Prayer: What holds us back?

If we are to get serious about prayer, we need to know the things that trip us up and hold us back.  This was illustrated well for me recently when I attended a conference in Minneapolis.  As I was heading back to my hotel, a gentleman ahead of me was trying desperately to pull a door open.  Try as he did, the door wasn’t budging.  I eventually pointed his attention to the big blue and white sign that said “PUSH”.  Sometimes that’s our problem – we try real hard at things, not realizing that no matter how hard we try we can’t succeed if we do it the wrong way.  Take a moment and consider four potential hindrances to your prayer life: 

1)      Do I cherish sin more than I cherish Christ or prayer?

Psalm 66:17 says, “I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.  If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” 

Let’s face it – sin is tempting and enticing.  But when we cherish secret sins (“nobody will every find out”), we clog our relationship with the Holy God we serve.  God’s Word tells us to cherish Christ; cherishing sin is incompatible with a Spirit filled life!

2)      Am I focused on Christ or distracted by a thousand red herrings?

I Peter 4:7 says, “The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so you can pray.”

A red herring is anything that distracts from the issue at hand.  In political debates, we see politicians throwing out endless red herrings when they don’t want to answer questions.  Don’t we have a million things vying for our attention each day?  Enjoy the gifts God’s given you and tend to the things you need to; but don’t let them take your attention away from what really matters.

3)      Do I love my wife with excellence?

I Peter 3:7 says, “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.”

Christ’s work in me is most readily seen in my relationships, and marriage is the most intimate and tender relationship of all.  When I meet with couples, I remind them that as complex as the marriage relationship is, His wisdom can be distilled in two commands:  Husbands, love your wives.  Wives, honor your husbands.  A brother commented just this morning that we often know what we need to do, but we’re too lazy to do the right thing. 

 4)      Is it about “me”?  Or is it about God?  His glory.  His Kingdom.  His renown. 

Colossians 4:12 says, “[Epaphras] is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

Epaphras stands out to me as a man who understands God’s heart when He prays.  When is he praying?  Always.  For whom is he praying?  OthersHow is he praying?  He is wrestling in prayer.  What is he praying?  That Christians may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  When acute situations arise, we know how to pray specifically for people.  But generally speaking, the prayer examples in the New Testament are all about praying for others, that they would stand firm in their faith and grow in their walk with God. 

May we pray without ceasing with nothing hindering our prayers.

-          Pastor Colin