HINDRANCES TO ANSWERED PRAYER
I’m going to deal with something today that is very delicate - but it is what every single one of us needs to understand in order to have the positive and wonderful prayer life that the Bible assures us of in all those promises. Remember that one from my teaching last week, Matthew 7:7 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, through the years, “It just doesn’t work for me - I keep asking, seeking, and knocking, and nothing changes.”
Well, I understand because I’ve experienced that in my life also - BUT - AFTER SPENDING LOTS OF QUALITY TIME WITH THE LORD THROUGH THE YEARS, THE LORD HAS SHOWN ME SOME THINGS. We all want our prayers answered. So -----
First. Let me tell you this little story because it’s about answered prayer. Last Tuesday, about half way through the teaching, something occurred in my right ear and there were strange things going on. It’s hard to explain - but all the sounds of my speech and everyone else’s were coming loud through my right ear - even my own breathing. After we left the church, while in the car, I took the hearing aid out of my right ear (thinking that THAT was the problem). Well, it wasn’t. The ear was still the same. It was really weird.
When we got home, I took both hearing aids out, as I did the things I needed to do - lunch, etc. After finishing with all those things, I sat in my comfy chair in my bedroom, and began to pray. I told the Lord that I was going to pray in the Spirit for awhile - I told Him that my right ear was misbehaving and I had no idea what it was but I knew He did. I asked Him to straighten out the problem. I quoted Romans 8:26 to Him, which says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses, For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Then, I told Him that I trusted Him because He knows every detail of my weaknesses. Then I began to pray in the Spirit. As I was praying, the Lord reminded me that I hadn’t taken authority over the problem yet. So I did, right then and there - IN THE NAME OF JESUS. It was 30 minutes or so later, as I was still praying in the Spirit, all of a sudden, I noticed that my ear was normal again! I just sat there in awe for awhile - praising Him, worshiping Him - honoring Him - sometimes even giggling, and I felt like He was laughing with me.
Man oh Man - that was a quick answered prayer! I remember times a long time ago, when it didn’t happen like that, in all kinds of prayer. However, in my life today, there are times when I will tell Him that I need understanding about something that is troubling me. Then, it might be a couple hours later, or even the next morning, all of a sudden, into my inner awareness, I have complete understanding about what I had prayed about. Now - I’ve learned something regarding this and I’m going to share it with you, in as simple way to understand as possible. Get ready because there are some things which may be a little hard to grasp.
I’m going to tackle something here, first, which is a huge problem in today’s world. We live in a culture today that is more SELF-CENTERED than any time in the history of the world. It’s always been a problem in humanity, but today it is so common that most people, including Christians, do not even realize that ‘self-centeredness’ is their lifestyle. It’s all about ‘me - me -me - me - what I want - the way I want it - when I want it - it’s “me, me, me, me, me.” It has become normal to the point that a lot of preachers, teachers, and such are afraid to even bring it up. Prayer for many Christians is telling God what somebody did or said, and complaining and crying. Prayer has become, for many Christians, a time to complain to God about all the things that are not going the way we want them to. That’s because of “self-centeredness - to the point that we just think we’re being honest with God. THAT HINDERS GETTING ANSWERS TO PRAYER. THAT IS NOT WHAT PRAYER REALLY IS.
Now, I’ve talked a lot about ‘becoming a living sacrifice’ and just giving your life completely to the Lord and I’ve learned myself that I can’t hang on to self-centeredness with EVERYTHING being about me and truly be a living sacrifice.
So, first of all, let’s talk about what ‘self-centeredness really is. Frankly, I have learned about what self-centeredness is through learning more and more about what prayer is.
