In an earlier lesson, we looked at 12 hindrances to prayers. Let's look at them one more time.
1. Lack of fellowship with God and His Word. (John 15:7; Proverbs 28:9; Psalm 1:1-3)
2. Not seeking to please the Lord. (1 John 3:22)
3. Prayers of self-indulgence (James 4:3)
4. Wavering faith (James 1:6-7)
5. Unconfessed sin (1 Peter 3:12; Isaiah 59:1-2)
6. Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:11-12; Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:31-32)
7. Failure to pray (1 Samuel 12:23)
8. Failure to apply spiritual authority (Mark 11:23; Ephesians 6:12)
9. Lack of perseverance (Galatians 6:9; Matthew 7:8)
10. Stinginess/selfishness (Proverbs 21:13)
11. Improper relations between husband and wife (1 Peter 3:7)
12. Idols in the heart (Ezekiel 14:3)
Are your prayers being hindered? Well, thank God, there is a remedy. In the earlier lesson where I presented you with these 12 hindrances, we didn't have time in that lesson to address the remedies for such hindrances.
Of course, some remedies for these hindrances is to do the exact opposite. For instance, with #1, one remedy is to increase our fellowship with God and His Word. And with #2, we should seek to please God in everything we do. Yes, there are remedies for these hindrances in our prayer life. The hindrances can be torn down. In many cases, this very day you could again feel the smile of God's face and hear the whisper of His Spirit and know there is nothing between you and God.
There are more remedies than what I will cover today. I want to address three actions we can take that will go a long way in reducing or eliminating the hindrances we can identify in our given situations.
1. We need to address any unconfessed sins.
2. We are to be a devil resistor.
3. We should develop a hunger for God.
1. Address any unconfessed sins
Not all hindrances to our prayers are the result of sin in our lives. But some of them may be. The book of 1 John was written to Christians.
1 John 1:8 (NKJV) tells us:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
All of us sin from time to time.
But, thank the Lord, we don't have to atone for our own sins. In fact, no person could possibly atone for their sins. However, the atonement was completed by Jesus Christ, and, thank God, on the cross He cried out, "It is finished"! None should think they must go through a long period of time, trying to earn God's favor and to lay up credit so that his prayers can be answered.
Thank the Lord, that after telling us, in 1 John 1:8, that none of us can say we have no sin, the very next verse gives us the remedy for sin in the life of a Christian.
1 John 1:9 NKJV
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Our faithful Lord has promised to forgive us if we confess our sins to Him.
2. Be a devil resistor
Two small boys were talking and one said, "Who is the devil anyway?" The other replied. "Oh, he's just like Santa Claus; he's your dad."
The Scriptures teach that the devil is a real being. His name is Satan - formerly known as Lucifer. He is a fallen angel who led astray one third of the heavenly hosts Jesus taught the reality of the existence of the devil. After His baptism, He was alone in the wilderness and tempted of the devil for 40 days. Luke indicates that the three formal temptations were followed by many more temptations all during the life of Jesus. And, because of this, we are comforted to know that...
"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet without sin."
We all live like we are between God and Satan. Our actions in life are never neutral, but are always either rebellious or obedient. That is why we must believe that the devil is real, just as God is real. It certainly helps the devil's cause when he has convinces us that he is not real.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DEVIL?
It is probable that many present-day Christians rarely think about the devil. We should not be obsessed with the devil, for "greater is He that is in us (the believer) than he that is in the world (the devil)." But we should recognize that he is tempting us at every moment. Lack of realizing what Satan is up to leads to our defeat. Down through history, battles have often been lost because they did not recognize the power of the enemy. We need to know the devil's power. We need to know he is going about "as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour."
It may not be fashionable today to believe in sin and the devil, but is sure is biblical. We ought to constantly take account of our lives and see where we are really going, and what we really believe about God and life and reality. We dare not live in a fantasy world, but face up to what God says is real.
Both God and Satan ought to be very real to us. No day should be lived without being cognizant of the presence of both God and Satan in the world.
Let me add here that there is only one devil, but there are a myriad of subordinate unseen spirits operating under Satan. Most of the time, our personal combat is with these, but I have, most of the time, adopted the word "devil" as a general and all-embracing term.
