5 Things That May Be Killing Your Prayers
“Why can’t I get my prayers answered?”
You may be asking yourself that painful and puzzling question. Well, let’s take a look at five known prayer assassins and see if any of them are killing your prayers.
Prayer Killer Number One: Sin
There are thousands of promises in the Bible. It’s easy to grab one and believe God to fulfill it for us without considering that every promise of God is given within the context of our assumed obedience. Or in other words, the promises of God are for those who obey God.
This may come as a shock to many people. Especially since today’s popular presentation of God is depicted in such a way that it leaves us believing that we can do nothing to offend God. And then even if there is such a thing as offending God, we’re told His great love for us compels Him to overlook our behavior and give us what we desire.
This may attract large crowds and increase our popularity (with people, not with God), but it’s one hundred percent wrong! The biblical record of God from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation, is that God is inherently, uncompromisingly holy, righteous, and pure, and that He demands obedience.
Yes, our holiness, righteousness, and purity comes from the accomplishments of Christ in His sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. However, we must be careful that we don’t convince ourselves, or allow false teachers to convince us, that Jesus lived right so we don’t have to. Or that because of Jesus obedience is now an option.
Let’s conclude this section with just a few Scriptures that prove my point.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
“But that’s the Old Testament,” you say. “I’m under grace.”
Ooo…kaaay, so the first thirty-nine books of the Bible don’t apply to you? I disagree, but I’ll use a Scripture that we both hopefully agree applies to you.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22
This is a crystal clear New Testament declaration that obedience to God is required of anyone who approaches God with a request.
Living in sin can kill your prayers.
Prayer Killer Number Two: Unmerciful
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
The obvious opposite of this statement is that those who are not merciful shall not receive mercy. Of course, many of our prayers require mercy to be answered. But if our behavior has cut off our mercy, then we have killed our prayer.
This is a difficult concept for some Christians to accept. Especially those who are victims of the false grace message. Nonetheless, it is true.
Jesus told a parable about a slave who owed his master a huge debt. This slave asked his master for mercy, and the master graciously forgave him the debt. Yet this same slave was owed a much smaller amount of money by another slave. Instead of having mercy and forgiving the debt, as his master had done for him, he had the slave thrown into prison.
Look at the sobering progression of this story in Matthew 18:31-34:
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him,
‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“Wow,” you say, “glad I’m under grace, and my heavenly Father would never do that to me!
Oh, really? Let’s look at the last verse:
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
Being unmerciful can kill your prayers.
Prayer Killer Number Three: Unforgiveness
Unforgiveness and lack of mercy are similar, but not the same. For one can be unmerciful to someone without being unforgiving toward them. There simply may not have been an offense to not forgive.
For instance, Jesus told a story about a man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. A couple of groups of religious people passed by, saw the man, and did nothing to help (Luke 10:25-37).
They were unmerciful, but not necessarily unforgiving. They didn’t know the guy. (And didn’t want to know him!)
Unforgiveness, however, has the element of offense, either real or imagined. The offended person refuses to forgive. What does Jesus specifically say about such a person’s chances of getting their prayers answered?
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Living in unforgiveness will kill your prayers.
Prayer Killer Number Four: Strife
The strife that kills prayer is the kind that either originates or ends in sin. It is more than disagreement. It is more than heated disagreement. It’s disagreement without the character of Christ. It’s disagreement without humility and love and self-control.
James talks about the futility of offering prayers in an atmosphere of strife:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members [body]? You lust and do not have. You murder [God calls hatred murder] and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
A few verses later, He tells these striving Christians that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (v. 6). Now if God is the one resisting you, who is left to answer your prayers?
Strife kills prayers.
Prayer Killer Number Five: Impatience
Impatience is a great killer of prayers. Perhaps that’s’ why there is so much teaching in the Bible about being patient in prayer, and so many graphic examples of people in the Bible receiving spectacular answers to prayer—once they paid the price of waiting.
The writer of Hebrews captured this critical thought with only two verses:
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance [patience], so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.
Abraham was called the friend of God because he believed God (James 2:23). Read the narrative of Abraham’s life (Genesis 12-22) and you’ll see that this refers to more than him being declared righteous because he believed God one day.
It includes that. But it refers primarily to him patiently waiting on God for at least twenty-five years to keep His promise to give him a son when his body couldn’t produce a child.
It also included his willingness to give that son back to God twelve years later, and if necessary, to believe God to physically raise that child from the dead if that’s what it took for Him to keep His promise to give him a son. That’s thirty-seven years of believing God for a promise. No wonder he’s called the father of our faith!
Unfortunately, most Christians pray and don’t have the stamina to wait on God for the prayer to be answered.
Impatience kills prayers.
Now the Good News!
Let’s not end this thinking of the many ways we can mess up in prayer. Instead let’s end it thinking not of our many weaknesses, but of God’s great desire to give us more than we can imagine, and of His infinite ability to perfect us and get us to the place where our prayers are unhindered:
Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
Lord, I ask You to help everyone who has read this article to humbly consider any area of their lives that need correcting. I include myself in this prayer, Lord. Help us to repent of any known sin. If there are areas of darkness in our lives that we don’t know of yet, open our eyes to the truth. And once our eyes are open, help us to immediately turn from darkness to light.
Lord, if we are unmerciful or unforgiving, we repent this very moment. For You have so graciously shown us Your great mercy in offering us forgiveness. And if we are in strife with anyone, we offer that situation up to You. We will not press for our rights in an ungodly way.
Finally, help us to have patience as we wait for our prayers to be answered. In faith we believe that “the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 3414-15).
Be encouraged! The Holy Spirit is your Helper! It’s going to be alright!
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