Do you ever feel defeated when it comes to your prayer? If you’re having a hard time answering that question, looking back to your prayer life from this past week or month. How many times did you pray for the list of people and things on our bulletin? How many times did you make it to prayer meeting to pray with your church family? How many times did you pray with your children? How many times did you pray with your spouse? How many times did you pray for your spouse or child? How many times did you pray for a stranger you saw or meet at the local store? How many times did you seek God through prayer with your personal problem? How many times did you pray? I don’t ask those questions to hurt your feelings or to make you feel guilty…….I ask those question because sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our lack of concern and effort when it comes to prayer. We’re all guilty of this….myself included; there are many days when I fail at the privilege that we have been given in prayer. I want to look at some things that hinder us from praying genuinely and effectively. But we need to understand what the word “hinder” means! By definition it’s the “act of hampering or restraining motion.” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? A prime example is found in Mark’s gospel, when the disciples hindered certain individuals from coming to Jesus. Who were those individuals? Children. In Mark 10:13-15 we read “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Hindrance is something that plagues us all when it comes to prayer!
- It holds us back when we fall into sin and carnality.
- It holds us back when the word is not central in our lives.
- It holds us back to blessing that is found in His fellowship with the saints.
- It holds us back to endure under pressure.
- It holds us back to an unforgiving spirit.
- It holds us back from communion that is found in prayer.
I want to look at 6 SPECIFIC obstacles that hinder our prayer life! Maybe you’ll be able to relate to one of the six and maybe, just maybe the chains will be broken for you today as you and I fight the battle for our depleting prayer life.
1. SPIRITUAL WAREFARE
We need to understand the more you pray the more you will experience spiritual warefare. Satan and his fallen angels will fight to keep you from praying. The Bible makes a fascinating statement in 1 Thess 2:18 when the Apostle Paul states, “Satan hindered us.” This naturally raises the question! Why would God allow Satan to hinder trouble and persecute God's children? Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Sadly though, we have a tendency to fear what surrounds us and we forget who is in control of our lives! David Wilkerson said “all the devil wants to do is get the fight out of you and kill it. So you won't labor in prayer anymore, you won't weep before God anymore.” It’s like the story I came across of a man crossing the ice…..“He had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hands and knees in great terror. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. How like some Christians! Headed for Heaven, they tremble at every step lest the divine promises break under their feet. By resting completely upon Him and taking His promises at face value, we can drive out the paralyzing fear that hinders our effectiveness in serving Christ.” We need to remember we have help in the midst of our battles; and we have access to seek His face through prayer at any moment to fight our spiritual battles.
Unforgiveness in the heart of a Christian hinders the answer to his or her prayers. A grudge, a root of bitterness, or even hate, it may be, may be blocking the answer to your prayers. In read in Matthew 6:9-13 we are given the model prayer, or the Lord's Prayer. And in that model prayer the Saviour taught us to pray daily,"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." And when the prayer was finished Jesus added this plain, sharp word of warning, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matt 6:14-15. John Rice in his commentary on Matthew 18 when Peter is confronted with Jesus about forgiveness! He said “How many times shall we forgive one who sins against us? Peter thought seven times would be the perfect number; but Jesus answered back, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." And when you have forgiven the same person 490 times, no doubt you would have lost count and would have conquered that wicked disposition to temper and bitterness in your own heart!” In order to have genuine prayer we need to be able to forgive one another….if not your prayers will be hindered according to His word……not me. “I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Psalm 66:18. Prov 28:9 says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination [which means disgusting or detestable],”
3. FEAR OF INTIMACY
We tend to protect ourselves from becoming to close with any one especially God at times. Prayer makes us vulnerable because we are expressing what’s in our hearts and sometime we want to build walls around our heart so that no one can see in; just like the Watchtower group who have no windows on their buildings. [What’s up with that?] Seriously now! If you don’t believe me, look back to this past week and ask yourself how many times have you sought His face through your trial or who have you confided in to pray with about your situation? If you can’t think of any time in your week…then may I suggest that you may be fearful of opening up with others through prayer when it comes to your life. It’s that attitude “I’ll keep it to myself, because I don’t want anyone to know that I don’t have it all together or that I’m struggling in my Christian life at this moment!” God saved us and called us out so that we could care, love, encourage, challenge, and defend one another as we fight the good fight that Paul told Timothy before he lost his life. We need to remove the pride and humbly seek each other as we go through different circumstances of life. Remember God wants us to be intimate with Him! We read in the scripture that it’s good to draw near to Him. In Heb 10:22 we read “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” God also wants us to be close to each other as a family……….and prayer is an avenue that we can come together on. As Paul wrote from a Roman’s prison cell! “always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,” Phil 1:4
4. MISGUIDED MOTIVATION
We view prayer as a back-up plan to our already perfect plan….so we think! We have a tendency to treat prayer as a way to manage our affairs by giving God instructions to how we want things to turn out or go. It’s that idea “my will be done, not yours LORD” James penned these words “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. As one writer said “when one tries to use a hammer to baste a turkey or a light bulb to brush our hair, the results is frustration and failure…..He went on to say “it’s imperative that we have a clear understanding of the foundation and focus of prayer as found in the “owner’s manual” the WORD OF GOD.” Prayer is not a list of demands…………. its coming to throne in worship and giving Him the praise even if He chooses not to answer our prayer list.