Life is a war. That's not all it is - but it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. God has given us prayer as a wartime "walkie-talkie" so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of God advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of front-line forces, and gives God the glory as our limitless Provider.
Always remember, the one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus prayer safeguards the supremacy of God while linking us with endless grace for every need.
CAN YOU THINK OF ANY BIBLE VERSES TELLING US TO WITHSTAND THE DEVIL?
Ephesians 4:26-27 NKJV
26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 nor give place to the devil.
WHY ARE WE TOLD TO PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD?
So that we can stand against the wiles of the devil.
Ephesians 6:11 NKJV
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
James 4:7 KJV
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
As we recognize that we are at war with an enemy who wants to turn us away from God, we need to take to heart the words of this verse.
1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJV
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
From this passage it is clear that Satan and his confederate hosts ceaselessly, tirelessly, maliciously and deliberately seek to cause havoc in the life of the real believer in Christ All kinds of objections may be voiced against this conclusion, but when the last argument is ended, God's Word still says, Your adversary the devil walks aboutůseeking whom he may devour." And we are told to "resist him steadfastly in the faith."This warning is given to us because of the peril we face.
To be "sober" means to be "sane." It means to be mentally "self-controlled."
The words "be vigilant" carry the thought of "being awake and watchful."
God alerts us in this passage to the presence in this world of our adversary, and to the fact of his wild, beast-like character.
If I, John Hoole, do not resist the devil, things very quickly go wrong with me. I know that he is my adversary, and if I become unwatchful and unguarded, he will surely, though slowly, cause God's work in my life to be hindered. If you are a true child of God, you are no exception to the rule. Satan has targeted you and is out to do harm to your testimony and your life and ultimately try to derail the intimacy of your relationship with your Savior.
In those moments where we have let down our guard and lessened our resistance, it is not an uncommon thing to be told by the devil that you are lost. Have you ever had those thoughts? There have been times when Satan has tried to convince me with like thoughts. And in those moments of weakness, you may have become so confused that you half believe it. You try to recover yourself, but your thought have become like chaff in the wind. Every good thing seems to have fled from your mind. You are unable to recall the Scriptures - at least those you want to. And even if you do, they seem to mock you, convincing you to further doubt your relationship with God.
Satan is a powerful foe. No human being can hope to cope with him. The believer cannot take the offensive against him in their own strength, but they can resist him.
So what can we do? Are there any options available to us? I suppose each of us go through times of spiritual lows where we doubt our own ability to please God. Satan is right there, the opportunist that he is to try to push you down even further. I can remember a number of times in my life where I took hold of The Book, holding it aloft, and saying, "I believe in the God of this Book (Hebrews 11:6), and all that this Book means to me, as a redeemed soul. Satan, I take, and stand upon, though right now I feel nothing. My Savior has promised and I believe He will never leave me or forsake me. He never has and He never will. I refuse all your lies about me. I believe what this Book says when I read, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. I am in Christ, not because I deserve it, or feel it, but because He took me in when I came to Him. I do not remember the date that it happened, but I know I came, and I know He took me in. Satan, you are a liar and I believe the Word of God, which says to me,
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13) (NKJV)"
It is a marvelous thing when I do that. It is very freeing. It is like removing the plug from an artesian well. The waters are released and gush forth (1 John 4:14). The real life stream from God is set in motion. That is one way to resist the devil.
The word "resist" means "to withstand, to be firm against someone else's onset." The word "resist" also indicates that we are not to flee from this enemy. Courage is called for in this fight, and courage is what God gives his children. Satan and his forces have to flee when the Christian stands his ground in the might of the Lord.
Be a resistor, for yourself and for your brothers and sisters. Get in Satan's way as a resistor. This can be accomplished by continually binding Satan's power weekly, daily, hourly, as many times as is needed.
3. Develop a hunger for God
Is prayer easy to do? Not always. Will we always feel good when we pray? Not always. But prayer is absolutely essential if we are to have victory in our life. And we need to continue on, even if we feel we are not very good at it.
When we don't feel effective at prayer, we need to recognize that the power of prayer is not in the one praying, but in the One who hears our prayers. Lack of prayer blinds our eyes and we lose any sensitivity of our need for time with Jesus. Spending time with Him where the table is spread and having fellowship with Him will cause our eyes to see who He really is.
