Worship Times

Sundays    10:30 a.m.
                    4:00 p.m.

Today's Verse


HINDERED PRAYERS

By Mark Grant

In Proverbs the first chapter we read, “Because I have called and you refused. I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded. Because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke. I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes. When your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safety, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Prov. 1:24-33). In these few verses we find as to why most people never have their prayers heard by God. It is God who has called us, but most people never come. It is God who stretches out His hand, but most pay no attention. It is God who has poured out His heart and made known His thoughts, given His counsel and rebuke. Still, the majority live out their lives feeling they have no need of God’s direction or counsel and fall into many foolish and disastrous calamities. Yet many people still ask the question, “why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” The reason is simple. There are obviously some things that can hinder our prayers. The first thing that all of us need to recognize is that these hindrances have been caused by man and not by God! “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies” (v. 29-31). Let us examine the word of God to see exactly what things can hinder our prayers unto God.


PRAYER IS FOR THE OBEDIENT

First of all, prayer is a privilege for those who are in fellowship with God. God hears those whose lives are marked by such traits, as obedience to God’s word and submission to God’s will. Those who choose to live in defiance to God’s word and reject God’s will by living in habitual sin prevent God from hearing and answering their prayers. “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Prov. 15:29). If one desires to draw near to God, then God calls upon man to repent in humility and subjection before God and return to Him.“Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:6-10).   


AN HUMBLE ATTITUDE

If Christians desire for God to listen and answer their prayers then they need to approach him with a humble attitude. Jesus “spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather then the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14) The Pharisee’s words was more boasting about himself than a prayer unto God. His failure was a lack of humility, a proud and selfish arrogance that had developed within him to where he even despised and belittled others. His prayer was just a long speech that acknowledged no need, sought no blessing, confessed no lack, admitted no sin, and beseeched no mercy; it was as cold and distant as an iceberg. He only wanted to enumerate his virtues and close with an insult cast in the direction of the publican, with no vision at all upon God. The Pharisee failed to receive anything at all because he did not request anything. All of the pompous language of the Pharisee was valueless for it amounted to absolutely nothing. His prayer was not merely useless and futile, but it was an offense unto God. Although God was mentioned, the prayer was actually “with himself,” presumably rising no higher than where he stood.

The prayer of the publican (tax-collector), on the other hand, was short, informal, and warm with the earnestness of a soul burdened with sin. His “standing afar off” reveals that he did not view himself worthy to come near the lordly Pharisee, since he considered him to be a righteous man. He then confessed he was a “sinner,” begged the Lord for mercy, and was attested by sorrow and shame when he smote his breast and “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven.” Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified,” not because of his past record but by his approach unto God with a humble attitude. This was one of the few prayers Jesus ever commended. So humble yourselves before God with self-examination and confession of sins and you will experience the blessings He has for all in His good time. Either in this life or in the next He will honor you. “Be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:5-7).


NOT ASKING AND ASKING AMISS

In James the fourth chapter we read, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). When James wrote this letter to these Christians they were not living in a climate of peace necessary for the production of righteousness (3:18), it was instead an atmosphere of constant “fights and quarrels.” While these verses may not be pleasant to read and contemplate, they should still be studied and taught from the pulpit. Fighting and quarreling among believers are devastating to the cause of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 13:20). James explains that these quarrels and fights result from evil desires battling within people. The pursuit of pleasure, money, power, prestige, higher status, more recognition sets Christians at each other’s throats. The gratification of bodily lusts to get what we want lead Christians to trample each other down in the rush to grasp them. To fight in order to have what we desire drives Christians to wickedness, envy, and even hatred. In the end, it shuts the door of prayer. Since there is a vast contrast between seeking God and seeking pleasure, those who are seeking only pleasure usually do not ask God for help. But if some pleasure seekers should ask God for help, then they are asking amiss or with the wrong motives.

James mentions the most common problem that Christians have in prayer, is a failure to ask. For He says, “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” How often do you talk to God or do you talk to God at all? Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Jesus is teaching us to be persistent in pursuing God’s help. Christians often give up after a few halfhearted efforts and conclude they cannot draw near too God. Knowing God takes faith, focus, and persistence for Him. Jesus assures us that we will be rewarded when we are unrelenting in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Don’t give up in your efforts to seek God’s help. (1 Thess. 5:17).

The next point that James makes as to why these Christians prayers had become hindered was that “you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” When you pray to God do you ask for things to only satisfy your own desires and pleasures, or do you seek God’s Will? Your prayers can become powerful when you change your desire to correspond in harmony with doing God’s will first. The apostle John wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Even when Jesus was dreading His approaching death on the cross, He still affirmed His commitment to do God’s Will and not just His own. As Christians let us affirm our commitment to God’s Will in prayer, because self-centered prayers that ignore God’s Will shall bring NO enduring satisfaction.


DOUBT

As Christians we cannot hope to obtain any favor from God in prayer if there is not true faith in Christ Jesus. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). A doubtful mind is a Christian who believes in the existence of God but is not completely convinced that God’s way is the best. A Christian can only hope for favor from God in answering prayer when he puts his trust and confidence in Christ Jesus. Doubting comes from the Greek word “diakrinomenos” which means, “to be divided in one’s mind” or “to debate.” The Christian who doubts is one who is divided in his mind and who waves between two opinions. One moment faith and hope impel him to come to God; the next moment the mind is filled with uncertainty and disbelief. Such an attitude is graphically illustrated by “a wave of the sea.” Completely lacking in stability, it is “driven and tossed by the wind.” Prayer that moves God to respond must be marked by the constancy of unwavering faith. Jesus said, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:22-24). We must be willing to rely on God and expect that He will hear our prayer and answer it when it is according to His will. If your faith is new, weak, or struggling, remember to put your dependence and assurance in God. To stabilize your wavering or doubtful mind, commit yourself wholeheartedly to God and be loyal to Him until the end.

