10 Common Hindrances to Effective Prayer
Hindrance # 1. Unconfessed Sin.
Psalm 66:18-19 “18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; 19 but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.”
The issue is not being sinless for our prayers to be heard—none (except Jesus) would qualify if such were the case! The point here is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge sin and wanting to get rid of it. Such a heart will hinder prayers from being answered.
Hindrance # 2. Idols in the Heart.
Ezekiel 14:3 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?”
Examine your own life to see if you are putting anything above God [career, possessions, family, ministry]. And once you identify them, ask yourself, “Is there anything I am putting above God in my life? Am I willing to give that thing up if God asked me to?” If you are unwilling to let it go, then that idol will hinder your prayers.
Hindrance # 3. Wrong Motives.
James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
It’s not only what we want in prayer that matters—but also why we want it! Motives do matter when it comes to answered prayer. Self-glorifying motives will hinder one’s prayers.
Hindrance # 4. Lack of Faith.
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Obviously, Jesus is not endorsing his blank approval of anything we ask as long as we ask in faith. The point here is about the importance of believing that God will hear when we pray according to his will and that he has the power to respond—no matter how bleak the situation may seem.
In another context about praying for wisdom during times of trial, we are told about the need for faith in order for our prayers to be answered:
James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Hindrance # 5. Unforgiving Spirit.
Mark 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
A bitter and unforgiving spirit hinders our fellowship with God and thus has a negative effect on our prayers as well.
Hindrance # 6. Lack of Persistence.
Luke 18:1 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
We give up too soon because, by nature, we are impatient people. “I want what we want, and I want it now” is often our attitude! That’s why Jesus stressed the need for perseverance by using the parable of the widow [Luke 18:1-8]!
Just a word of caution: Don’t confuse asking God again and again if he has clearly said “No” and justify that asking as persistence. That’s the sin of insistence – adamantly wanting to get what we want and failing to submit to God’s will.
Persistence is keeping on praying even if it takes a long time to receive answers. God builds our character as we wait on him. So, giving up quickly is another hindrance.
Hindrance # 7. Less Prayer Time.
Matthew 26:40 “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”
The words of Jesus should really pierce our hearts. We have all the time for social media, TV, the internet, and other activities. Yet, when it comes to prayer, there is hardly a decent amount of time given. Throwing a few minutes while the mind is not even ready and our prayer time is over. How can we expect God to hear us when we give him so little time?
Hebrews 11:6b says that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.” “Earnestly” indicates effort, which involves time!
Hindrance # 8. Stubborn Disobedience to God’s Word.
Zechariah 7:11-13 “11 But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Willful rejection of God’s word will result in God’s rejection of our words [prayers].
Hindrance # 9. Negligence of the Poor.
Proverbs 21:13 “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”
Because God cares for the poor, he expects and commands his children to do the same. Disregarding his will in this area lead to him shutting his ears to our prayers.
Hindrance # 10. Mistreating Your Spouse.
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.”
This is more specific to husbands. A lack of treating one’s wife with proper understanding and loving care will lead to prayers being hindered.
Many more could be added. But these should be a good start to ensure prayers are not being hindered. The presence of these hindrances does not mean we have to be perfect, and only then God will hear our prayers. Even if we find ourselves struggling with any or all of these hindrances, we must go to God with an attitude of open confession and ask for his help to overcome these issues.
The sin is in taking these hindrances lightly or stubbornly refusing to let go of them and then going in prayer for other things. That’s the spirit God does not approve of! So, one needs to make sure these hindrances are addressed properly so that God can hear and answer prayers.
Also, it’s good to remember if none of these hindrances are present in one’s life, that does not mean one will get a “Yes” answer to prayers. Prayer is not about getting “Yes” answers but seeking God’s will to be accomplished. So, at times, a ‘No’ answer is also proof that God has heard and answered prayers for his will to be accomplished through that particular petition.
So, take some time and focus on examining your life in order to remove these hindrances. If not, you will find praying to be a futile exercise!