What hinders prayer? Part 1

It can be easy when I am waiting for God to answer my prayer to start wondering why He isn’t answering. I start to search for a reason why He won’t do it. Unfortunately, if I go looking, I can find a multitude of reasons that people say why God won’t answer prayer. “Three reasons why God won’t answer! Ten reasons why God won’t answer! God will answer if…” It seems that our teaching focuses more on how God won’t answer prayer than how he actually does. Or at least, He will with some impossible “If” that I have to fulfill. I have learned to stop asking this question all together. It’s the wrong question. Instead of asking why God doesn’t answer prayer, we should be asking why does He answer prayer.

Every time I give myself a reason why God doesn’t answer, it weakens my faith that much more. That confidence I have that when I ask God for something, He will do it, gets weakened every time I add an “if.” “He would have answered, but I know I don’t have enough faith, so He won’t. He won’t answer that because it was selfish. That prayer is probably not in His will. He hasn’t heard me because I haven’t prayed long or hard enough. He can’t hear me because I have sin in my life. I have to break through some spiritual barrier or he won’t hear my faint prayer. Etc…” We teach, “If you doubt, God won’t answer,” but we give ourselves dozens of reasons to doubt.

However, I have broken all of these rules and seen my prayers faithfully and wonderfully answered over and over again. I have doubted and received my answer. I have prayed selfishly and been answered. I have had sin in my life and seen God bless me tremendously. I have not persisted in prayer or fasted and seen big prayers answered. I want to say that God has answered the vast majority of my prayers and is still answering them. God does it not because I qualify in my own merits, because he loves me and gives me everything through his son. I have no reason to teach that God doesn’t answer prayer! So in these articles, I hope to restore the confidence we have that God will answer our prayers and eliminate some of the doubts we give ourselves.

Myth 1 – It’s not God’s will

One of the most common ideas we are quick to conclude is that whatever we were praying for was outside of God’s will. We limit God’s will to things that are “churchy” or what the church expects of us. We believe God only answers spiritual things, but not earthly things. We would never dream that God would give a boy a video game or a dirt bike. We tend to label things as spiritual and other things as worldly. Or we think, “God doesn’t give us anything we want. Just what we need.”

However, God is not a God who is stingy, who only gives things that are “for his kingdom.” He wants to be known as a good father who takes care of his children and provides good and fun things for them.

1 Timothy 6:17 “but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

God wants to be known as generous and loving, someone we can go to when we have a need or want. He wants us to be confident that He will answer our prayers faithfully so that we keep coming to him first.

2 Samuel 12 “7Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?”

David did not come to God first when he had a desire, and instead he tried to fulfill it in his own strength through sin. When we give ourselves reasons why God won’t answer our prayers, instead of coming to Him when we have needs or wants we immediately give up on God and try to fulfill things in our own strength.

I don’t want to find sin in my life because I don’t trust that God is willing to answer my prayer. If you teach that God won’t give you riches, do you strive for it at work? Do you try to give yourself something that God won’t? God has given me many things that were not considered “churchy.” He’s given me videogames, skill at games, first place prizes, etc… He does it because He loves me and he wants to be the source and fulfillment of my desires.

I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? (Luke 11:10-11)

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14).

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16).

“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23).

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5-6).

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

“You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).

Over and over, Jesus says, whatever you ask I will give. Now some of you may be jumping into extreme hypothetical arguments, “Well if I asked God to make the world cotton candy, would he do that!? What if I asked him for something evil!? Would he help me murder someone or have favor with my neighbors’s wife?” If you’re offended by what I said, then perhaps your missing a piece of information. God is completely good and He can only give good gifts to his children.

James 1 “13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God does not give good gifts some of the time and then shift into giving evil gifts or tempting people with sin. If you ask God for something evil or sinful, he can and will only give you what is good. Let me participate in your hypothetical argument. Let’s say a man’s marriage is suffering and he is wanting a better spouse. Let say this man asks God for favor with his neighbors wife… God could not do such a thing, instead when that man prayed that prayer God would interpret the desire behind the prayer and give the man the true source of his desire. The Lord would repair and strengthen the marriage so the man was satisfied. This is the nature of what James is saying,

James 4:3 “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.”

So let me make myself clear. God promises to give you anything you ask, He submits Himself to that out of His generous heart. But, He is incapable of doing evil and cannot give you something that is evil. But, if you have his spirit in you, you won’t be asking Him for those things anyways.

