Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
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Hindrances to Prayer

The Lord God had established a covenant bond between Himself and mankind, so that Adam and Eve could speak openly and freely with Him about whatever was on their minds. The Fall into sin ruined that open lines of communication between man and God. In His abundant mercy, though, God the Creator gave His Son to pay for sin, and the result that Godís people may boldly come into His presence to speak to the Creator of heaven and earth. This God is so interested in His children that He would have us speak with Him of all thatís important to us at any moment of the day. This was the material of the previous submission on the possibility of prayer. 

The fact that God has opened up the channels of communication between us and God, however, does not mean that these channels are always open. We remain sinners, and through our sins can hinder communication with God. 

Sin hinders Prayer 

When God came to Adam and Eve after their fall into sin, Adam and Eve "hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God" (Gen 3:8). They had no desire to speak to God. That was not because God had changed; it was rather because they had themselves become sinful. It was their own identity as sinners that made praying impossible for them. 

The apostle Peter writes about this very matter when he discusses the relation between husbands and wives. Peter says this: 

"Husbands, likewise, dwell with [your wives] with understanding, giving honour 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" (I Pet 3:7). The implication of the apostleís words is evident: friction in marriage hinders prayer. 

The concept of friction frustrating prayer is not new with Peter. The Lord Jesus Christ had spoken in the same way in His Sermon on the Mount. Said Jesus: 

"Therefore 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" (Mt 5:23f). The altar of the OT, we need to recall, is symbolic of prayer (cf Ps 141:2). Jesusí instruction is to forego praying in favour of first patching up differences with a brother. This instruction from the Saviour need not surprise us, nor strike us as overly rigid or pious. Though the fall into sin generated disharmony between God and man, God in grace saw to it that through Christ harmony should be restored; there is reconciliation with God for Godís children. Those children now are renewed by the Spirit of Christ, and as such enabled to love each other as God has loved us. So it is that love for another is even the hallmark of the Christian: "by this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother" (I Jn 3:10). If I, then, am party to tension with a brother, I am party to something that is distinctly alien to the regenerated believer. Small wonder that God is unwilling to hear the prayer of someone who does not live in harmony with his brother or sister. 


Do your prayers bounce off the ceiling? Do you find praying a difficult, frustrating exercise? Please, dear reader, we may do well to look at our own lives. Is our relation with the neighbour, be it in marriage or outside of marriage, pleasing to God, in keeping with the renewal promised for those saved by Christís blood? Do you live at loggerheads with your spouse, your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters in the faith, with anyone? It is Godís wish that we, before we pray, do all within our power to be reconciled with our neighbour. Jesus in that passage quoted earlier from Mt 5 did not say that the fault of the friction has to be my own before I do something about it; Jesus rather spoke about your brother having something against you. In that circumstance, said Jesus, you are to go and be reconciled; else your prayers will be hindered. 

Admittedly, in this sinful world not every dispute can be cleaned up as ought. But do our best to resolve the tensions that be we must. Consider what the apostle writes in I Jn 3: "we receive from [God] whatever we ask" Ėwhen?Ė "if our hearts do not condemn us." And when is that? When "we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him" (vss 21f). In the matter of tensions, Godís command is that we do whatever we can to resolve them. To quote Paul: "if possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all" (Rom 12:18). 

Unconfessed Sin 

Yet it is not only friction, lack of love towards others, that hinders prayer. Praying is made difficult, yes, impossible, also when the person praying embraces habits of living that are contrary to the commands of the One to whom he prays. God wishes to hear His children in prayer, God is so interested in them that He has promised to hear. But what now if the children of God do not act like children of God? What if those with whom God has established His covenant, His gracious Father-child relationship, choose to live like those who have a bond with Satan? We understand: then God does not hear that prayer, does not answer. As a Christian parent is not going to comply with the requests from his son who lives in blatant sin, so God too is not going to answer the requests of those covenant children of His who demonstrate in their lifestyle that they have no regard for Him. Itís what James says: "you ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (4:3). 


Sin in our lives hinders prayer. In the face of difficulties with prayer, we do well not to look in first instance at different techniques of praying (as if there is a "How to" book on prayer); we do well to look first at our personal lives. I need to consider: God has made me His child. I need, then, to be different than the world. Am I? My Father in Jesus Christ certainly wishes me to be different. So: am I? If not, if my habits and attitudes parallel those of the children of Satan, I need not at all be surprised that I find praying frustrating, find heaven closed to my prayers, find my prayers bouncing off the ceiling. And it will not improve either, unless I repent

 To Whom do I Pray