So let me just make this as simple as possible. When almost every prayer I pray is actually about me, what I need, what I want, what I think, how things affect me, how people hurt me, what I like and what I don’t like, how my body feels, and on and on, it appears to be SELF AWARE, SELF CENTERED, SELF CONCERNED…………! I have had to come to grips with this in my life. The world does not revolve around me. On that day, a long time ago, when I became a living sacrifice, I actually turned over everything in my life to the King of the Universe. I saw myself as belonging to God Almighty and He would show me what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and on and on. Now that brings us back to those two verses (you’ve probably all memorized them by now - I’ve used them so much) Romans 12:1-2. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Now I personally have known people who have taken those verses personally, but, when it comes right down to it, self-centeredness has become such a common way of life for them, they really don’t know that it is keeping them from the successful prayer life that they were hoping for. So - to understand it better - let me use this as an example. We all know that we are to pray for the people in our lives. However, the most common way that praying for others is done is based on how we want the people we’re praying for to change, and to act, because they have hurt us, offended us, treated us poorly, and on and on. Now, don’t get me wrong - it’s wrong for people to treat us badly - but, if we’re praying for them so they won’t hurt us anymore, we’re really not praying for them with the Agape love for them as God desires us to. We’re more centered on how they treat us, rather than centering in on their lives and their relationship with the Lord. If WE are the center of the motivation for prayer, it is self-centered and THAT IS A HINDRANCE TO EFFECTIVE PRAYER. Agape love has to be the motivation for prayer for other people.
Now I know that’s really hard to think about when people have treated you badly - and that’s the reason that we must be LIVING SACRIFICES. God wants us to see people like He sees people. Now that doesn’t mean that we just keep on letting them hurt us - No - when get with the Lord and spend some quality time talking to Him, He will show us how to handle it - but, then, also, He will help us SEE THE PERSONS THE WAY HE DOES.
With what I’ve been saying about self-centeredness, I’m only saying this because this is what I’ve learned from God. Every single one of us has had to battle against being self-centered. There have been times in my life when I really just didn’t realize that I was thinking from a self-centered point of view. I believe we all have had to deal with this. It’s just that so many Christians don’t realize it. I think the main reason that it is so hard is that we can’t THINK beyond the effect that the person’s actions and words have had on us. God wants us to THINK about how the person’s actions and words are destroying their own lives - and SOMEBODY HAS TO BE AVAILABLE TO PRAY PURE LOVE-MOTIVATED PRAYER FOR THEM TO HAVE A GOOD LIFE.
Now, I’ve said that because AGAPE LOVE (THE GOD KIND OF LOVE) IS THE OPPOSITE OF SELF-CENTEREDNESS.
I personally feel like that is one of the biggest hindrances to prayer producing the results that the Word says it does. So - to get down to the nitty gritty - when there is someone in my life that has hurt me, done wrong by me, caused problems for me, (and the list goes on - just anything that was troubling to me), when I get before God for some “God and me” time, the way I have learned to pray is this. First of all, I picture that person, and I think of him or her as someone who really needs an enlightenment about God - who He really is, what He really is like, how much He loves that person, and how much God wants that life to be changed. Then, I see myself as God’s instrument. I see it, from the point of view that God doesn’t just whoosh down from heaven and change someone. He gave authority to mankind on this earth - and I am His child and, therefore, I can look at it from His point of view and invite Him into showing His agape love to that person. I see myself as helping God help that person - rather than just from the point of view of me and my feelings.
I hope that makes sense to you. It has changed my prayer life for other people big time!
Now - another HINDRANCE TO ANSWERED PRAYER IS THAT SO MANY CHRISTIAN’S PRAYERS ARE ALL JUST BEGGING AND PLEADING WITH GOD!!! People seem to think that if they just beg God and tell Him all about the problem, and beg, and beg, and beg - that somehow God will just say up there in heaven, “Okay, I’ll do what you want, so you’ll shut up for awhile.” That’s not who God is or how He acts.
Now - God has, through the people who allowed Him to use them, given many promises to mankind in all kinds of realms. Of course, the biggest and most well-known one is John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Even people who aren’t Christians can quote that verse because they’ve heard it so much. However, just knowing that verse, mentally, is not enough to give you eternal life. You must believe that IN YOUR HEART and say with your mouth that you believe He is the Son of God and took your sins for you - and you want to take Him into your life - or give your life to Him - both ways of saying it are true. The same thing is true about every promise in the Word. It isn’t enough to just read and quote a verse to God and expect an answer right away. That way of thinking is a HINDRANCE TO PRAYER.