I think that we are too quick to name something as “not God’s will.” We think we are honoring his will, but actually we are controlling it. We tell God what he will and won’t do for us. We teach people that God will not give you this or that. We say, “God will not give you riches.” We think our motives are pure, to honor what is right. But in actually we are telling God what he can and won’t do. Who are we to say what God will and won’t do? Ask him for yourself and find out. You will be surprised how many prayers that you considered selfish God is actually willing to answer.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

I once asked the Lord, “How do I know what’s inside your will?”

He answered, “If it makes me look good, I’m pleased to give it.”

God wants to be known as a good God who gives good gifts to his children. He wants to be known as the father who blesses his children with health, financial stability, peace, joy, enjoyable gifts, good relationships, many friends, riches, kindness, etc… He wants the world to see us and envy the kindness He shows us. He doesn’t want to give us things that are evil, or painful, or sinful. If we ask God to bring harm on us, He won’t! He can’t! God is a good and generous God, who gives freely to all without finding fault. So soften your heart in his kindness and begin to have confidence that he will answer your prayers, even ones you don’t think are worthy.

Now as much as I want to encourage your faith and prayers I don’t want to leave the impression that we should operate in a spirit of entitlement or impatience, or senseless disrespectful attitudes in our prayers. I don’t like it when people make demands and expect everyone else to bow down to their will immediately or else they feel cheated or mistreated. Ultimately it is up to God to decide to answer our prayers and when we pray we need to do so respectfully, not with bitterness, not with discontentedness. When we pray, let us pray confidently and in faith. And then let us wait patiently entrusting ourselves to God’s will and not feeling a sense of entitlement as if God was under your control. Keep in mind that as much as I do give you good news, I trust that you be sensible in how you use it and don’t use your freedom as a catalyst for anything ungodly.

Myth 2 – If I don’t treat my wife well, God won’t answer my prayer.

1 Peter 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.”

If you’ve been in church long enough, you will have heard a sermon on how we must treat our wives correctly or God will not answer our prayers. Some people who are not seeing their prayers answered are wondering if they are treating their wives kind enough. And how kind must they treat them for their prayers to be answered? How do they know if that’s why their prayers are hindered? Of course, we should by all means treat our wives kind and with respect. And do so out of a cheerful, willing heart. But, I don’t believe this passage is saying that God will refuse to answer your prayers otherwise.

In that time, people did not see women as equal to men. And I figure some of these men did not think God wanted to include their wives in part of His inheritance. In so believing, they would not give prayers for their wife, but only for themselves. I believe this passage is saying, be considerate to your wives and treat them with respect and as co-heirs in Christ so that you may include them in your prayers. Don’t let the full measure of your prayers be hindered by just praying for yourself, pray for them as well. Just a different perspective.

Myth 3 – There are spiritual forces I must break through

Daniel 10 “12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

Again, some people believe there is a barrier between God and their prayers and that they have to fight to break through that barrier. They have all kinds of methods to achieve this, fasting, praying many times, speaking breakthrough, etc… Could Daniel have achieved breakthrough through any of these means? He continually humbled himself, but the angel said he started coming since the first day. My point with that is, it wasn’t his battle. There was nothing he could do to speed it up. Does this mean we should be worried about spiritual forces blocking our prayers? Not at all. In the old covenant we believe there were spiritual forces that resisted our prayers, and delay came because our prayers were under attack. However, I submit that since Christ came and died on the cross, those spiritual forces in the heavenly realms have been defeated and God has come near to hear our prayers.

Revelations 12:10, 12 “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

Colossians 2:15 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

Mark 1:15 “”The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near.”

I believe the devil is no longer in heaven resisting your prayers. I believe if he has any work in your prayers, it’s to convince you not to pray at all. To convince you that God won’t answer, or will take a long time to answer, or that you must repeat the same prayer endlessly over and over in order to fight forces that are already defeated. He wants you to think God can’t hear your prayers and try to pull you into all kinds of religious rituals in order to attain something that is already freely given to you. The kingdom of heaven is here. When John the Baptist preached, it was coming, but when Christ died on the cross, his kingdom was established. This means God is not far away somewhere in the universe away from your prayers. This means He is near! And He has come to answer your prayers and has removed those spiritual forces that separated you. That’s why Jesus taught that a man may ask and receive, because God’s kingdom was near!

Check out part 2 on prayer.

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