Prayer is the greatest privilege this side of heaven. Prayer is perhaps the greatest expression of God's power in the world. [Eph 3:10], [Eph 6:10-18], [John 14:12-14] Prayer is virtually God's blank check to each of His children. [Rom 8:32] Prayer is entering God's awesome presence [Hbr 4:14-16] in fullness of joy. [Ps 16:11] Prayer is fellowship with Almighty God, beholding "the beauty of the Lord". [Ps 27:4] Prayer is receiving God's love in the most intimate manner possible, while still living in this flesh. God even renews our strength through prayer. [Is 40:31] WHY OH WHY then, is it so hard to pray, at times ?!?
The first principle to establish in our hearts completely, is that no matter what may hinder our prayer, it can NEVER prevent our prayer. [Rom 8:31-39] Secondly, though the scripture points out several hindrances to prayer, all are related to an issue Jesus pointed to, in the garden of Gethsemene : the weakness of our flesh. [Matt 26:41] As this subtlety is explored, we will see that God designed prayer to include both blessing and struggle, for a very good purpose, namely, to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. He does not condemn us for the weakness of our flesh, but, commands us to walk in His Spirit, and thereby receive His victory over its tyranny. Moreover, we should discover that in most cases, the answer to these prayer hindrances is simply more prayer. Let's look at all these hindrances first, then elaborate.
NOTE: Please examine ALL the scriptures noted, for each hindrance below. For, unlike the "What the Bible Says About Prayer" page, it is here pointed out, not just justification for each assertion, but, also scriptures that give the Bible's prescribed cure, for each hindrance.
Prayer can be hindered by sin in our lives [Ps 66:18], [2Chr 7:14], [Is 59:1-2], Ps 139:23-24, 1Jn 1:9, James 5:16
Prayer can be hindered by distraction, or, preoccupation with the cares of this life [James 4:1-4], [Luke 21:34-36], James 4:5-10, Col 3:1-2, Matt 6:33-34, Phil 4:6-7
Prayer can be hindered by broken relationships [Matt 5:23- 24], Phil 2:2-5, 1Thess 3:12
Prayer can be hindered by an unforgiving, or judgmental spirit [Mar 11:25-26], [Matt 6:12], [Mat 18:23-35], Luke 6:37, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13
Prayer can be hindered (husbands only) by lack of godly consideration toward one's wife [1Peter 3:7], Eph 5:25-33
Prayer can be hindered by unbelief [James 1:5-8], [Heb 11:6], 1Tim 2:8, Heb 10:23, Rom 8:32, 1Jn 4:16,
Prayer can be hindered by spiritual warfare (not always though, and most often, God lovingly shields us from details) [Eph 6:10-18], [Dan 10:1-13], Rom 16:19-20, Luke 10:19-20, James 2:19, James 4:7, 1Jn 4:4
Prayer is hindered by the weakness of our flesh [Matt 26:41], ...Matt 26:41, Rom 8:26, Rom 8:1, Rom 5:1-5, Gal 2:20, Gal 5:22-25, Rom 6:11, Rom 8:10-15
Prayer is hindered by not praying according to God's will [1Jn 4:4], [James 4:3], , , , Rom 12:1-2,
It might also be argued that false doctrine, or, ignorance of God's Word may hinder prayer. The fact that we are surfing this page should imply this, but, I could not find a direct scriptural reference... what can I say, pray about it. If you find any pertinent scriptures, please email the references, so we can post them.
In the garden of Gethsemene, Jesus told the sleeping disciples, who should have been praying, to "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak". We see three dynamics at work in our prayer life : temptation, the spirit, and the flesh. If we are born again Christians, the spirit is our new, "born again" man, created after the image of Jesus Christ (the NASB and NIV read "new self"). [Eph 4:24] [NIV] [NASB], [Col 3:10] This is the real you! The Bible says we are new creations in Christ [2Cor 5:17], having received a new nature, when we received Jesus. When we receive Jesus into our hearts [Gal 4:6] [Eph 3:17], the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, and prayer became a natural desire : "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God... the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" [Rom 8:14-16, 26] This is what God sees when He looks at me/you/us : His precious child, who wants nothing less than to be just like Jesus Christ, and you can't turn it off. If you could, you wouldn't be concerned about the quality of your prayer life. Our problem is the flesh.
When the bible mentions our "flesh", it usually refers to "sin" (singular), that is, the sinful nature of man [Rom 7:18], [Rom 7:24], [Col 2:11] ; The sinful nature is the principle or source, of "sins" (plural), which we commit. This is the state of every human being, until they are born again, into a living relationship with Jesus. [John 3:3], [1John 5:10-12], [Gal 3:22], [Eph 2:1-9], [Tit 3:3-7] For the born again believer, this is the "old man" [Rom 6:6] , or "old self" [NASB] The old man resides in the physical body somehow (we won't even try to explain how or why, the Bible simply indicates that it does). If one could remove the source of sin, it could never occur, and thus, we would never commit "sins". This is precisely what happens when a born again believer dies in this body, and goes to be with the Lord. [2Cor 5:8], [Phil 1:20-24] The believer then gets a new body, like unto Jesus' heavenly body, in which "sin" does not dwell [1Cor 15:35-54], [1John 3:2], [2Cor 5:1-8], and begins to dwell in a place where sin is not even present, namely heaven. But, we aren't in heaven yet, are we ? We are in these bodies.
