Have you ever considered the power that is available to us through prayer? In prayer, we can reach out to the One who made the entire universe. James reminds us of Elijah’s powerful prayers when he states, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18). Jesus teaches His disciples that by prayer, they can cast out demons and move mountains (Matthew 17:14-21). Through prayer we may receive healing (2 Kings 20:1-5) and seek healing for others (Acts 28:7-10). The early church received boldness to share the gospel as a result of their prayers (Acts 4:23-31).
This power would not be available to us if it had not been for the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our sins had separated us from God so that He would not hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). Yet, for those who trust in Jesus, God forgives their sins and hears their prayers (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Apart from saving faith in Christ, God does not hear anyone’s prayers. But the moment a person believes on Jesus Christ for salvation, God hears his or her cry. Therefore, we have a costly and precious gift to thank God for in our ability to pray.
Yet, we also realize that as believers, we can hinder our prayers. Therefore we want to be cautious and take time to evaluate our lives and prayers to make sure that they are unhindered. I’d like to share four ways we can hinder our prayers.
First, you can hinder your prayers by unrepentant sin. James says, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Is there a habit in your life that cannot be described as “righteous”? Confess your sins to the Lord and confess them to a trusted brother or sister in Christ that he or she may also pray for you. Healing does not come without confessing our sins. Peter likewise communicates that sinful behavior hinders our prayers. He warns, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way…so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Second, you can hinder your prayers by praying with wrong, worldly motives. James states, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? (James 4:2-4). Christians are called to put to death the desires of our flesh (Colossians 3:5). It is a strange and inappropriate request when a Christian prays with worldly desires for worldly gain. What desires have been driving your prayers lately? Are you seeking the things above or the things below?
Third, you can hinder your prayers by neglecting to pray in Jesus’ name. John records Jesus’ teaching: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14). What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”? It doesn’t just mean to tag the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on the end of your prayer before you say “Amen.” It means to pray in accordance with Jesus’ character and will. It means to pray a prayer that pleases Him. When God saves us, He changes us so that we start to desire obedience to Him above all else (Ezekiel 36:27). Are your prayers driven by a desire to please, honor, and obey Jesus? Are you praying for the salvation of the lost? Are you praying for the maturity of the church? One preacher said, “I fear that we spend more time praying saints out of heaven than we do praying sinners in.” Now, I don’t want to discourage us from praying for physical healing—that is very important and God cares for our physical situation (1 Peter 5:7). But praying for the salvation of the lost and the obedience of the saved are even greater concerns.
Fourth, we hinder our prayers by having little faith in Jesus. When a man whose son was demon possessed came to Jesus to request healing for his son, Jesus responded, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The man cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” When Jesus’ disciples asked why they could not cast the demon out, Jesus responded, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:14-28). God desires to answer prayers that are asked with faith in Jesus Christ. I think it greatly honors the Lord when we pray like the man whose son was demon-possessed. Will you pray, “I do believe, help my unbelief”? Remember, it is impossible to please God without faith in Jesus (Hebrews 11:6).
Do you want to be a prayer warrior like Epaphras who wrestled in prayer for the Colossians? (Col 4:12). How would such a prayer life affect your family? How would it affect your church and community? Consider the great power we have when we pray unhindered prayers to the One who created everything! Happy praying!