Hindrances to PrayerSeries: A Constant Sense
HINDRANCES TO PRAYER
Pt.#4 – A Constant Sense
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / August 02, 2015
With our SYR/Camp 2:52 now behind us, I want to resume our sermon series on prayer.
Why is it that prayer sometimes seems difficult?
Why should something that is such a privilege not always be a delight?
First of all, we are all pilgrims of sort, on a journey of discipleship with many lessons to learn.
Secondly, struggling with something is part of the learning process.
This morning I want us to think together about, HINDRANCES TO PRAYER.
One colorful expression from Jeannie’s upbringing (if I am recollecting her account correctly)
was hearing her younger brother Mark saying to his mother, “Mom … Tim’s hindering me.”
So. what might it be that is hindering us?
It might be that our prayers seem difficult simply because of growing pains as a disciple.
But it also might be the case, that our prayers are hindered by our own bad behavior.
Could it be that God is purposely not responding to our prayers, at least not in ways we deem a favorable way, due to...
OUR OWN SINFULNESS
Read from Psalm 66:16-20?
Wedged in the heart of this text, vs.18 states, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear me.”
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah explicitly warned Judah & Jerusalem (Isa.59:1-2):
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.
Our self-centeredness and sinfulness often distracts us from praying to God as we ought.
Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.
In the case of habitual and intentional sin on our part (and perhaps a kind of selfish sinfulness that escapes our awareness),
such may be working to block our Holy God from hearing us.
It’s possible to become so wrapped up in SELF, that we don’t see our selfishness as sinfulness.
This hindrance to prayer may sneak its way into our prayer life by means of petitions
that are continually and predominately self-centered and self-seeking.
If you find your prayers focusing almost always on YOU, you yourself may be the very hindrance you seek to avoid.
James, the brother of Lord (or bondservant of God as he calls himself) exposes this tendency (Js.4:3).
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
We thank you for the many prayers offered for Isaiah Wong - - our nephew and Sydney Jeanne’s husband.
He was in a head-on collision on Thursday morning/afternoon in Yuma, AZ.
He was initially unresponsive, but after being “life-flighted” three hours away to Phoenix, he is making some progress.
Isaiah’s accident reminds us all of the fragility of life. One day we can be young and energetic and full of life …
a new father with a new job and a bright future. And then suddenly our life can hang in the balance.
Later on in chapter 4, James reminds his readers (Js.4:13-15):
Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there
and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
Instead you ought to say, ‘IF THE LORD WILLS, we shall live and also do this or that.’
I am continually emailing various church-related documents to Rob Espinosa for the website.
Invariably, Rob will close his reply to me with something like, “Lord willing, we will see you Sunday/Wednesday.”
When stated sincerely (and not with vain or empty repetition), this is a very Biblical way to operate.
God has certain keen expectations for us as His holy people.
Prov.21:13 warns, “whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
Listen to Paul’s exhortation in Philp.2:3-4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of your regard one another as
more important that himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others.
Paul goes on to direct (Philp.2:5ff): have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…He emptied Himself…
We cannot help but reflect on the night before the Lord’s crucifixion.
Jesus was weighed down by the shadow of the impending cross.
Not so much the physical pain but the anticipation of the “anguish of forsakenness” that He would
experience in becoming a curse for man’s sin (Gal.3:1313), in becoming sin on our behalf (2Cor.5;21)
But even then and there, when it was all about HIS atoning work on our behalf, it was not about Him.
“Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not my will but Thine be done.” (Lk.22:42).
This phrase, THY WILL BE DONE (Mt.6:10), is a keystone to the model prayer.
AN UNWILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE OTHERS
Have you ever considered that your prayers may be hindered by your own unforgiving spirit?
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus (Mk.11:25-26): Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have
anything against anyone; So that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.
But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.
I don’t need to tell you that this is a serious matter.
In Mt.5:23-24 Jesus underscores the gravity of this issue with a very vivid illustration:
If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift
there before the altar; and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
The implication here is plain: if we harbor bitterness or have an unforgiving heart, our gift will NOT be acceptable.
How can we ask God to extend to us His love, grace and mercy, if we are unwilling to do the same to others?
I dare not ask God to forgive me when I am unwilling to grant pardon to another - - or ignore a rift that is between us.
This is precisely point of Jesus’ parable found in Mt.18:23-35.
This parable was given in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother?” (Mt.18:21).
What is noteworthy in this parable is how the anger of the Lord is stirred greatly by the unwillingness of one
who has been forgiven so much, to forgive some relatively minor transgression on the part of another.
John Macarthur (Lord, Teach Me To Pray, pg.111) hits the nail on the head in writing,
“When we are unforgiving, we render our prayers of confession ineffective and
cut ourselves off from the forgiveness God would grant us for our sins.”
We have one more point, about things that might hinder our prayers.
But before we get to this third and final point, I want to invite you back next Sunday for a kind of sequel.
If we know the Scriptures very well at all, surely we must consider that sometimes our prayers are
“hindered” (overridden) by THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. This is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow.
Perhaps it is simply because it is an acknowledgement that we don’t always know what is best.
This falls under the canopy of, “THY WILL be done.”
This is going to be a very important lesson that we all need to grasp more fully.
STRIFE AT HOME
Sometimes the very thing that hinders our prayers is right under our noses.
Listen to Peter’s words in 1Pet.3:7.
You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understandable way, as with a weaker vessel, Since she is a woman;
and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
To read this text isolated from the culture in which it was written, is to sorely miss the point.
It would be a mistake to tag Peter as one who was condescending in his view of women.
He is writing in a time in history when women were treated quite badly – regarded as “chattle”.
He’s addressing the sinfulness of man in mistreating their wives.
Peter’s point is really quite simple: to mistreat your wife is to erect a barrier between you and Jehovah God.
God’s way is that a man HONOR his wife.
Dwell with her in a considerate and respectful manner.
If you as a husband are behaving as a tyrant, don’t expect that God will hear your prayers.
Husbands are not bosses, they are God-appointed caretakers who protect & provide for, and nourish & cherish their wives.
God’s intent is that our homes be havens of rest and peace - - a place noted for both serenity & stability.
When our home are havens, this lubricates the pipeline in our communication with our Father in heaven.
In summary, here are three things that might be hindering your prayers.
Our own sinfulness and selfishness - - am I asking with the wrong motive - - are my prayers all about ME?.
Our unwillingness to forgive others who have wronged us - - Do I not care that issues exist with my brethren?
Our mistreatment of God’s gift to us in the form of our mates, our wives - - is my home a haven or a hornet’s nest?
We have the power to eradicate each one of these barriers.
But to do so will require a willingness on our part to heed the word of God - -
To become “doers of the word”, not merely hearers who delude ourselves (Js.1:22).