Praying. We all know we should do it. We may not do it as often as we should, but we do it. Sometimes we don’t feel like God is listening. The Bible assures us that God is listening to our prayers, but the Bible also tells us that there are things that can prevent God from answering our prayers.
In talking about praying, James 4:3 says “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (NIV). In other words, we should not expect God to answer a selfish prayer.
Luke tells us that Jesus specifically told the disciples that they should keep praying and not give up. He told a parable about a persistent widow that reinforced this admonition (Luke 18:1-8). We need to continue to pray and not give up too quickly.
Doubt can also affect our prayers. As we pray and become closer to God, our faith grows. When we do not really trust God, the Bible tells us that we should not expect to receive God’s help. James tells us that the person who doubts “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded” (James 1:7-8). Of course, only God can give us the faith that does not doubt.
Finally, if our relationships with other people are not right, our prayers are hindered. Our relationship with God is always directly related to how we relate to people. Jesus tells us that if we are planning to bring a gift to the altar, in other words, we are coming to worship God, and we realize that someone has something against us, we should leave the altar and go make things right with that person (Matthew 5:23-25). 1 Peter 3:7 specifically says that when husbands do not treat their wives with respect, their prayers will not be heard.
God does not automatically respond favorably to our prayers. God loves us, but He is concerned with making us into loving people who follow Jesus in everything we do. These places where the Bible tells us how our prayers can be hindered remind us that prayer is a relationship. God has a plan for us. When our prayers focus on our own plans, they fail. When we submit ourselves to God’s plan, we can be assured that He hears and answers.
Love in Christ,
Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church