Avoiding the Hindrances to Prayer

January 20, 2007 Hebrews 4:14-16



1.  Last week, we began a new series in our ABF Ministry:  Too Busy NOT to pray!

- as we mentioned, Pastor Viars asked that we ‘tie’ the ABF study to the same subject we are studying in our worship services – which I think is a good idea (it reinforces BOTH)

- and certainly as we strive for “Reaching New Heights” in our faithfulness to pray – there are many things that we can learn

Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul.  Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” – MacArthur’s, Alone With God, p. 7.

> but one of the most important things for us to learn is that we need to pray MORE OFTEN and in a more biblical manner

- Our plans to include times of prayer in our ABF (individual, small groups, random prayers, specific topics, specific ministries, etc.

2.  Last week we started out with:  *A few questions to get you thinking about this subject:

1)  How would you define prayer?

Basically:  “Talking to God as you would to a beloved friend – without pretense or flippancy”
                 MacArthur, Alone with God, p. 7

2)  What would be our adversary’s view of prayer?

3)  What are some erroneous beliefs about prayer?

4)  What emphasis does the Bible give on this subject, and what passage(s) could you give to support your answer?

5)  Why don’t we pray?  Why is this area of Christian discipline so difficult an area in which to grow?

3.  We do need to remind ourselves of this important point:  Prayer is not THE most important thing in our relationship to God – it is a KEY part in the relationship, but there is something more important than us talking to God!

- i.e. God talking to us through His Word!

- but prayer is one of the major disciplines of the Christian life – just like memorization, meditation, study, evangelism, serving, etc.!

  • I need it // You need it // Our church needs it // our ABF needs it // our community, country, military, leadership, missionaries . . . .

4.  Let’s do a quick review of the PURPOSE of this series:

  1. To help us develop a more biblical understanding of God's purpose and goal in prayer
  2. To motivate individual believers to pray more and to pray in a more biblical manner
  3. To help us as a church family grow in our focus and practice of corporate prayer

5.  Last week we studied some ways to help you Develop Practical Prayer Skills in Your Prayer Live:

Examples:  1) Preparation time  2) Bible Time  3) Meditation Time  4)  Intercession time  
5)  Petition time  6) Faith time

Note: Recommend the following books to read:

  • MacArthur’s book, Alone with God, and Too Busy NOT to Pray, Bill Hybels

* Short version:           

A = Adoration – praising God for Who He is

C = Confession – admitting any sins (known or forgotten) – I john 1:9

T = Thanksgiving – thanking God for specifics –what He has done

S = Supplication – or requests made to God (specific and by faith – yet with the attitude of ‘not my will, but Your will be done’

6.  Today, our study centers on:  Avoiding the Hindrances to Prayer:

- we have direct access to throne room of God

- Please open your bible to Hebrews 4 [READ 4:14-16]

  • Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

7.  God welcomes us to come before the Throne of Grace, but that does not guarantee that God will do what we ask of Him or do it exactly the way we ask

- in fact, there are some real hindrances to that process

Example: When my children come to me and ask me for certain things (permission to do something, a desire to buy something – there are a few things that make that process rather difficult and challenging!

* Let’s consider 6 Hindrances to our Prayer Life:

“The best way t keep from having spiritual junk hinder your prayer life is to avoid it.  But when you haven’t, the best thing to do is clean it up as soon as possible.  I’ve found that there are . . . common blocks to effective prayer. I call them prayer killers because they take away all power from our prayers and hinder our relationship with God.”- John Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, p. 52

If you find that one or more of these apply to you, confess them to god and ask for His forgiveness to reestablish your connection to Hi

Hindrance #1:  Unconfessed Sin

  • Psalm 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.

- the Psalmist goes on to write in the next 2 verses;

> Psalm 66:19 But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer nor His lovingkindness from me.

- if we are harboring sin in our hearts from which we REFUSE to repent – or even want to DELAY the repentance (I’ll do it later mentality) – our prayer life becomes ineffective!

- the good news is: God forgives us and can restore us when we fail:

  • 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • Jeremiah 31:34 "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Q: Is there unconfessed sin in your life (either toward God or toward you brother/sister in Christ)?

> maybe your sin is your anger, fear of man, worry, sexual sin, pride, bitterness – CONFESS IT TODAY if you want your prayer life to “REACH NEW HEIGHTS!”