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

If a Christian husband is not considerate or respectful toward his believing (or unbelieving) wife, then his prayers will not be heard, because a spiritual relationship with God depends on right relationships with those in the home. Peter wrote, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). If the husband is the cause for bickering, bitterness, and discord in the home, then there can be no hope of acceptable prayer offered unto God. Anyone with a spirit of strife, irritability, harsh words, a disposition to easily take offence, and unwillingness to forgive can cause prayers to be cut off before God. It is God’s desire that the husband and wife should be “joint-heirs” in their relationship so that their prayers may not be hindered! A marriage relationship should be at peace and have true happiness not only for the sake of the husband and wife but also for the sake of the children. “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Prov. 24:3-4). There is a simple and easy way of having a happy home where peace and contentment dwell. It is to allow the spirit of Christ and his gospel to reign there. When unity and harmony succeed in the home, it is then that the husband and wife can join their efforts in united prayer to the throne of grace.


PRAYERS IN PUBLIC WORSHIP

The apostle Paul wrote and instructed Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8). The first thing that Paul establishes with Timothy is that the “men” are to conduct and lead the public worship service. “I desire” does not express the tone of authority represented in the verb, (Boulomai) that means, “it is my will” as others translate “I will” (KJV). Those who lead prayers in any public worship service must be the men of the congregation, and not the women if it is going to be acceptable unto God (1 Cor. 14:33-34). A woman’s positive duty in the church (or any public place) is to make herself noticeable by good works, not by personal display. Whether it be in the Church or in a spiritual matter Paul sets forth the principle that a Christian woman’s role, in relation to the man, is one of subordination and she is not to act in an authoritative way (1 Tim. 2:9-15).

That the men pray everywhere” or “in every place” is directions that are to be applied to every Church (or public gathering) without exception. No allowance is to be made for abnormal conditions no matter where the location of the congregation might be. Otherwise, the woman who wants to get in the public pulpit will be on modern-day television, radio, Sunday School classes, and even a street corner, etc., etc. The Bible teaches that location of worship and prayer is not at all what is important, but it is the attitude of the worshiper who desires to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24).

Lifting up holy hands” is not an example demanding a posture in prayer, but is merely an allusion to the ancient practice of presenting the uplifted hands in respectful petition to God (2 Chron. 6:12-13; Neh. 8:6; Psa. 141:2). “Holy hands” here, mean hands that are not defiled by habitual sin, for men who lead public prayer cannot pray effectively unless their lives are clean and committed to God. The idea is, that men who approach God in public worship should do so in a pure and holy manner. The New Century Version translates this as, “So, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up their hands in a holy manner, without anger and arguments” (1 Tim. 2:8). David said that when he was in God’s house that, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me, He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me” (Psa. 66:18-20). It was Solomon who wrote, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Prov. 28:9). Sin in the Christian life can hinder our prayers unto God, especially leaders in the Lord’s church. So let us all strive to live a life of moral purity for “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear(1 Pet. 1:15-17).

Without wrath” comes from the Greek word orge that is defined as, “wrath, anger, vengeance, and indignation.” J. H. Thayer explains orge as, “especially oriented to revenge or punishment.” W. E. Vine’s suggests, “a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge.” It is impossible for a Christian to pray with comfort, or to suppose that his prayers will be heard, if he cherishes vindictive feelings toward another person. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:15). “The wrath (orge), of man, said James, “does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath (orge), anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:30-32). Some of the actions and attitudes, which Christians display, can grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Paul warns us that bitterness, wrath, uproars, slander and bad attitudes toward others are not to be a part of the Christian life. Instead of acting this way, we should be compassionate and forgiving just as God is tenderhearted and forgiving toward us. Are you bringing sorrow or pleasing God with your attitudes and actions? We are to act in love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, just as God acted in love by sending his Son to die for our sins. If we are to obey Jesus, all wrath must be eliminated from life, and especially that wrath which lingers too long and seeks revenge. It is a warning to all Christians that if we have wrath in our heart, it is a barrier, which will hinder our prayers from reaching God.

And doubting” can have two different meanings. The Greek word used is dialogismos, which can mean both doubt and disputing. But the context seems to favor “disputing,” sense the Greek word dialogismos clearly has this meaning in Romans 14:1 and Philippians 2:14. The New International version translates this verse as, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Tim. 2:8). As Christian leaders we are not to approach God in prayer in the midst of loud disputing and angry contentions. We are not to pray with a mind that is heated from arguments, and irritated by strife for victory. Bitterness that can come from quarrels and venomous wrangling are all a hindrance to prayer. “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (Phil.2: 14). Prayer is to be offered in a calm, serious, sober state of mind, and they who engage in fiery disputations, or in hot contention of any kind, are little fitted to unite in the solemn act of addressing God.

In conclusion, prayer is a simple act and a comfort to believers, who from the beginning have turned with confidence and faith to God. A believer is to pray about everything, confident that God hears prayers, cares, and is able to act. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Those whose lives demonstrate that they have no significant relationship with God (the unjust, the unconcerned, and the disobedient) have no basis on which to expect prayer to be heard. But those who experience a growing relationship with God marked by trust, obedience, love, harmony with other believers, can rest assure God does hear the prayer of those who live close to him. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7- New Living Translation).