Christianity is primarily about having a relationship with the God of the universe. He invites us to be reconciled to Him by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ to atone for the guilt of our sin. Faith is quite simple – but it’s not always easy.
While God has created the vastness of the cosmos, He is also personally invested in being our heavenly father. He loves us, and He wants us to be His children – and He wants to have a dialogue with us. We talk to God through prayer, and He talks to us through His Holy Spirit, the Bible, other disciples of Jesus, Teachers, and many other ways. Prayer is a very important part of our relationship with Him.
Prayer is meant to be such an important part of our lives, that Jesus took great care to model prayer to the disciples and people around Him. He never did a miracle which wasn’t brought before God the father through obedient prayer, and He often broke away from the crowds to quietly pray. Jesus was fully man, did not sin, and yet was God – and He prayed a ton!
Jesus showed us how to model our prayers through the Lord’s prayer and He also specifically prayed for us in
John 17:20 –
“My prayer is not for [the disciples] alone, but for everyone who will believe through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” That’s right! Jesus prayed for all of us that would believe – each of us specifically.
When we pray – Jesus told us that if we have tremendous faith, we would be able to move mountains and that everything that we ask, according to His will, would then be done. But many of us are met with unanswered prayers, or an obstacle in our movement towards something good. I’ve been reading Bill Hybels book “Too Busy Not to Pray” and He suggests that there seems to be 6 prayer busters that hinder our prayers.
6 Prayer Busters that Hinder our Prayers
1 – Prayerlessness
Have you brought the most important things in your life to God in prayer? Has it been fervent, regular, and over a long period of time?
Take a moment to reflect on this idea:
How many prayers were prayed for you over the last 24 hours? How about for your spouse, marriage, hell-bound friend, or family member? Are there at least 10 prayers “stored up” for a person over the last week? I get nervous when I think about how often my prayers fall utterly short of a “good college try.”
When we are consistently, regularly, and fervently bringing our requests to God, we usually have little to worry about.
I found that a little exercise can shed light on how adequate my prayer has been. List out the things in life that you hope God blesses, or that you want to bring in line with the will of God – now estimate how many times over the last week you’ve actually prayed for it.
For some reason, the comfort of American life tends to discourage us from really engaging in the type of prayer that God hopes for us.
This isn’t meant to cause you to feel guilty about not saying enough prayers, I actually want you to see that maybe the core behavior in your life, that God want’s you to show your faith through, is simply to pray.
God wants us to come to Him in prayer because He wants to unleash His goodness on us. Jesus told a parable about this in
Luke 11:11, and Matthew 7:10; Here’s what He said:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks forf a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!””
God’s saying that if we just ask Him, He will help us!
2 – Unconfessed Sin
God said through the prophet Isaiah, in about the 7th century BC to the nation of Israel, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear.”
There’s something interesting about deliberate sin. Think about this, you believe that there is a God who has told you to obey Him. You find out that there’s something in your heart, life, or mind that God finds abhorrent – which is what He finds all sin. You then feel guilt about this sin in your life, and rather than working with God to put an end to it, you look Him in the eye and deliberately disobey Him. There is nothing you do that can separate yourself from God’s love, and there is nothing that He won’t forgive, but remember that forgiveness comes from confession & repentance in the case of deliberate sins. When we deliberately decide to excuse our behavior and not address it – then there’s a big problem.
Now I’m not saying that our sinlessness is what makes us right with God, I’m only talking about consistent, deliberate sin, like ongoing drunkenness, pornography, drug use, profanity, greed, lying, relational strife, un-forgiveness, cruelty, or anything else that God has revealed to you as sin, your conscience knows it’s wrong, and you hide it.
If we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the areas of our lives which are not obedient to Him causes us to languish. Remember, there are two parts to our Christian faith, being justified ONCE through our faith in Christ and then being transformed into he likeness of Christ through sanctification. That means we get saved, and then we slowly become more holy as God works on us. So when we’ve been saved, God will transform us by helping close the gap between Jesus’ life and our own.
Unconfessed sin is definitely a prayer buster – so I’d encourage you to honestly asses your life and heart about any sin that needs to be addressed.
Here are some verses about deliberately sinning:
“For if we go on sinning deliberately, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire which consumes the adversaries.
“For whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
1 John 3:4
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
1 Corinthians 10:13
“The temptations you face in this life are no different than what others experience, and God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation you face be more than you can handle, and when you are tempted, He will show you a way out so you can endure”
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.”
