Prayer and The Bible
Hindrances to Prayer
When we awake to the fact that prayer according to the will of God, and in the name of Jesus, is a mighty force placed at the disposal of the people of God, it is natural that we should desire to put it into operation. There is nothing wrong in this desire, for we are everywhere in the Sacred Word urged to pray. Such texts as these are authority for our anxiety to wield this wonderful power: "Men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1). "Watch ye therefore, and pray always," (Luke 21:36). "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" (Col.4:2). "Pray without ceasing". (1 Thess.5:17). "I will therefore that men pray every where." (1 Tim.2:8). "Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer" (1 Pet.4:7). It is evident from these and many other similar texts that God desires us to pray. And yet we cannot deny that we are often disappointed at the apparent failure of many of our prayers to work any result. Something seems to hinder them. This is true, for even if they be according to God's will and in the name of Christ Jesus, there are three hindrances to prayer, namely Sin, Selfishness, and Satan. These three barriers to the effectiveness of our prayers will bear careful consideration.
If we are conscious of sin in our hearts we cannot pray acceptably; for God cannot work through a heart that is charged with sin, as the Scriptures declare: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psa.66:18). We note that Jesus Christ always prayed acceptably, because in him was no sin (2 Cor.5:21; Heb.4:15). But his followers cannot claim to have no sin, as the Apostle says: "If we say...we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). One who is begotten of God will not habitually practice sin, for the "seed" of God remains in him. (1 John 3:9) Those who continue in sins are not begotten of the Holy Spirit and are therefore not children of God, but, rather, children, of the devil (1 John 3:10,11). The prayers of such, that is, of those who claim to be followers of the Lord and yet hate their brethren (1 John 3:13‑15) are abhorrent to God (Psa.109:1‑7).
The Hindrance of Sin can be Overcome
If the child of God has consciousness of sin in his heart, he can have it cleansed away by confession in the name of the Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous. (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1,2) We must purge out the evil—malice, evil‑surmisings, etc. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (2 Tim.2:21) We must stop evil‑speaking, if we have been indulging in this selfish form of luxury. (James 4:11) When we feel strongly inclined to judge another adversely as we sometimes do, let us stop and think: even Jesus judged no man; and if any had good reason to judge, Jesus had; yet he always refrained and committed the matter to God. (John 8:15; John 12:47) We are told to judge nothing before the time, and not to judge one another. (Rom.14:13; 1 Cor.4:5) God has now committed all judgment unto the Son, who is able to judge righteously; but the Son has not committed judgment to us. We cannot read motives, therefore we cannot judge righteously.
The Apostle says: "If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (l Cor.11:31,32) By means of prayer we shall turn our judging minds in upon our own hearts and see if there be any evil way there; then confess and get our sins forgiven, remembering that God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness whenever we sincerely confess and call to our aid our Advocate. When we approach our heavenly Father in this attitude, we shall know that our prayers are honoured; for the cleansed heart is sensitive to the response of God. In the words of the Psalmist we shall be able to exclaim: "Verily God hath heard me; He hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me."—Psa.66:19,20.
Should we ever be so unfortunate as to think we have reached a point where we no longer need bring our judging mind to bear upon our own heart, and that we may now turn our attention outward and do a little judging of our brethren, let us note carefully what the Scriptures say about this; for the words are very pointed—they have a cutting edge as sharp as a razor: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer.17:9) But if it should happen, owing to the heart being so deceitful, that we cannot perceive any special cause for judging ourselves, then the Lord will give us some aid in the matter. As surely as we are begotten of the Holy Spirit, just so surely shall we have this personal inward judging to do; and if we do not ask the Lord's aid voluntarily, then our Master will give it unasked, for he loves us. (Rev.3:19) Far better for us to do the matter voluntarily, as the Apostle advises: "Let a man examine himself."—1 Cor.11:28; 2 Cor.13:5
Ask the Lord to turn his searchlight into our hearts. In the words of Psa.139:23,24, say: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me." Don't flinch, but with the searchlight shining its piercing rays upon our heart, let us look thereon steadily, and we shall literally tremble to behold what iniquity lies there! Aye, and the more honest we are the more we will tremble. But let us not faint, but confess, and God will send his power to enable us to amend. (Phil.2:12,13) After confession, we may then pray in the words of the Psalmist: "Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me...Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee...A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psa.51) We shall be fit to judge righteously along with Christ our Lord, in the "Day" which has been appointed by God.—Acts 17:31; 1 Cor.6:2; Rev.20:4‑6; Dan.7:20‑27
Next time—The Hindrance of Selfishness must be Eliminated