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 Hindrances to Prayer

John Hoole July 18, 2004

A couple a lessons ago, we briefly looked at some of the hindrances to prayer. Let me quickly review what we said at that time.


1. Business - Activities are crammed into every area of our lives.

2. Distractions - When we try to pray, there are all kinds of interruptions.

3. Tiresome - We get tired after having prayed for 5 minutes.

4. Uninformed about effective prayer

5. Wandering thoughts

6. Guilt over past actions or sins

7. Sin in our lives

8. Pride

9. Improper relations

a. With one's spouse

b. With others

10. Selfishness

11. Unbelief

I mentioned, in our earlier lesson, that you can actually break this list into two categories:

1. Hindrances that keep us from praying much or at all.

2. Hindrances to receiving an answer from God.

The first 6 of the 11 hindrances mentioned above can be put with Category #1. The rest can be aligned with Category #2. In that lesson we addressed the first 6 hindrances. Today, we will look at the remaining 5. Actually, that list of 5 will grow to a dozen or more before we are through.

One of the greatest benefits afforded to every Christian is the privilege of answered prayers. In the Bible, Jesus made this tremendous promise, "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22).

And yet, despite the Lord's willingness to answer prayer, it is obvious that some prayers have gone unanswered. Why is this? The following are the most common reasons why some prayers do not get results.

1. Lack of fellowship with God and His Word

John 15:7 NKJV

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

Unanswered prayers are sometimes a result of absence from fellowship with the Lord and His Word. Jesus promised that if we would remain in His fellowship, and allow His Word to remain in us, this would produce results in prayer.

Proverbs 28:9 (NKJV) tells us:

9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law [God's Word], even his prayer is an abomination.

If your prayer or mine is an abomination to God, then happy fellowship, any oneness of purpose, any communion between you and God is hindered.

Notice what this verse does not say. He doesn't say He is talking about the infidel, who totally spurns the Word of God. He doesn't say "if a person rejects the virgin birth, His prayers are an abomination." Neither is he addressing the person who denies the bodily resurrection. Nor is He saying that if a person does not believe in a literal heaven and hell, then his prayers will be an abomination to God. No, but rather, if one's heart is turned away from the Bible, if you have a disinclination to read it, if it is not interesting to you, if you do not meditate on it prayerfully, joyfully, THEN your prayer is an abomination, says God.

Throughout the Bible, God stresses the fact that there is a close connection between the Word of God and spiritual prosperity. For example, Psalm 1:1-3 tells us of the blessed man who shuns evil companions.

Psalms 1:1-3 NKJV

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Notice that the blessings of verse 3 follow on the heels of actions taken in verse 2. The day-by-day blessings from God - spiritual prosperity, Christian fruit-bearing all depend upon delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night. Here, we are told that knowing the Bible is not enough. Reading the Bible is not enough. Blessing depends on our delighting in it and meditating on it.

Knowing this, and linking it with other passages that talk about the necessity of faith while we are praying, the importance of the Word of God takes on even greater meaning.

Mark 9:23 says,

"All things are possible to him that believeth."

In other words, nothing can stand in the path of the person who has faith when they pray.


Romans 10:17 (NKJV) reveals:

17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith is generated in our life by the Word of God.

One whose heart is turned away from the Bible is turned also away from faith. He cannot call upon God in faith, since he does not use the means to grow faith. And the Holy Spirit will not encourage the growth of faith in such a disobedient heart. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of your heart," says Psalm 37:4.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Word of God as it relates to an effective prayer-life. The God who answers prayer is the God of the Bible. He is not only the God who wrote the Bible, but is the God who yet today reveals Himself in the Bible and gives His blessings to those who love His Word.

2. Not seeking to Please the Lord

1 John 3:22 NKJV

22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

Answers to prayer come when we seek to keep His commandments and please the Lord. This is not to suggest that we "earn" answered prayers, any more than we can earn salvation, which comes only by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). He answers our prayers from his "grace" and "mercy" (Hebrews 4:16), not merely from our good deeds.

Keeping His commandments and pleasing the Lord is a product of our obedience to His Word. And, according to James 2:20, obedience to His Word is faith in action.