For instance, someone has a huge financial need in their family and they heard somebody say there was a verse about God supplying all your need - so they look it up and find Philippians 4:19 - “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” They read it a couple times and then they hurry up and start talking to God. “Hey, Father, I just read that verse about You supplying all my needs. I’ve got some big problems. I need a bunch of money right now. Please give it to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen!” He’s still a nervous wreck, wondering if God heard him - wanting the phone to ring with someone telling him that he’s just inherited a lot of money - or some other big surprise. He’s worrying, worrying, worrying!
It doesn’t work that way. YOU MUST GET OFF THE THRONE IN YOUR HEART - AND LET JESUS BE ON THE THRONE IN YOUR HEART! We must spend quality time with the Lord, and in His Word. His promises must become real to you, based on the Love that you know He has for you and that you have for Him. You must take the promise into your heart and believe it, the same way you received salvation. You must believe in your heart and say with your mouth. That’s the way faith works.
I have seen so many Christians through the years that just never get ahold of this truth and they end up going through life hardly ever getting a prayer answered. I remember back in the days when my husband and I began to get a handle on what FAITH really is. It was truly a life-changing time for us.
Now, I want to talk for a bit about another HINDRANCE to answered prayers. Get ready! It’s UNFORGIVENESS. There’s so many verses about unforgiveness but I’m just going to share this one. Colossians 3:13 - “Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” This is also a very delicate one and it is very, very difficult for many people. I have learned in my life, and it has helped others as I have shared with them, that, if I allow the pain, hurt, and all the other stuff that happens when we are mistreated or hurt by others, to rule in our hearts, we are allowing that person to still control our lives. I can remember, when I was a young teenager, I had to teach myself to forgive those kids who had made fun of me as a little girl with a crossed eye. Now, I didn’t know much at that point in my life about how all this works - but I did know that if Jesus could forgive me for all my bad stuff, and now I belonged to Him, I could forgive others who had hurt me. I was just 13 - but it became real to me. However, forgiveness is a life-long thing. You don’t just do it once, and then it’s just easy - easy from that point on - because each situation is different and the people are different. BUT IT REALLY DOES HAVE TO BECOME A WAY OF LIFE TO YOU AND ME BECAUSE WE ARE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS.
Forgiving someone does not mean that what they did wasn’t wrong - evil - bad - but was just okay!!!! No - it was wrong - evil - bad - BUT SO WERE ALL OF US BEFORE WE WERE BORN AGAIN AND JESUS FORGAVE US AND WE ARE HIS FOLLOWERS.
Each situation is different. Sometimes, it includes a conversation with that person - especially if it’s family or close friends - but not always. The forgiveness is a heart issue and has to be truly coming from your heart. It often requires that you must set some borders between that person and you - but each situation is unique and requires talking with the Lord.
The fact of the matter is, if you keep the unforgiveness in your heart, it will become a BIG HINDRANCE TO YOUR PRAYER LIFE. If you have an issue of unforgiveness in your life, I suggest that you look up every scripture in your Bible that talks about forgiveness and unforgiveness. There are many.
Now I want to bring up another HINDRANCE - IT’S ABOUT NOT REALLY UNDERSTANDING HOW FAITH OPERATES. I have a favorite Scripture which I am going to talk about. It’s Hebrews 11:1 - “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
I have learned that ‘hope’ and ‘imagination’ are closely related to one another. Bible ‘HOPE’ is not the same hope as someone saying, “I’m just a-wishen and a-hopen - that everything will be okay.” Bible hope is imagining the end results that you are desiring. Now - listen closely to this - IF YOU CANNOT SEE ON THE INSIDE OF YOU THE END RESULT, AS THOUGH IT ALREADY EXISTS, THEN FAITH DOESN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO GIVE SUBSTANCE TO!!!!!!!
Brothers and sisters, when I got ahold of this truth many years ago, it totally changed my prayer life and the results of prayer. I have used this verse before, but I’m using it again - Romans 4:17 - “ (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed - GOD; who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;” That’s talking about God calling Abraham the father of many nations before he had a child. He (God) is the One that we are to DO WHAT HE DOES.