God is a consuming fire and it is impossible to be on fire for God without having spent time close to the fire's originating source. this is where developing a hunger for God becomes so vital.
Jesus Christ was constantly using simple, down-to-earth examples from the physical realm to help his followers understand the realities of spiritual life and growth. Not only do the heavens declare the glory of God, but so do the seed and the soil, the trees and their fruit. the Bible is full of meals and food. More than half of the parable of Jesus center around food or feasts or farming.
In other countries, the women grind whole grains of wheat at home in their own stone mill. They pound the rice in pestle and mortar to break the grains for breakfast food. They walk a mile or more with pots on their head and on their hip to draw water from the well for cooking and washing and drinking. They pause to feed the newest baby, nursing it while they prepare gruel for the toddler. They collect firewood from the forest to have it ready for the next day's cooking.
When everyone has eaten, they collect all remainders, and use them to feed the chickens and the goats. They get up early to milk the goats or the family cow and take them to pasture before they start to grind the wheat for baking bread for the new day. Everything they do is related to food.
Most Americans only think about food a mealtimes. Only 5 percent of people live and work on the farms here in America. We don't need to spend much time preparing our food. Our water comes out of a faucet, not a well. We buy our bread already baked. Much of the food we purchase is ready to heat and serve.
Mealtime tends to be buffet style. Food is grabbed from the refrigerator as we rush out the door to an activity. Many families eat in front of the television set. Food is no longer sacramental. It is simply a means to satisfy our appetite.
But even fifty years ago, things were different in our country. How many of you, like me, grew up on a farm large or small? Back then dinner was a coming together of family members, where we acknowledge and thank God for his provisions, and where there was an exchange the day's news and plan's for tomorrow.
In Bible times the word "bread" conjured up images of harvest, of grinding, of kneading, of baking, and of life itself. Like physical food, spiritual food involved preparation and is the outworking of a person's spiritual life. Jesus, resting by the well in Samaria, turned away from the food his disciples brought him from the town, saying, "I have had food to eat that you do not know about." He explained that his nourishment had come from doing the will of His Father who sent him.
Today we go to church to receive our spiritual food. We sit in rows of chairs, as if at a meal, and expect the pastor to have prepared a feast. We may even think our spiritual food should be packaged so that we can take it on the run, with minimal interruption in our lives.
However, to feast with Jesus requires us to stop and fellowship with the Savior. We have to desire this time of feasting as much as we desire life itself. And that takes me to The Sermon on the Mount - to the fourth Beatitude.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
WHAT IS HUNGER?
The uneasy sensation occasioned by lack of food. It can be the sense of need for something - whether food or other things, Such as a hunger or thirst for knowledge, for affection, etc. When it comes to our physical bodies, hunger is a wonderful thing - it gives us life. Hunger is what makes eating a pleasure. And without it we might starve to death.
Most of us feel hungry when we need food and so we think hunger is identical with our need for food. But, as I thought about this verse, I came to the conclusion that hunger should not be equated with a lack of food. Some of you might be skeptical right now, but stay with me for a few minutes. We can sense hunger even when our body doesn't really need food. This can be seen in the fact that we can adjust our habits or patterns of eating. I have adjusted my eating pattern not to eat breakfast. If you are used to eating breakfast and you change to not eating breakfast, Your body will experience hunger pains at first, but eventually your body adapts to the new routine.
The opposite of this is what we see in the bloated stomachs of starving children in Africa. This is known as KWASHIORKOR, a condition first recognized at a place by that name in Africa (Ghana). A child in this condition has been starving for a long time and has developed a severe protein deficiency. They are often fed starch foods because that may be all that is available. Carbohydrates can keep adults going a long time, But children must have protein as well because they are growing. When they have reached this state of spindly limbs, bloated stomachs and dry skin, hunger no longer drives them to cry for or seek for food. Death slowly approaches because hunger has been replaced by bodily apathy. Even when food is brought to them, there is no sense of need.
What is true at a physical level is even more true at the spiritual level. It is possible to be in grave need of spiritual food and yet have no craving for it. When Jesus said "Happy (or blessed) are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled," He was not making a distinction between those who need righteousness as compared to those who don't need it. The fact of the matter is, we all need righteousness, but we don't all know it or feel the need.