What are His commandments? He commanded that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Lack of love, bitterness, unforgiveness is the root of many unanswered prayers, since faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). Also, answers to prayer require agreement that the Bible is the final authority for thought, motive, decision and action.

3. Prayers of self-indulgence will not be answered.

Another way to say that is: Prayers with Improper Motives.

James 4:3 (KJV)

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.

The NIV puts it:

James 4:3 (NIV)

3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

In other words, praying with wrong motives will not be answered. You will ask, but not get what you want.

Our motives in our prayer requests are of concern to the Lord. He wishes to help us in our time of need, but is not obligated to answer prayers which will merely feed our carnal appetites. Our motives and desires can be corrected by humbling ourselves, and drawing near to God (James 4:8-10).

4. Wavering Faith

James 1:6-7NKJV

6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

We need to be careful not to let every wind of feelings or circumstances influence or discourage our faith. Each of us have to come to the place where our faith is based on the Word of God rather than on our feelings or emotions. Our faith must become stable, steadfast, and consistent to receive from the Lord.

5. Unconfessed Sin

1 Peter 3:12 NKJV

12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."

Sin is an awful thing. One of the most awful things about it is the way in hinders prayer. According to the verse we just read, there is no doubt that sin will disrupt the flow of God's blessings and answer to prayer. It severs the connection between us and the source of all grace and power and blessing. If we want power in prayer, we must be merciless in dealing with our own sins.

Isaiah 59:1-2 NKJV

1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

God cannot forgive sins we will not confess. Many cry out to God in vain,……simply because of a past sin that has remained unjudged. If we want victory in our life, and have our prayers answered, then we must judge our sins.

There may be things in our life that we don't recognize as sin. We must Go to God with the Psalmist's prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me." (Psalm 139 23-24).

The remedy for all sin is to confess it to God, then forsake it, and, according to 1 John 1:9, ask Him to forgive you.

The next two hindrances to our prayers are specific sins that I feel must be enumerated separately.

6. Unforgiveness

Mouthing prayer while tolerating unforgiveness toward others will block the provision of even our most basic needs.

Matthew 6:11-12 (NKJV)

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Unforgiveness is one of the most common hindrances to answered prayer.

God is telling us that God will not forgive us of our sins unless we forgive others when they sin against us. In other words, our prayers for forgiveness can be denied if we are holding grudges against others.

Mark 11:25 (NKJV)

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

John Oglethorpe was one day talking to John Wesley, and made the statement, "I never forgive!" Wesley wisely replied, "Then, sir, I hope you never sin."

Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.


1. Stephen

Acts 7:60 NKJV

60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

2. Joseph and his brothers

Joseph, who was the eleventh of Jacob's 12 sons, and the firstborn son of Rachel, was grossly mistreated by his brothers. First, some of the brothers wanted to kill him. Other brothers prevailed not to kill him, but sell him as a slave to a caravan on their way to Egypt. While in Egypt, Joseph experienced many hardships. This is a man you would think has the right to be bitter angry towards his brothers. But, in Genesis 45:14-15, when Joseph was reunited with his brothers, he kissed them and wept over them.

If Joseph somehow found the strength to forgive others when they mistreated him, we too can find the strength to forgive those who have mistreated us. If we do not, our prayers will be hindered.

When I use the word "Ravensbruck," what do you think of. Ravensbruck was a Nazi World War II concentration camp. It happens to be where Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were imprisoned. This prayer was found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck.

"O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Instead remember the fruit we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness."

An unforgiving spirit is one of the most common hindrances to prayer. Always remember that our prayers are answered on the basis of our sins being forgiven, and God cannot deal with us on the basis of forgiveness while we are still harboring ill-will against those who have wronged us. Let us quickly forgive.

7. Failure to pray

This may evoke a "duh" from you. "Failure to Pray Hinders Prayer." While sin and unbelief are hindrances to prayer, the main problem with the average Christian's prayer life is that he simply doesn't pray. And for a Christian not to pray is a sin.

1 Samuel 12:23 NKJV

23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you;……

We are to call upon God for other people. When we do not do this, we are sinning against God.

James 4:2 NIV

You do not have, because you do not ask God.

