah 59:1-2 where we read,
“Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: (2) But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
This same concept is found in a number of other passages,
Psalms 66:118, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
Proverbs 15:29, "The Lord is far from the wicked, but He heareth the prayers of the righteous."
Proverbs 28:9, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination."
Daily we need to cry out "Lord, I have sinned." But hold it! Have you said, "SIN? What sin are you talking about? There is none in my life; you must be talking about someone else." Folks, if you think there is no sin in your life, and there is no reason to get right with God, even during the invitation time, listen up! That's PRIDE, and that’s also a sin!
In I John 1 please notice the “Ifs” in these three passages:
Verse 6, “IF we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie…”
Verse 8, “IF we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Verse 10, “IF we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
Oh, how often do we need to cry, "Oh, God, this thing is wrong; it is sin, and I give it up now." If God shows you anything, confess it to Him as sin, set it straight at once, and you will find Heaven is open once again and the sweetness of a Holy God will be attentive to your prayer and willing to answer.
Prayer Barrier #3: Praying to Put on a Show: In Matthew 6:5-6 we read,
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
Public prayer is indeed important as we do have them here. Public prayers ought to come from the heart as we praise God, and petition God for the needs we are publicly praying for. However God knows if they are from the heart or just from the head to put on a show.
But what really gets God’s attention is the “praying in secret" This is when you are alone – It’s just you and God.
Prayer Barrier #4: Praying Repetitive, Empty Words: This certainly is self-explanatory in Matthew 6:7-8,
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (8) Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
When you pray, think about what you are going to say. However, if you reach an impasse of what to say or how to say it, remember from Romans 8:26-27 we read,
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (27) And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Prayer Barrier #5: Praying while Ignoring the Poor: I wonder how many of us really thought of this as a prayer barrier? Yet in Proverbs 21:13 we read, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
Here God distinctly tells us that if we stop our ears to the cry of the poor when they cry unto us for help, he will stop His ears to us when we cry unto Him for help. A STINGY man in life cannot be a MIGHTY MAN IN PRAYER.
Prayer Barrier #6: Praying while being Stingy in Giving. Right here we discover the secret of why today individual believers and the Church of the living God as a whole have so little power in prayer. It’s because of their stinginess in giving. Listen to these scriptures:
Proverbs 3: 9-10, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; So shall thy barns be filled with plenty…"
Luke 6:38, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom."
II Corinthians 9:6-7, "But this I say, He who soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly; and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposed in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver."
Those involved in the ministries of local churches exhibit stinginess in many ways. In fact, the average church in America gives only $.10 per week per member towards missions, and yet we wonder why God doesn't hear our prayers.
We ask and we get and we KEEP, and so God ceases to give.
What we need to do is ask and receive and then GIVE.
So we can ask for some more and then receive it, so we can GIVE that too.
Prayer Barrier #7: Idols in the Heart. In Ezekiel 14:1-8 we read,
“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. (2) And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (3) Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? (4) Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; (5) That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. (6) Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.”
Here we are clearly told that “idols in their heart” make it impossible for God to attend to our prayers. What is an idol? "An idol is anything that a person puts before God."
There are people who make idols of their spouses. No person can love their spouse too much; the more a person loves God, the more deeply and tenderly they will love their spouse. But a person may put their spouse before God by doing things that please the spouse that they know does not please God. If s/he is making an idol of her/his spouse; s/he is not on praying ground.
There are parents who make idols of their children. We can put our children before God, and we can do things to please them that we know do not please God. You may be skeptical and think this cannot happen.
Let me ask you, “Are you allowing your children to dictate forms of amusement, social entertainment, sports activities, toys or games, and friends that you know are displeasing to God? Do you give in to them because you are fearful of their reaction?"
If you are, then you are making idols of your children, and you are not on praying ground.
There are those who make idols of their social position and reputation. You do things, go places and associate with people you know are not pleasing to God. Then you pray, expecting God to answer. However you find that God’s ears are closed.
Oh, if you covet power in prayer, get alone with God and let Him search you; ask Him to show you if there is any idol in your heart, and when He shows it to you, do away with it!
Prayer Barrier #8: Praying with Bitterness in Your Heart toward someone. In Mark 11:25-26 we are told that an unforgiving spirit makes it impossible for God to answer our prayers.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (26) But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I believe we have touched upon one of the most frequent causes of unanswered prayer, BITTERNESS IN OUR HEART TOWARD SOMEONE WHO HAS WRONGED US, OR WHO WE THINK HAS WRONGED US.
If we wish to have power in prayer, let us search our hearts for bitterness towards anyone. No matter how much that person has wronged us, let us give it up to God, and let the Holy Spirit give us a loving attitude toward them. I wonder if this could be the reason for –
no answer to our prayers,
no power in our life and ministry, and
no joy in our spirits?
There is no use whatever of us praying until we let God cast out any bitterness we may have in our hearts towards others for something done in the past.
Prayer Barrier #9: Wrong Treatment of Our Spouse. The last barrier to prayer is found in I Peter 3:7 where we read,
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
What can be any plainer? God distinctly tells us that a wrong treatment of a wife by a husband (by the way this could be reversed also, a wrong treatment of a husband by a wife) makes it impossible for God to hear the prayer of the husband or wife, as the case may be.
If we are to have power in prayer, we must look very carefully into our home life. We must spread our whole married life out before “the all-seeing, all-searching and all holy eye of God,” and say to Him,
"Heavenly Father, if there is anything in my married life anywhere that is displeasing in Thy sight, show me what it is and I will put it away."
Now let me give you one final note in this message from the prayer of Jabez found in I Chronicles 4:9-10.
"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez; saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. "
There are four specific requests made in this prayer that I want to encourage you to include in your prayers:
Number 1: Pray that God will bless you and bless you. Jabez didn't ask God for anything, he just said, "Bless me." God wants to open up the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing that you cannot contain.
Number 2: Pray that God will expand your influence. Jabez looked at his boundaries and asked God to expand his influence. He asked God to do things that only God can do.
If you ask God for things that you can do, you don't need God. Start praying God-sized prayers. Anticipate miracles from God, so that everybody sees what God can do.
Number 3: Pray for God's hand to be on you. Jabez was not a preacher, or a prophet, or the son of a preacher or prophet. He was an ordinary Joe. He prayed for God's hand to be on him, and God heard his prayer.
Wouldn’t it be great if this whole area can know that the hand of God is on this church? I want to see what God can do because I serve a God that can do a whole lot more than what we're asking and expecting Him to do.
NUMBER 4: Pray that God will keep you from evil. Jabez knew that if God started answering his prayer, he would become more vulnerable. He asked God to keep him from evil. He said,
"God, I don't want to find out how weak I am. I know that I'm going to have increased Satanic attacks against me. I know that I'm not able to endure temptation. God, I'm not going to pray for You to help me to endure temptation because I don't want to find out that I can't endure it. I know I'm no match. God, keep me from it. Protect me."
May I challenge you to write out the prayer of Jabez? Put it on a piece of paper, and put it in the pocket of your shirt, pants, purse, or coat. Every day, I want you to pray that prayer. It's not a hard prayer. I want you to have the honor that Jabez had. I want you to pray a Bible prayer, and I want God to bless you like He did Jabez.
"Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!"
Now before you begin to pray that prayer, just maybe you need to search your heart and your life regarding the nine barriers to prayer, and right now at the invitation deal with them before God.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “Nine Things that Block Prayer” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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