Overcoming Hindrances to Effective Prayer

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  • There are two primary reasons why you ought to pray. The first is obedience to duty. That is, we should pray because the word of God commands us to pray. Period. The second reason why you should pray is more pragmatic: Prayer works! God answers prayer. It pleases God to meet the needs of his children through the means of believing prayer. But while answered prayer is one of the great motivations to pray; unanswered prayer can discourage your prayer life.

    If your prayers are not being answered the way you desire, I recommend that you do two things. You should continue to trust God anyway. God is good, wise, and sovereign. God knows what is best and is worthy of your trust, even when he says no. You should also examine yourself. Here are five hindrances to pray you should consider as you examine your ways.

    Prayerlessness. James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (ESV). Indeed, the biggest reason why many of us are not the beneficiaries of answered prayer is simply because we do not pray. There is much you can do about your situation after you pray. But there is nothing you can do that will make a real difference until you pray.

    Unconfessed sin. In Psalm 66:18, the psalmist says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Now, this is not to say that you have to be perfect in order to get a prayer through. It means that effective prayer begins with the confession of sin.

    Selfish motives. But James 4:3 states: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” The Lord does not answer selfish prayers. Sure, you can pray about your own needs and desires. But remember that the priority of prayer is God and his glory, not you are your wants.

    Broken Fellowship. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leaven your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In a real sense, all prayer is corporate prayer, in that God will not talk to you if you refuse to talk to your brother. For instance, 1 Peter 5:7 warns husbands that if we do not live with our wives in an understanding way, our prayers will be hindered.

    A lack of faith. James 1:6-7 instructs, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts Is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the win. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Believing prayer is short-circuited when the one who prays doesn’t really believe. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.