I have met very few Christians who say they have never prayed. People pray for God’s wisdom, guidance, assistance, will, knowledge, grace, mercy, and provision. Prayer for the sick and the lost and lost relationships conjoin with prayers for God to give us joy and peace and endurance as we traverse this life amongst the darkness. Sadly, people often offer up prayers, requests, petitions, supplications, and thanksgiving and as it has often been said, ‘they don’t make it past the ceiling.’ So what causes a lack of hearing on God’s part concerning our prayers? What would cause Him to stop listening and stop answering us? Here are a few thoughts to consider if you find yourself in this position.
- Praying against scripture. This is seen when we pray for something that is not promised in scripture such as vast riches or eternal health but more so it is evident when we fail to submit to scripture in the first place and offer lip service through prayer thinking God will work according to our circumstances and thus provide an answer to our needs that scripture doesn’t prescribe.
- Praying apart from Scripture. No matter how often or passionately we pray, if we are not in God’s word, we reveal a darker reality of our hearts. This shadow seems to offer a reality that we may want God to work for us but we are not interested in an intimate and powerful relationship with Him. The source of Grace and Hope is found only in scripture so to be out of God’s word and to pray is much like a fool’s errand; after all, it is through scripture that we find how we ought to pray.
- Self-Centered Lives – While this seems to explain itself, let me give you a few examples of how this type of life will never allow God to hear our prayers.
- When our relationships with others are tainted with selfishness that is evidenced by strife, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. God will not hear our prayers. His grace is our hope in Christ Jesus and we are forgiven, so our relationships with others are of utmost importance in this vein. Praying while in discord with friends, neighbors, family or enemies is worthless.
- Desiring our fleshly hopes. This is not just in general but also in our payer lives. When we LIVE for ourselves and the gratification of our flesh we are not in unity with God’s will for our sanctification and purity and also when we pray for selfish things or with self-interest God will never answer those prayers. (see James 4) This can also be seen in demanding our liberties that are often culturally frowned upon. Don’t expect God to hear our prayers when we are OK with offending our weaker siblings for whom Christ shed His blood. We give up our rights for the sake of others, that is love.
- Continued Sin and Idolatry. I am not saying that “if” we sin we don’t have an advocate in Jesus, but scripture is clear that continued rebellion against the glory of God’s great holiness allows no room for answered prayer. For instance, we cannot seek out escape from trials with our flesh and the world and then on top ask God to provide peace. Either we are trusting in Him or we trust in our flesh, we cannot do both. Praying while engaging in continued unrepentant sin is foolish except that prayer to be labored for God to do what it is He does in His children, which is to empower us to put to death the flesh by faith in Christ. We cannot run to the world and her answers while running to the infinite Father of power and grace. Man can NEVER serve two masters.“If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18)
So beloved, pray, but also know that your strength to pray, to live, to love, and to believe comes from God through His word. Know that your life is secure in Christ and His promises. Pray and the Father will hear. Pray for the Lord to help you pray and to live as one who desires God to hear and answer prayers.