We have been exploring prayer as relational – as “keeping company with God.”
What happens to your prayers when you allow an attitude or behavior in your life that is inconsistent with the nature of God? That attitude or behavior is like dirt in a fuel line, or a clot in an artery – it's a blockage that disrupts and damages.
Here are five things to avoid or correct in our lives – otherwise they will block our prayers. I have arranged them as the acrostic: I MUST.
There is nothing like unconfessed sin to interrupt prayer.
The Psalmist writes (Psalm 66:18 NKJ):
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.
This is a situation in which you are aware of sin in your life. You do nothing about it; you allow it to persist – even cherish it.
It is of no consequence what that sin is. Your consent to its presence in your life is enough to reveal what is important to you.
The effect is that the Lord will not listen to your prayer.
James writes about wrong motives in our prayers (James 4:2-3):
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Do you ever stop to ask why you are asking for something in prayer? What is your motivation? Is it personal pleasure, pride, enrichment, or some other self-centered purpose?
Jesus says (John 14:13):
… I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
When you pray, examine your motives. Is it for God’s glory, or the blessing of others? If it is self-centered, be suspicious.
Forgiveness is at, or near, the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet is so poorly understood and practiced by Christians. Consider reading the series “Reclaiming Forgiveness” to get clarity about the meaning and practice of biblical forgiveness.
Here’s one text on forgiving in the context of prayer (Mark 11:24-25):
… I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Has a person acknowledged his or her wrong to you, and you have failed or refused to forgive that person? That failure or refusal to forgive has a destructive effect upon your prayer life.
Often, we ask God to provide for our needs, and we experience his extravagant generosity. And yet, there are those who ask us to help with their needs, and we ignore them.
In the Proverbs, the sage tells us (Proverbs 21:13):
If a [person] shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
This confirms what Jesus himself says (Luke 6:38):
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Withholding help for the legitimate needs of others distances you from God’s heart of generosity and impacts your prayer-life negatively.
5. Treatment of others
Peter writes about people being abused by those in authority. This may include a governor treating citizens unjustly, or a master/employer mistreating his servants or employees. In the same context, we read this insight directed to husbands (1 Peter 3:7):
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.
The unavoidable implication is that lack of consideration for one’s wife will hinder your prayers. Can this be extended to how you treat other people as well?
We have identified five things that will block or disrupt your prayers. There are more.
Here are three wholesome practices to build into your life to remove the blockages or disrupters in your prayer-life. In many ways, it is much the same as the daily Examen introduced in “5 steps that will strengthen your prayer-life.”
You may already be aware of the presence of a “prayer disrupter” in your life. In any event, find a quiet place on a regular basis and pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Be attentive and wait for God to respond. As things ‘bubble’ to the surface, take them as answers – matters that God wants you to deal with.
Second, for each “prayer disrupter” you identify, specifically name it and confess it as sin. You may even want to speak aloud the promise of 1 John 1:9 – or perhaps personalize the language as follows:
Father, I confess my sin of [specifics]. I thank you that you are faithful and just in forgiving me, and I receive your forgiveness for this my sin. Thank you for purifying me from all unrighteousness.
Third, take corrective action. For instance, you may have to go to a person and ask for that person's forgiveness for not forgiving him or her (U), or for mistreating her or him (T), or any other matter that has been brought to your attention.
I’m hoping this helps you identify and remove “prayer disrupters” in your life so you can get on with the wonderful practice of “keeping company with God.”
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