- we need to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:

  • Matthew 5:23 "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Hindrance #2:  Lack of Faith

- we touched on this last week – it’s a very important subject in the life of every believer!

  • Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

“Faith” =  believing that God can do something that you can’t do, and God knows something that you don’t know!

- think about these questions:

  • Why do let a doctor operate on you? – because you believe he can help you: faith!
  • Why do let someone else drive the car you’re in?  (same answer: faith in them!)

- What does that say about our view of God when we don’t believe He is . . .

  • powerful enough to do what we’re praying about – or
  • loving enough to care – or
  • smart enough to figure it all out – or
  • in control of all the events of our lives?

- James wrote this regarding asking God for wisdom:

  • James 1:6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

Hindrance #3:  Disobedience

- think about his passage – and notice 2 key words in the text:

  • 1 John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

- It’s important to God for us to OBEY His Word – that is His will for our lives

- But if we have the attitude: “I’m going to what I want to do, when I want to do it, and I don’t care what God or anybody else thinks” . . . then our prayers are NOT going to be answered

Q: Is there any area in your life where you would say . . . “I’m not going to obey God”?

Illustration:  Sometimes our prayer lives are like holding one hand open to God expecting to receive His blessings, and yet the other hand is clinched tightly to an object that represents your sin, and you will not let go!

Point: If you want your prayers answered – let the disobedience go!  Get busy GROWING and wrapping both hands and arms around Jesus!

* There is disobedience in general (any area), but let’s be more specific:

  • Disobedience in failing to love others
  • John 13:34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

- this is the 2nd greatest commandment – are you willing to obey it

- OR do you only love the people that are easy to love – the one’s you’re comfortable with??

  • Disobedience in your lack of submission to God’s will

- you don’t really want to submit to God and see HIS PLAN unfold – you want it you way!

- we need to pray as Jesus prayed in the garden the night He was betrayed:

  • Luke 22:42 saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."
  • Disobedience toward your earthly authority – (apply to husband, boss, government, etc.)

* Summary Prayer:

  • Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.

Hindrance #4: Unwillingness to Forgive

- without getting into a deep theological discussion about this subject, let me just say that ‘forgiveness is conditional’ . . .upon repentance

  • Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

- God doesn’t’ grant forgiveness without repentance, and neither can we

IMPORTANT POINT: But we ought to be ready to forgive, and have a forgiving spirit/attitude toward others who have sinned against us!

 - In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter questioned whether that was 7 times – Jesus said, “70 x 7”

Point:  It’s not about the number of the times, it’s about your willingness to forgive and restore the relationship – it’s about GRACE and MERCY

Important Point: If a person continues to sin, at some point the genuineness of his faith is questioned – John made that clear in:

  • 1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Q: Are you a forgiving person when people wrong you? 

> if you, you’re prayer life isn’t going to be so hot!

Hindrance #5:  Wrong Motives

- James gives us a CLEAR explanation to the sometimes hindrances to our prayer life:

  • James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Input: What are some wrong motives for prayer?

  • Just to get what we want – not concerned about God’s glory or our growth in Christ or the growth of another person
  • We may want the pressure off because we don’t like it instead of recognizing we need to learn from it and grow!
  • [other answers]
  • Point: That’s why it’s important for us to compare our lives/thoughts with the Word of God, to examine ourselves, and make sure we have the right motive for asking God to do what we’re asking Him to do

Input: What are the right motives for us asking anything of God?

  • His glory
  • Conforming us to Christ
  • Advancing His kingdom on earth
  • Souls to come to know Him
  • Body of Christ edified and equipped to serve and fulfill Matthew 28:19-20

Hindrance #6: Idols of Our Heart

Idol = anything we make more important than pleasing God

  • Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.”

- sometimes we think IDOLATRY ended in the Old Testament – WRONG!

- a false can be something as simple as a desire of our hearts (that MAY NOT be wrong, in and of itself), but because we allow it to become more important that glorifying God, it’s an IDOL

Example: A spouse/friend who is loyal to you – nothing inherently wrong with that!

- but if THAT becomes more important than pleasing God, then the desire is an idol!

Q: How do you know when something has become an idol or not?

1) How do you respond when you don’t get it?

2) Are you willing to sin in order to get it?

- think about the words of Ezekiel:

  • Ezekiel 14:3 "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?

Application:  Is there anything in your life that you are not willing to give up if you knew God wanted you to change or that He would be more glorified by _____________?