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
3 – Broken Relationships
Jesus taught us that we shouldn’t pursue other spiritual things until we’ve authentically taken bona-fide steps to reconcile with broken relationships. If we’ve stubbornly refused to forgive, ask forgiveness, or reconcile a relationship – that’s something which will hinder our prayers. Look at these two principles. One form Jesus directly and another from someone who learned directly from Him:
1 Peter 3:7
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
““Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
The bottom line, taking an authentic look at your efforts to reconcile your relationships is helpful to ensure your prayers aren’t hindered. While not every relationship can be reconciled, it’s super important to make sure you’ve taken responsibility to do everything that’s your responsibility in each relationship.
4 – Selfishness
What is God’s desire for all of humanity? What is His desire for the people around you? What is God’s desire for your life? When you read up on God’s will for people and earth, you’ll see that’s it not for everyone to be as comfortable, care-free, and rich as possible.
In fact, the things that grow our faith, draw us closer to Him, and help us fulfill His plans are usually opposite of a comfortable existence. Loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves doesn’t happen in selfish comfort. In fact, helping justice, mercy, and humility spread across the world requires us to be stretched and challenged rather than sit within comfort.
Am I praying selfish prayers? Are the subject of my desires and prayers solely focused on me?
Christ came not to be served, but to serve. When our prayers are all about ourselves, perhaps our requests to God will become stifled because God wants us to adjust our motivations, desires, and concerns.
Remember that we are taught that “love is not self-seeking”, and that we are not to do “anything from selfish ambition or conceit,” which shows us that we need to have a love and care for our neighbor.
5 – Uncaring attitudes
Jesus taught us that the way to inherit eternal life is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Jesus affirmed this teaching in Luke 10:25-37, and then reveals through a parable “who our neighbors are” through a parable about a good Samaritan.
If you don’t remember the story, its about a jewish man gets attacked by robbers on a path. A couple of Jewish holy people come by and ignore the man in his plight but then a despised and political adversary stops and takes pity on him.
I think thats a critical sentence in that story, and it shows us how our hearts are to be geared. When we see people, God wants us to take pity on people and to care for them. If we are filled with an uncaring attitude about people or the kingdom of God, then our prayers are bound to be out of alignment with God’s will.
When we cultivate our care for people, by trying to expand our love, we act more like God the father did.
God taught us through His word a couple of attitudes that we should embrace, particularly about caring for people and souls.
God said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a lost sheep – and the shepherd relentlessly takes after to save the sheep. It’s like a lost coin, where you’d turn a house inside out to relentlessly find it. It’s like a father who looks on his rebellious son with compassion, and allows forgiveness.
Our prayer life is stifled and busted when our concern and care is lacking. If you’re having trouble in your prayers, perhaps this is something to consider.
6 – Inadequate faith
God taught us in Hebrews 11:1 that “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for, and the assurance about what we do not see.”
Jesus taught us that the things that are impossible without God are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)
In fact, we’re told that “without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Do we believe that God will reward us for earnestly seeking Him? Do we also earnestly seek Him?
Is there any other proof of faith than that of fervent and earnest prayer?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will make your pathways straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Do we need much more than that verse? Trust God and seek His will, and He’s promised that He will provide for you.
If we’re not trusting God with all our heart, then it would seem that we’re trusting our own understanding, which would perhaps be a hinderance to our prayers.
Remember, God knows what’s best for us, just like a good father would know what’s best for his children. “The LORD disciplines those he loves and he punishes each on he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6)
This verse means that because God loves us, perhaps his punishment is letting a prayer go unanswered so that we go through trials. The brother of Jesus, James, taught us that we ought to:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Maturing in anything, whether it’s spiritually, mentally, or even physically, involves the breaking down of the old and building up with the new. Just like a muscle, stresses will cause micro tears which provide the space to build new muscles. Just like this, trails cause us to build anew.
If we’re not confident in God, then He wants us to become confident in Him, draw closer to Him, rely on Him, and know that He is God.
So if you’re prayer life is stifled a bit, perhaps wrap your mind around how much you actually trust God. How strong is your faith in His promises? What doubts might He want you to push into and investigate about? Where might you have deficiencies of knowledge or obedience where He might want you to develop?
I’ve found to prayers that have helped me greatly and I talk about them lots on this blog. They are two Psalms that are critical in submitting to God to allow Him to step into the gaps where we lack.
Pray these so that God will help you:
“search me and know me. Test me, and know my anxious thoughts (where I don’t trust you or have faith), point out everything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
“How can I know the sins lurking within me? Cleanse me from these hidden faults, keep your servant from deliberate sins, don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
These are important because we need to remember that “it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure” (Phillippians 2:13)
This means that we must remember that God is the one who’s going to transform us into the type of people that can do what pleases Him. We need to seek Him diligently in His word and then pray to Him constantly to help us. Confess, give thanks, worship Him, delight in Him, and proclaim Him as the Lord of all!