Hindrances to Answered Prayer
All Christians, and especially intercessors, are concerned with getting positive answers to their prayers. The Bible gives us clear guidelines which, when followed, guarantee that God will respond favorably to our prayers. Some of these guidelines are discussed below.
Sin Hinders our Prayers
The Scriptures explicitly state that sin is a major obstacle to God hearing our prayers. The Lord said to His people in Isaiah 59:2 that their sins caused Him to turn His face away from them. Intercessors need to remember that the people who are invited into the presence of God are those whose hands are clean and hearts are purer (Ps. 24:3-4). Like the Old Testament priests, we need to confess and repent of our sins before seeking to come into the presence of the Lord on behalf of others. Remember – it is the prayer of a righteous man that accomplishes much (James 5:16 ).
Wrong Motives create a Barrier
A significant block to God answering our prayers is wrong motives. The apostle James highlights this barrier when he states that God often will not respond to prayers that are intended to fulfill lustful desires (James 4:3). What can we do to purify our motives? First, we need to delight ourselves in the Lord. When we do this His delight becomes our delight, and the answers to our prayers bring joy to the Lord. Jesus echoes this principle when He said that abiding in Him and allowing His words to abide in us are assured of all our requests being granted.
Secondly, we need to seek first His kingdom in all that we do. This means that our times of prayer and intercession ought to focus on things which bring glory to God and result in His kingdom being expanded. It is virtually impossible to be consumed with the kingdom of God and lustful desires at the same time. Hence our lustful desires will gradually be replaced with godly desires as we become preoccupied with the will and purposes of God.
Doubt: A Main Obstacle
Perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to answered prayer is doubt. The scriptures declare that the person who prays with doubt is unstable and double-minded. Such a person will not receive a good response to his or her prayers (James 1: 6-8). This is because doubt is the direct opposite to faith, and God has committed Himself to answering primarily the prayers of faith. How then do we get rid of doubt? The answer to this question is to know and believe the word of God. It is God’s word that displaces doubt and produces in us the faith necessary for Him to do the impossible. Intercessors ought to be people who study, memorize and know the word of God. When the word of God dwells in us richly, we have a platform from which faith will arise in response to the will of God concerning specific situations.
The article discussed three of the many hindrances to answered prayers. Future articles will deal with some other obstacles. However, intercessors and other Christians who are able to overcome the three obstacles mentioned will obtain more answered prayers, a closer walk with God and a renewed life of faith.