Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Hindrances to Prayer

  • Thelma Wells
  • Published Jun 21, 2004
Hindrances to Prayer

We've established the fact in the first series that prayer is the heart's sincere desire unuttered or expressed. The optimum word is sincere, and that sincerity must be accompanied with a condition of truth that the motives and actions of the prayer are in accordance with God's standards for answered prayer. 


It is a fact that God is sovereign and can hear and answer anyone. It's really God's business whom He answers and whom He doesn't. But the overwhelming context for answered prayer is summed up in the condition of the heart. When the heart is not in tune with the heart of God, there can be some hindrances and delays in our prayers.


There are several factors that can hinder our prayers. Sin is at the top of my list. What is sin? Sin is anything that is contrary to God's order. We are told in the Bible not to lie, steal, cheat, covet, take the name of the Lord in vain, murder, worship idol gods or desire unnatural affections. We should not be prideful, arrogant, boastful, angry, a troublemaker, lustful, lazy, judgmental, greedy, hypocritical, out of fellowship with your spouse and others, and unforgiving. I could go on and on. 


When the condition of our heart is bound by these sins, we hinder the answer of our prayers. In other words, unconfessed sin can stop God's answers. Isaiah 59:1-2 explains, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."


When we pray we must ask God to forgive us. There's not one of us who does not have to ask God's forgiveness for sinning. Our sin might be an evil thought or something we said that we should not have. It could be something we omitted that the Holy Spirit was directing us to do. Whatever it might be, asking God's forgiveness can get us back into the right standing with God to get our prayers answered.


In the Lord's Prayer the phrase, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" is significant. It indicates that one of the conditions of our heart is forgiveness; that we are willing to forgive those who have wronged us. If we are not willing to forgive others, God has no obligation to forgive us. 

Matthew 6:14 says, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Pray to God in the name of Jesus and confess your sins. He is faithful and just to forgive them and attend to your needs. The fact that God will not hear the prayers prayed through a sinful heart is found in Psalm 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." 


Another hindrance to prayer is wrong motives. I've been in conversation with people who have commented (jokingly or not) that they have prayed for God to hurt somebody because they did not like them. Come on, do you actually think God operates like that? Absolutely not!


Salome, the mother of James and John requested of Jesus that her sons have special privilege in the kingdom of God.  Her request was for her sons to be better than anyone else. Pride and arrogance, being haughty, and overbearing thinking of yourself better than others (selfishness) can hinder God's answers to prayer.

James 4:3 declares, "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."


In order to get our prayers answered, we must be sure that the motives for our prayers are righteous and pure. The only way to have pure motives is to have the mind of Christ. This is possible if you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior and begin to think as He thinks. The phrase, "What would Jesus do?" is a question that if kept in our thoughts, can help us focus on Christ and not on our own selfish motives and desires. We are to, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." 


Unbelief is a hindrance to prayer. I'm intrigued by little children's curiosity about electrical plugs. As toddlers, they will see the plugs in the wall and proceed to explore them. When they are told not to play with them, their curiosity increases and they head for them again. An attentive guardian of the child will make sure the child does not get shocked by their determination so the plugs are covered with protectors or the child is taken to a safer place to explore. The child sees the situation but has no concept of the danger he/she is in if they activate the plug. 


We explore life's situations with all its dangers and questions and ignore the fact that our Guardian is watching out for our well-being. Often we do not believe God answers our prayers because we cannot see the shock waves caused by our prayers. We cannot understand why our prayers are not answered the second we prayed. If the answer does not come quickly, we whine and develop an attitude of unbelief. When this happens, we may go through the motion of praying, but our prayers are from a double-minded, unstable and wavering mindset. 

Without believing, you cannot expect to receive. There is no faith when you don't believe. Trust God and know that whenever we pray, God is working behind the scenes to work it out for you.


Sometimes is seems that you have been praying for something for years. Never give up. Always believe that the God who knows all and is in all has your heart at stake. He will not leave you or forsake you. When you can't see what He's doing, trust His heart that He will work it out.


Thelma Wells  is president of A Woman of God Ministries, Dallas, Texas; a Woman of Faith conference speaker; a professor at Master's School of Divinity, and the author of Girl, Have I Got Good News For You! and other encouraging resources.

Sponsored by Master's Divinity School & Master's Graduate School of Divinity