Now, lots and lots of Christians have not been taught this, or, if they have heard it, they have dismissed it as not important. Therefore not understanding about hope and faith is a huge HINDRANCE TO HAVING ANSWERED PRAYER.
Faith - when you get right down to as simple way to understand it - is BELIEVING IN YOUR HEART THAT THE PROMISES IN THE WORD OF GOD REALLY ARE TRUE AND AVAILABLE TO ALL WHO WILL BELIEVE THEM. Now - think of it like this - HOPE is being able to picture the end result that you desire - and - FAITH is believing IN YOUR HEART that God has promised it and that means that He will do it!!!!!! They work together. I said this before but I’m saying it again - IF YOU CAN’T PICTURE IT, FAITH HAS NOTHING TO GIVE SUBSTANCE TO. AND - IF YOU DON’T REALLY BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL KEEP HIS PROMISE (FAITH), PICTURING THE END RESULT IS NOT ENOUGH TO PRODUCE THE ANSWER.
Therefore, the lack of understanding concerning this is a HUGE HINDRANCE TO ANSWERED PRAYER.
Now I believe that God really, really, really wants to use older Christians to pray for others - because they have more time than they used to have. The younger Christians are busy trying to make a living, trying to take care of their children, and on and on and on. Most older Christians are retired, some don’t drive anymore, some have lots more time available to them - therefore, they can truly be used by the Lord to pray for people. But if they don’t understand how faith and hope works, they aren’t accustomed to getting their prayers answered and doing a lot of praying is not something they really want to do. However, I have known some Christians who, as they have gotten older, have been truly used by God to help others make it through their lives THROUGH PRAYER (WITH NO HINDRANCES).
To really get a clear and real understanding of faith and hope, I have found that reading the Bible - both Old and New Testaments - is very, very helpful. And I read both, but, in all honesty, I spend more time in the New Testament than I do in the Old - because I can identify with the early Christians. If an old really bad sinner like Saul of Tarsus can get born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit and end up writing a huge part of the New Testament - or a sinner like Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus, as He was being crucified, can get born again, and baptized in the Holy Spirit and end up being a leader in the early Christian movement and writing books which are in the New Testament -------- then I can learn so much from them. I love reading the 4 Gospels, and all of the books after them. I’ve read them hundreds of times and I learn more every time I read.
It doesn’t just give me knowledge - it enlightens me - it reveals to me what FAITH really is and what hope really is. They were people just like we are. Sometimes I read a verse and then I just sit there and read it again and again and ponder on it. I think about the person who wrote it - and the situations in his life. I’ve had verses just really come alive to me while I am doing that. You know what that produces - faith and hope on the inside of me. AND - you know what that produces? LESS HINDRANCES TO MY PRAYERS BEING ANSWERED. Because, when I’m praying about something, I am already imagining the end result and deep within me, I know that I know that I know that God promised - and He never breaks a promise!
Brothers and sisters, the Lord wants us all to walk with Him on a daily basis, communicating with Him, believing Him, understanding Him and His ways, and how much He loves us. If it isn’t working like the Word says it will, it’s not God’s fault - it’s ours! But we have to be honest and realize that and get rid of the HINDRANCES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Bible is filled with stories and information that tells us what God is like, the way He thinks, the way He acts, the way He loves, the way He wants life to be for His children, (us), and all the wonderful promises He has made. But, we can’t just think that just because we heard someone talk about it, that it’ll work for us! We have to read those promises ourselves - and imagine what the answer looks like - and ponder (or meditate) on the promise and the answer - and communicate with the King of the Universe, who loved us so much that He gave the best He had to pay a price we couldn’t pay - so we would be with Him forever.
When we do that, that’s when it all comes alive to us. That’s when we can actually begin thanking Him for the answer before we ever see it with our eyes. That’s what answered prayer is all about - free from all those hindrances. AND THAT IS WHAT OUR WONDERFUL LORD WANTS FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US WHILE WE’RE STILL HERE ON THIS EARTH, NO MATTER HOW OLD WE ARE. THERE IS NO AGE LIMIT ON ANSWERED PRAYER!!!!!!!!!!
Scripture for this lesson