“I found I could not live without enjoying the presence of God; and if at any time a cloud came over me, I could not rest, I could not study, and I could not attend to anything with the least satisfaction or benefit until the medium was again cleared between my soul and God.”
PSALM 66:18-20; 1 PETER 3:7
People often say, “Prayer is difficult for me. It seems as though my prayers only go as high as the ceiling.” Sometimes that is true. Obstacles to our prayer lives really can hinder our prayers. Certain things will cause a break in our fellowship with God.
Prayer is intimacy and fellowship with God. It is that which enables us to enter into His presence. Therefore, anything that causes a break in our fellowship with God is a hindrance to prayer. Many prayers have little or no meaning. Some Christians’ entire concept of prayer is receiving something for themselves. Therefore, some people pray only at church or when they are in trouble. They treat God the same way they treat their lawyer; they go to him only when they are in trouble.
Much of the Christian world does not know the splendor and wonder of prayer. Why is there so little prayer in our churches today? What has happened to old-fashioned prayer meetings? Why has evangelical Christianity in the Western world lost its power in proclaiming the message of Christ? There are numerous answers to these questions. However, one reason for the lack of spiritual power within the church is the lack of effective praying. We must remove every hindrance to prayer if we are to experience revival. The Word of God exposes obstacles to effective and powerful praying.
Religion Without a Relationship with God
Religion with a relationship with God hinders us from experiencing the true meaning of prayer (John 14:6). Many churches are filled with religious people who do not have an intimate relationship with the Father. That relationship can only be secured through personal faith in Jesus Christ. The scribes and Pharisees prayed often. Although they were very religious people, they did not have a personal relationship with God. For them, prayer was a religious duty. It was not a means of entering into the presence of the Father; it was an obligation. Without receiving Jesus as their Messiah, they would never understand the meaning of prayer.
Only the Lamb of God can take away our sins. Only the Lamb can make us righteous and holy and provide us access to the throne of God. Without a personal knowledge of God, prayer has no real meaning.
The second hindrance to effective praying is sin (Isaiah 59:2). When we come into the presence of God, we will always behold one outstanding characteristic of His nature: His holiness. There is not a blemish in God; purity and impurity do not mix. If we are to have fellowship with a holy and pure God, then we must be clean before Him (Psalm 24:3-4). Only the pure in heart will be able to enter into God’s presence. A testimony of a Christian who lied in his application for employment). We must learn that prayer is communion with the Father; and if we commune with Him, we must have clean hands and a pure heart. God can only be seen through the eyes of a pure heart.
The third obstacle to effective praying is pride (James 4:6). A thorough study of what the Bible says about pride reveals that God not only hates pride, but He promises destruction for the proud in heart (Proverbs 16:18-19). If God is opposed to what is in our hearts, then we can never develop intimacy with Him (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee prayed to himself. He was a proud, religious man. He tried to tell God how great he was. But God had nothing to do with this man. This man trusted in himself and prayed to himself, and his prayers reached only the ceiling. The tax collector was different. He was broken over his sinful condition. He beat his breast and wept as he said, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” God heard this man’s prayer and answered it. God honors the prayer spoken from a heart of humility and brokenness.
Pride compares us to others to find someone that has not lived up to our standard, but humility does not look upon men. It looks only upon God. Therefore, a praying heart will always be a humble heart. There is no room in the inner chamber of prayer for pride.
Another reason for ineffective prayer is broken relationship (1 Peter 3:7). Many view prayer as an escape from everyday living. They believe prayer is mystical and of no practical value. They see no relationship between prayer and interpersonal relationships. True prayer, however, draws our attention to the nature and character of God. We become like Him as we recognize His attributes. When we emerge from the inner chamber of prayer, we will love with a revolutionary love—the love of the Father. God will broaden and deepen our capacity to love.
Therefore, prayer and interpersonal relationships are interwoven. Prayer affects our relationships, and our relationships affect our ability to pray.
The fifth hindrance to prayer is busyness (Eph. 5:15-16). We live in one of the most exciting generations. There are more people living today than in any previous generation (6.7 billion people on earth). The opportunity to impact our world has never been greater. We have the resources, but there is one disturbing question. Where are the workers? There is a ripe harvest, but there is a shortage of workers. Jesus said that the solution to the problem of workers is found in prayer (Matt. 9:37-38). However, that presents another problem. Where are the men and women of prayer? Too many of us have become so busy that we have little time for God. Our lives have become obsessed with climbing the ladder of success and resting in the easy chair of entertainment. A prayerless church exists in this generation. We cannot get people to prayer meetings, but we have no problem amassing large crowds for Christian entertainment. We cannot get people into prayer meetings, but we can get large crowds at a party. Many church calendars are filled with events geared toward entertainment, but we have no time left to seek God in prayer. We have become like the Laodicean church. Jesus is on the outside knocking, wanting to come in and have fellowship with us. In an interview, Sammy Tippit was asked to describe the difference between a typical church in the West and a typical church in Romania. His answer was simple. The difference lies in what it takes to get a crowd.
The final impediment to prayer is selfishness (James 4:3). Prayer is a time of submitting our lives to the lordship of Christ. How then can we bring our selfish desires and activities to God’s throne and expect His blessing? One of our greatest problems is that we have a generation of self-seeking and manipulative Christians. We have learned the methods of the world and try to mingle them with the method of God. Many well-meaning believers initiate an idea or ministry without consulting the Father. Mass-marketing techniques and appeals for funds are used to launch ministries. Things often go well until we reach the limits of human ability. Then we begin to pray fervently for God’s assistance. But God refuses to answer. He had nothing to do with self-motivated and self-initiated prayer in the beginning, and He has nothing to do with it now. The windows of heaven are open only to prayer that is initiated and centered in the will of God rather than the will of man.
W. Tozer calls us to search our hearts and our motives: “
It is only when we introduce our own will into our relationship to God that we get into trouble. When we weave into the pattern of our lives threads of our own selfish desires we instantly become subject to hindrances from the outside. If I mingle some pet religious enterprise of mine with the will of God and come to think of them as one, I can be hindered in my religious life.”
Jesus is our model in prayer. He made a remarkable statement that provides insight into the reason for His powerful prayerful life (John 5:30). Jesus never worked a miracle in His own power or performed a ministry out of His own desire. He only did the will of the Father. He understood the art of objective listening so that when the Father spoke, He acted. To Jesus, prayer was not giving the Father a list of things He wanted. Prayer was quietly listening to the command of the Father. Jesus then believed and trusted the Father to give Him the power and the resources to accomplish His will. As a result, all of heaven was released. The lame walked, the blind could see, the dead were raised, and the captives were set free. The Son was in harmony with the Father.
Let us lay aside every obstacle that would keep us from that same harmony with the Father. There are nations to be captured for Christ. There are souls to be saved and hearts to be healed. We must not allow this generation to slip further toward hell. Hebrews 12:1-2.