Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Prayer Barriers

December 05, 2004: Prayer Barriers

"You do not have because you do not ask." (James 4:2 NIV)

When our prayers are not answered, we want to know what's wrong with God. It's easier to blame Him than look in the mirror and say, "maybe I'm the problem". For the next few days let's look at some common prayer barriers.
Barrier #1 - prayerlessness. Be honest; how often do you decide to pray about something, add it to your prayer list, say you'll pray about it, and almost do? You think about it from time to time, but you hardly pray about it at all. Why isn't God answering? Because you haven't prayed yet!

Some of us live by the motto: "Why pray when you can worry? Why pray when you can work yourself to death trying to get it? Why pray when you can go without?" Get this: when we work, we work; when we pray, God works!

Barrier #2 - unconfessed sin. Listen: "Your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear" (Is 59:2 NIV). God expects you to maintain your personal integrity, to show thoughtfulness and love toward others, and to put Him first in your life. Listen: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8 NIV). Those aren't suggestions - they're requirements! If you don't meet them, don't expect God to answer your prayers; you're wasting your breath unless it's a prayer of confession.
First seek His forgiveness, then He'll listen when you pour out your heart to Him."First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come." (Mth 5:24 NIV )

Barrier #3 - unresolved conflict. Listen to these Scriptures: "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift... go and be reconciled... then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5:23-24 NIV). Listen again: "Husbands... be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect... so that nothing will hinder your prayers" (1Pe 3:7 NIV).

Most of us underestimate how committed God is to building and maintaining loving relationships. There's no point praying if you're engaged in constant conflict. John writes: "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness" (1Jn 2:9 NIV). God will only listen when you come out into the light, deal with the thing that drove you and the other person apart, and attempt to mend the relationship.Of course it isn't always possible to make amends. Paul writes: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Ro 12:18 NIV). But sometimes the other person would rather keep the issue alive than accept your apology. If this happens, look deep into your heart. Have you sincerely tried to mend fences, or are you still holding something back? Do you really want restoration, or would you rather "blame place" and let things fester? If your attempts have been wholehearted and honest, God won't let a broken relationship stand in the way of your prayers. But if your attempts have been half-hearted and self-serving, try again - this time for real. "When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (James 4:3 NIV)
Barrier #4 - selfishness. To take a closer look at our praying, is to come face to face with selfishness. There's such confusion over wants and needs, rights and favours, justice and grace, creature comforts and conformity to Christ. It's impossible to grow spiritually without trials. To pray: "Give me an easy, happy, problem-free life," is a prayer God cannot answer because if He did, you'd be destroyed.
Barrier #5 - uncaring attitudes. The Israelites wondered why God was not answering their prayers. Here's what He told them: "Stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly... share your food with the hungry... Clothe those who are cold and don't hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things... the Lord will answer" (Is 58:6-9 TLB).
God's committed to developing a people who will reflect His character - and His character always expresses compassion for others. Have you seen the cartoon picturing hundreds of people lined up as far back as the eye can see? Each is thinking the same thing: What can I do, I'm just one person? As just one person you may not be able to change the world. You can, however, look for small ways to show you care. Perhaps your church works with a food pantry or prison ministry. Maybe your skills could make a small difference in the evils of unemployment, illiteracy, child abuse, alcoholism or suicide. As long as your ear is open to the hurting, God will keep His ear open to you.

The discipline of stillness:
"Very early in the morning, Jesus... went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35 NIV)

One well-known Christian leader writes: "I used to try to pray on the run, till it became obvious that the pace of my life outstripped my capacity to analyse it. It exhausted me to be constantly doing, rarely reflecting on what I did. At the end of the day I'd wonder if my work had any meaning at all. So I developed my own approach to stillness before God. It's called "journaling". It's one of the spiritual disciplines that's really worked for me, and I'm not tempted to abandon it because it's made my life so much richer. After I open my journal, reflect on the previous day, and write out my thoughts and prayers, my spirit is receptive. Then I sit quietly and simply say: 'Lord, I invite You to speak to me.' The moments that follow are the ones that really matter. I like my way of quieting my mind and preparing myself to hear God speak: it works well for me. But I know it won't work for everyone. Some people can't stand writing anything, let alone journals and prayers; they prefer to talk quietly to God. Some are good at meditating without writing or saying a word. Some 'Come before Him with joyful songs' (Ps 100:2 NIV).

The important thing is not to follow a particular method, but to find a way that works for you. Custom design an approach that will still your racing mind, soften your heart, and enable you to hear God speaking to you!"

"David went in and sat before the Lord." (2 Samuel 7:18 NKJV )Here are three reasons we don't hear God speaking to us more often:
(1) We don't know how to handle His silence. When God seems to be silent we think: "Did I ask the wrong question? Was I foolish to expect an answer?" Don't be upset. God's a living being, not an answering machine; He speaks when He has something to say to you.
(2) We don't listen for God's voice. In addition to carving out blocks of quiet time to listen to God, you must learn to keep your ears tuned to Him each day.
One Christian author writes: "A friend of mine has a company car equipped with AM/FM radio, a CD player, a phone and mobile communication unit which he consistently monitors at a low decibel level. Often we've been riding together, talking and listening to music, when all of a sudden he'll reach down, pick up the microphone and say: 'I'm here, what's up?' With all the other noise in the car I never hear the signal, but he has tuned his ear to it. He's able to carry on a conversation and listen to music without ever missing an incoming call." And it's possible for you to develop that same sensitivity to God's voice.
(3) We don't plan to do anything about it. When God speaks we listen, nod and say: "How interesting!" If we don't follow up on His leadings, God may see no reason to continue speaking. When He speaks to us it's usually toward one end - obedience!
Written Bob Gass Ministries Used with Permission from "The Word For Today": http://www.thewordfortoday.com.au/ to those in Australia the devotional is available free from UCB Australia by phoning 1800 068 204.