Do you find prayer is boring by yourself or with others? Some of you have been Disciples of Christ for many years, and there are some here who have only started their journey on their way home where He is. But I think in the church we have given up our high expectations about prayer. Sadly for many, prayer has become a real yawner to take part in. As one preacher calls this “sleepy prayer meetings” Where have we seen this in the scriptures? In Matt 26:40-41 we read Jesus rebuking His disciples “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Many, good intentional Christians however find prayer to boring, eyes go half-mast because they don’t take prayer seriously. A chore to hurry and get done. Done only out of obligation otherwise the preacher is let me have it. That “Drowsy Prayer” a ritual to be rushed and ended, which in reality has no power in it. For prayer to be meaningful we must look at prayer as a means to a relationship
- Speaking to out Heavenly Father
- Developing a friendship with God
- Getting to know the way He works in the lives of men
- Getting to know His character, His precepts
- Spending time with Him, letting Him speak to you
This isn’t boring and if you find that boring I challenge you to examine your faith this morning. Prayer is not to be boring …..Its life giving and liberating because of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.
6. LACK OF POSITIVE ROLE MODEL
Maybe you have never had a person in your life where you see the example and prayer so passionate expressed. Has there ever been a person in your life that has infected you with how they pray?
- A mother
- A father
- A sister
- A brother
- A aunt, uncle
- Grand parent
Maybe the reason you have such a hindered prayer life because you have never had that affluence from someone close or distant from you. Or seen it as precious or a privilege in your home. I think the greatest role model is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Numerous times Jesus would go off to pray! Praying and praising God that we would know Him “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Matt 11:25. Jesus praying before he raised Lazarus "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." John 11:41-42. Jesus praying for the Father’s will to be done not His. "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." If you struggle in this area seek someone to mentor you so that you can find blessing and power in your prayer life. Since we are surrounded by such a great many who have gone before us, let us follow in their footsteps of these faith servants who saw prayer as a vital organ to life giving spirit.. D A Carson said “many facets of Christian discipleship, not the least prayer, are more effectively passed on by modeling than by formal teaching. Good praying is more easily caught than taught.”Do you know someone like that…if so follow after, if not keep looking! There out there.
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the brush where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." Let me ask you! Is your path worn or is it growing over What is hindering your prayer life? Has it been or is still one of things I’ve addressed this morning?
- Is it spiritual warefare that is keeping you prayer?
- Is there Unforgiveness that is keeping you from prayer?
- Is it a fear of opening up that is keeping you from prayer?
- Is it a misguided focus that is keeping you from prayer?
- Is it a sense of boredom that is keeping you from prayer?
- Is it a lack of role models in your life that tis keeping you from prayer?
There are many times when I feel all these points in my life! But one things for sure though……..we have a Heaven Father who cares about you and he desires that we seek Him with not just our problems but our joy as well. Prayer is an avenue for that to bring blessing and maturity for everyone no matter how old or young you are. Don’t let the things of this world hinder you....don't let your busyness hinder you! Don’t let your pride hinder you……………………………………….From the blessing of prayer! Remember! Our daily life in the world is the best indication of our power in prayer. God deals with my prayers not according to the spirit and tone which I exhibit when I am praying in public or private, but according to the spirit I show in my daily life. So, what hinders your prayer life?