Prayer (1)

Course:  The Importance of Effective Prayer.

Lesson 7

Lesson Title:  Hindrances to Prayer. 


Lesson Text:  1 John 3:22.


Introduction:  Our prayers will be answered if we pray right.  Scripture clearly teaches this.  When the disciples were unable to cast out a devil Jesus told them it was because of unbelief,  Matthew 17:20  ‘And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’

 If we want our prayers to be answered it is essential that we fulfil God’s requirements.

·        We must continuously walk in obedience to God’s word and fulfil the conditions that God requires, such as, abiding in Christ (John 15:7). 

·        We must be led by the Holy Spirit. 

·        We must keeping right relationships with God and with others.  

We should expect our prayers to be answered.  If they are not answered there is a reason.


Introductory illustration:   Charles Finney – Prayers not answered. 

I listened to the prayers which I heard offered in those prayer meetings with all the attention that I could give to prayers so cold and formal.  In every prayer they prayed for the gift and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.   Both in their prayers and in their remarks, which were occasionally interspersed, they acknowledged that they did not prevail with God.   This was most evident, and had almost made me a sceptic.

Seeing me so frequently in their prayer-meeting, the leader, on one occasion, asked me if I did not wish them to pray for me.  I replied:  "No," I said: "I suppose that I need to be prayed for, but your  prayers are not answered.  You confess it yourselves."

(Power from on High  p.26-27)


Exposition:  Reasons for unanswered prayer.

1.      We will not see answered prayer if we pray selfishly with wrong motives or wrong desires.  James 4:3  ‘You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.’

·        Our prayers must always put the glory of God first.  See Acts 4:23-24, the disciples had no concern for their own welfare – their prayer is answered in power because the disciples were concerned only for the glory of God.

·        Prayers of George Müller; first priority ‘the glory of God’.  The prayers of George Müller were answered in a tremendous.  Although he had great needs at the orphanages in Bristol he learnt the secret that the first concern must be ‘the glory of God’.  See Andrew Murray on George Müller, ‘With Christ in the School of Prayer’.


2.      We will not see answered prayer if we doubt that God will answer, James 1:6  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

·        Answered prayer is dependent upon having faith that God will answer.  Mark 11:23  ‘For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he says.’   We must build up our faith so that our prayers have power with God.  Mark 9:23  ‘Jesus said unto him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.’

Ways of building up our faith:

(a)    Filling our minds with the word of God, Romans 10:17. 

(b)    Fellowship with God’s people and building one another up in the scriptures.  Heb 10:25  ‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.’

(c)     Testimonies of answered prayer.


·        We can have great faith because God has promised that if we ask anything according to His will He will answer.  1 John 5:14  ‘And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us:’  We must know His will, Romans 12:1-2.


1.      If we keep sin or idols in our hearts, Psalm 66:18 ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear:’ Sin in hearts will stop our prayers from being answered.  Sometimes when we pray we are aware of something that needs to be put right.   Jesus told His disciples,  ‘And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.’ (Mark 11:25).  We become aware of the sin of unforgiveness when we pray because it becomes a barrier between us and God.  

·        We must keep our hearts free from wrong relationships, Matt. 5:23-24 ‘Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’  It is our responsibility to approach someone in a reconciliatory manner when they have something against us. 

Christians must be

(a)     easy to approach and

(b)     not easily offended.


·        We must keep our hearts from wrong desires and from idolatry, Proverbs 4:23  ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.’  The prophet Ezekiel prophesied concerning the idols in the hearts of Israel.  Ezekiel 14:3 ‘And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,  Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?   The Apostle John warned against having idols in the heart,  1 John 5:21 ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.’  An idol is something that takes the place in our hearts that only God rightfully owns.  


4.      Our relationships with others - If we do not care for others or forgive them, 1 John 3:22  ‘And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.’

·        The Lord’s commandment is that we must love one another, John 13:34  ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’


·        We must forgive others, Matthew 6:15  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


·        If we do not have a right relationship in our marriage, 1 Peter 3:7  ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.’  The husband must love his wife, and the wife respect her husband,  Ephesians 5:33  ‘Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.’




We are assured our prayers will be answered when we meet the conditions God has set in scripture.

1.      We must pray with right motives and right desires.

2.      We must pray with faith that God will do what He has promised.

3.      We must not allow sin or idolatry to enter our hearts and lives.

4.      We must walk in love, keeping right relationships especially within the home.



Question checklist:

1)     In making all decisions ask 'Will this glorify the Lord?'  Only go through with it if the answer is yes.

2)     In things I do ask  'Am I sure this is not sinful or idolatrous'.  If there is doubt then reject it.

3)     In relationships ask ' Am I showing love and forgiveness?'  If not then repent and put things right in my heart.

4)     In marriage ask 'am I showing love and respect towards my husband or wife?'  If not then ask forgiveness and begin anew.

5)     Check that our prayers are being answered if not then ask the Lord to show us why not.



Course Index




‘How to Pray’

Chapter 9