It is enormously beneficial for us to thoroughly understand that, as born again Christians, we are new spirits, in old bodies. We are born again spirits that are "willing", that is fervently seeking to be holy; but, we also live in a body that craves to sin. [Rom 7:17- 8:4] As long as we are living in this body, we will struggle to be holy. Phil 3:12-15 God designed it that way. This is God's will. Paul wrote, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." [2Cor 4:7] Note that Paul wrote "the Spirit also helps OUR infirmities: for WE know not what WE should pray for as WE ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for US". Rom 8:26 Paul himself was not exempt from such difficulty in prayer. Epaphras "labored fervently" in prayer for the Colossians. [Col 4:12] The word is agonizomai. I'm not a Greek scholar, but, it looks like "agonize" to me, and elsewhere in scripture it is also translated "strive" and "fight". This is normal. God has allowed this struggle between our flesh and our spirit, to force us to be wholly dependent upon Him, and that He would get all the glory, for the victory He freely gives us in Christ. Rom 3:24, Rom 8:32, 1Cor 2:12
Our flesh, that is, our old nature, though dead in Christ [Gal 2:20, and this is a great mystery], [Rom 6:6], nevertheless is a daily cross to bear. In fact, it is our old nature's instinct not to pray. [1Cor 2:14], [Rom 3:11] Moreover, the truth is, our old fleshly nature is too strong for us. [Gal 5:17, Rom 7:18], and will not allow us to live a godly life in Christ. ONLY the Holy Spirit can overcome our flesh, and cause us to live victorious in Christ Gal 5:16-25, Rom 8:13, Phil 2:13. This is true of all aspects of our Christian life, including prayer.
Only the Holy Spirit can empower us to pray as Jesus did. [Mat 14:23], [Mark 1:35], [Mark 6:46], [Luke 5:16], [Luke 6:12], [Luke 22:44], [Heb 5:7] Whenever we experience times of great comfort, victory, clarity of purpose, and assurance of God's love, in prayer, it is because the Holy Spirit has interceded with us in prayer. He joined the prayer meeting. Ever meet someone who seems to pray all the time ? Always wants to pray, no hesitation, and it's always a blessing to pray with them ? Such people are truly rare in our days, and, they would be the first to declare that it has nothing to do with who they are in themselves, but, the Holy Spirit is interceding with them. The Holy Spirit ALWAYS wants to pray.
Now, let's consider each of the prayer hindrances noted above. Is not sin in our lives the result of the flesh? Is not distraction, or, preoccupation with the cares of this life a characteristic of the flesh? Are not broken relationships a result of stepping out in the flesh? Is not lack of godly consideration toward one's wife because a husband is walking in the flesh, instead of the Spirit? Is not an unforgiving, or judgmental spirit characteristic of the flesh? Is not unbelief a weakness of the flesh? All these things are dealt with, when we walk in the Spirit, instead of the flesh. And in this life, at any particular moment, we each are either walking in the Spirit, or we are walking in the flesh : there is no middle ground.
The only hindrance not directly attributable to the flesh is spiritual warfare... or is it? Didn't Jesus say "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation..."? When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit came upon Him, in the form of a dove. [Luke 3:21-22] He was then led by the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil (I believe most of our trials are simply struggles with our flesh, but, in this case, Jesus dealt with spiritual warfare too). [Matt 4:1] He overcame the devil, by prayer, fasting, and wielding the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. [Matt 4:2-11] (It doesn't overtly state that He was praying, but, I see nothing in the scripture about fasting without prayer.) He then returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. [Luke 4:14]
Do you see a pattern yet ? The struggling aspect of prayer is a tool in God's hands, to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, by forcing us to yield to the Spirit's power alone, and to apply the Word of God boldly. We grow in grace from each of these experiences, as we learn to depend on the Holy Spirit more, each day. The struggle is an instrument to draw us closer to God. The struggle will always be a factor in our journeys with God, and we should NOT feel condemned, or be discouraged about it. We are daily and progressively being delivered of the flesh's inclination toward self effort, and passively falling upon God's grace to uphold us. 2Cor 4:16, 2Cor 3:17-18. We must press on in prayer, as in life, waiting patiently, expectantly, importunately upon God, and the Holy Spirit will come with us to pray. Phil 3:12-15, Rom 8:15, Rom 8:26, John 14:16-18.
BTW, Notice how heavily the eight chapter of Romans is referenced on this page? I would encourage anyone who doesn't know this chapter well, to master it, and consider committing verses 1, 2, 15, 26, 28, 31, 32, 38, and 39 to memory. Ps 119:11
<<PREV NEXT >>