In God's kingdom, spiritual hunger is highly valued. Your degree of hunger for Him will determine how close to Him you become. He wants us to open our mouth and let Him fill it. Sometimes a helper can sit beside the child, hold his reluctant mouth open, force in small amounts of food, and then wait for a swallow before dripping in a little more. The reward comes when, almost suddenly, the child looks at you, and opens his own mouth for food. Appetite is coming back! A sense of hunger is awakening and life will again return.
Friends and teachers and pastors may see a person who is in need of salvation and of the work of the Holy Spirit, but there is little they can do until the person is hungry for God. Have you ever tried to feed a very young child who isn't hungry? It you persist, the food will likely end up on you. On the other hand, have you ever fed a really hungry baby toddler? You can't get the food to their mouth fast enough.
This is the way it is spiritually as well. Have you ever tried to force feed spiritual nuggets of truth to a person who doesn't have an appetite in that arena yet. You think you have the most logical presentation but wonder why they can't see it yet. To you it is as plain as can be. There is a good chance that you and the person you are trying to feed get frustrated. We have to pray that God will awaken within this person an appetite for what they need and for what God can give them. Only then is there hope.
To a small child, when hunger occurs, they get the attention of the one who has the food they need. This is true spiritually as well. When the hunger finally occurs in your friend, they will turn to the one they know can supply the spiritual food they need. Hunger is a vital prerequisite to hearing God's voice.
This phenomena is equally true of the saved person. Our world is full of distractions, busyness and countless activities. Some of them bring us momentary satisfaction. But are they filling us with the proper nutrients. It is possible to have altered our habits of eating from the table of the Lord. If we go without regular times of fellowship with Him at His table, we will eventually come to the place where we no longer sense a need for doing so.
And that is exactly the state of the Laodicean church as it is related in Revelation, the 3rd chapter. Verse 17 says they believed they "were in need of nothing." Their relationship with God had deteriorated so much, there was absolutely no hunger for the things of God. They were experiencing spiritual Kwashiorkor. And they didn't realize their great need for spiritual nourishment at God's table.
Doesn't that give added meaning to the words we find 3 verses later, which state, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with me." God invites us to His table. We may not realize we need nourishment like He realizes it. But He will not force the spiritual food upon us. He waits for us to open the door. Let's guard against coming to the place where we thing we are "in need of nothing." Let's eat often at His table.
Earlier, I pointed out that kwashiorkor is due to a severe protein deprivation. Protein is food for growth. Just as in natural food, so in the spiritual. We must have food for growth as well as food for maintenance. Sugar and cookies are fine for immediate energy. Likewise, reading and quoting encouraging scriptural texts from our Bible promise box may help for a moment. But for steady growth we need to read the entire context of those promises and realize that promises are made to specific people and sometimes carry conditions.
Scripture calls us to action and to sometimes change priorities in our lives. It is by meditating on these deeper realities of our faith that we begin to absorb protein from Bible study, and then are able to grow.
It is only to those who hunger that Jesus promises to be filled. Scripture calls us to action and to change the priorities in our lives. We should never assume that the loss of spiritual appetite happens only to other people. There are times when one's own spiritual life may be at a low ebb and our prayer times seem lifeless and dull.
That is not a time to stop feeding. Loss of spiritual appetite may become progressive, even terminal, as in kwashiorkor. These are times for a sort of "forced feeding." Stay on your knees and in the Word of God. One day your appetite will be stimulated again. Words will again leap out of the pages of the Bible and taste good. Once again the spiritual saliva will flow as you sense your need for His presence. Once again the food has become as appetizing as ever -- and you taste and see that the Lord - He is very good indeed!!
Psalm 107:4-9 (NIV) says it so well.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,...
5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Did you notice how their thirst and hunger was satisfied? They went to the Lord.
Is Jesus knocking at your door - at mine? Is He calling our name? How is our sense of need for sitting and eating at His table. It's only those who are hungry that will eat and be filled. Our human nature hates to be hungry, otherwise we would be great at fasting. Hunger is sometimes painful because it forces us to look outside of ourselves for relief. We realize we are insufficient in ourselves.
Moses, when speaking to the Israelites, reminded them how God had fed them in the wilderness with manna.
"He (God) humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deut. 8:3)
The key ingredient is hunger! God "caused" them to hunger so that they would need Him to feed them. That is still God's strategy today. He wants us to have a hunger for Him.