We have address this topic in an earlier lesson, so I will keep it short here. God's people do not get what they out to have when they fail to pray. God's people lack wisdom due to prayerlessness. We need to ask

8. Failure to apply spiritual authority

Mark 11:23 NKJV

23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

We should never lose sight of who we are in Jesus Christ, and the position we hold in Him. There are times that some prayers may not get far until we incorporate the spoken authority of the name of Jesus.

In Ephesians 6:12, (NKJV) Paul writes:

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

In such cases, our prayers may need t engage in what we call spiritual warfare to obtain results.

The need for this type of prayer is most obvious whenever Christians deal directly with satanic or demonic activity. For these situation to cease, our prayers need to include the exercise of spiritual authority against the devil in the Name of Jesus. This is part of our authority and position in Jesus Christ.

In Acts 16:18, Paul said,

"I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour.

In the name of Jesus, we are given the authority to command the devil to leave.

9. Lack of perseverance

Galatians 6:9 NIV

9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time [In dues season] we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I believe this is one of the greatest reason that some prayers go unanswered. It is because many give up praying and believing before they receive the answer. As long as we have the promises in God's Word, be patient and persistent, keep believing, and don't quit, no matter how long it takes. God has a "due season" when He will bring the answer to pass.

Matthew 7:8 NKJV

8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Each of the verbs - asks, seeks and knocks - are in the continuing present tense. That means, he who asks and keeps on asking will receive. He who seeks, and keeps on seeking, will find. He who knocks and keeps knocking, will have it opened to them. If we do not receive an answer the first time we ask, we should pray again. And if we do not receive the hundredth times, we should go on praying until we do get an answer.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times concerning God's will. Paul prayed three times concerning his thorn in the flesh. These are examples to us that we must continue to pray until we receive an answer from God. Not that we pray only three times, but to pray until the Holy Spirit reveals that the answer is coming.

When Daniel prayed for understanding, God sent a messenger - an angel - the same day he prayed. But that angel was hindered in his path and arrived twenty one day later. If Daniel had given up before the messenger arrived, his prayer would not have been answered. Let us know grow weary, but be constant in prayer. God has a "due season" when He will bring the answer to pass. Pray through the devil's resistance.

10. Stinginess and Selfishness

Proverbs 21:13 NKJV

13 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.

We are talking about stinginess - lack of liberality - toward the poor. One of God's principles is that you do not receive until first you have given. And, according to Luke 6:38, the measuring tool we use in giving to others is the measure God uses in giving to us.

Giving to others is likened unto sowing a crop. If a persons sows nothing, they will reap nothing. If they sow much, they will reap a bountiful harvest.

As we read, lack of liberality on our part towards the poor, makes our prayers unheard by God. Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.

Do you want to be mighty in your prayer life? Only a generous person will be mighty in prayer. The stingy person is a powerless person of prayer.

11. Improper relationship between husband and wife

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)

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.

This verse teaches that if a man is not considerate and respectful towards his wife, his prayers will be hindered. If a husband does not treat his wife with love, honor and respect, which she deserves, it is my opinion that he does not deserve to have his prayers considered by God.

God has revealed to us what He expects of the family unit and the relationships between its members. An improper husband-wife relationship hinders prayer because a good relationship with God depends on a right relationship with others. In God's sight the family unit is holy and He hates anything that destroys that unit. Therefore, Satan will attempt to destroy all strong family ties. When we fail to abide by God's rules in family relationships, our prayers are hindered.

12. Idols in our heart

I am not talking about physical idols on a shelf,…..but idols in our heart.

Ezekiel 14:3 NIV

3 Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?


An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our life. Anything we value more than our relationship with God is an idol. It is any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport or loyalty that to any degree decreases one's trust and loyalty to God.

Ask yourself this question: "For what would I make the greatest sacrifice to obtain?" Or ask: "What is it that moves my heart with the warmest love?" If the answer is anything other that our God, then you have identified an idol. And if God is not Lord of your life, your communication with Him in prayer will be less than it should be.

We have looked at 12 hindrances to prayers. Are your prayers being hindered? Well, thank God, there is a remedy. The hindrances can be torn down. In many cases, this very day you may feel again the smile of God's face and hear the whisper of His Spirit and know there is nothing between you and God.

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Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011
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