Five More Prayer Blockers

Yesterday, we examined three areas that Scripture warns can clog up our prayer lives. Today, let’s take a closer look at five more “prayer blockers.”

There are strong warnings against pride throughout Scripture. Several of these passages offer powerful insight to the subject of blocked prayer.

Proverbs 3:34 says, “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”

The “He” in this passage is the Lord (vs. 32-33). This Scripture says that He mocks the proud. The Greek word for mock is anthistēmi (don’t worry, there won’t be a vocab quiz). It means to set one’s self against, to withstand, or to resist. Are you starting to see how this concept applies to our prayer lives?

James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” This warning is repeated again in 1 Peter 5:5.

These passages don’t simply state that God is frustrated with the prideful. They say he opposes the proud. In other words, pride causes God to block, obstruct, or work against us.

Is it possible that pride has become a prayer blocker in your life? Do you go to God with a list of all that you are doing for Him, expecting Him to do things your way in return? Or do you come to Him with an attitude of repentance and the clear understanding that He is God and you are not?

Broken Relationships
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

I know this is a passage for husbands about how to treat their wives but did you catch that part at the end? “So that nothing will hinder your prayers.” What’s that about? Why did Peter mention hindered prayers in a passage about husbands and wives? Clearly there is a connection between our relationships and the effectiveness of our prayer lives.

Here’s another clue to this mystery.

Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

This passage specifically addresses prayer. The bottom line here is that when we are praying for forgiveness we can’t expect that prayer to be answered unless we have forgiven others.

Don’t treat others as the Bible instructs us and our prayers will be hindered. Don’t offer forgiveness to the people who hurt us and our prayers for forgiveness won’t be answered. The clear conclusion is that our relationships with people impact our relationship with God.

Matthew 5:23-24 puts it this way, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

In other words, make things right in your relationships before you come to God.

Take a minute to think about your own relationships. Have you made a mistake that you need to make right? Are you holding on to unforgiveness while simultaneously praying that God will forgive you? If so, stop reading! Turn off your computer and go be reconciled “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Lack of Compassion for Those in Need
If you’re still reading this it means you have your relationships in order. Good! But Scripture outlines another way that the way we treat others can become a prayer blocker.

Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”

When I look at my own life, this Truth stings a bit. I don’t make a habit of responding to the needy around me and yet I expect God to respond immediately when I have a need. This double standard can clearly lead to blocked prayers.

Wrong Motives
James 4:2 offers a great deal of hope on the subject of prayer.

It says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.”

The implication is that when we ask God for something we can expect Him to provide, but there is an important part of this passage that I tend to gloss over.

Verse 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.”

God does answer prayer, but He’s upfront about the fact that the intentions of our hearts are not hidden from Him. This verse does indicate that when we ask God for something we can expect to receive it but only when our motives are pure. So often I approach God with a request rooted in wrong motives. I want Him to change my circumstances so that I can experience greater comfort, affirmation, or convenience.

We can’t sneak our wrong motives past Him. We can’t ask for things for our own glory and expect God to move. If we go to God with our hearts out of whack, our pipeline to Him is going to get clogged.

The last prayer blocker is one I personally struggle with often—doubt.

James 1:5-7 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

That is about as clear as Scripture ever gets. If we doubt, we shouldn’t expect anything from God.

I like the analogy James gives in this passage. When we doubt, we become like a wave on the sea. Think of the seashore for a minute. The waves come in and then pull back out. Then come in and then back out.

Our prayers can look a lot like this when we doubt that God will answer. We give Him our requests but then our heart retreats and we try to solve the problem on our own. When that doesn’t work we send our request back to God but when we start to wonder if He is really good or really able we loose faith and wonder where God has gone. God asks to bring our prayers to Him and wait for Him to respond while holding on to the faith that He will do what He has promised.

Recently, I found my prayer journal from six years ago. I couldn’t believe how God had moved in my life since those prayers were written. Every single prayer that I had written down has been answered.

I wrote those journal entries during a painful time when I really wanted God to change my circumstances. Several times I cried out to Him asking, “Why don’t you hear me?” Doubt was a constant companion during that season.

But as each prayer was (slowly) answered my faith strengthened. Now looking back I cannot believe the things that God has done in my life. I was reminded that doubt doesn’t stand a chance when we take time to notice the prayers that God has already answered.

In fact, that’s how I’d like to wrap up this series on prayer blockers. I want you to take to some time to reflect on the specific prayers God has answered in your own life.

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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