Last week we began our series on prayer, with a Biblical foundation for what prayer is truly based upon: Prayer at its core is not bending God to our Will with enough faith and positive words, but discovering His desired Will and being the open door for that Will to be done on earth.
Next week we will look closely at just how to know God's desired Will, in order to begin praying powerfully and effectively, but, before we can get to the, "How to find His Will" stage of our study, we first have to take an honest look at another area in our lives: hindrances to our prayer lives—things in our lives that would keep us from praying effectively, even if we could discover His Will. Scriptures are very clear about certain things in a believer's life that will keep God from listening to our prayers. Are you serious enough and desperate enough, to hear God that you will do whatever it takes for your prayers to reach the Throne?
What would you do if you got a high temperature light on your car dash, and steam began coming from under the hood while driving? You had terrible chest pains, sweat, nausea, weakness, and arm pain? These are all big warning signs that require attention, or something bad is going to happen, right? Well, many of us go through life with a major indicator light going off all the time, and we ignore it—that indicator light is unanswered prayers. (And I don't mean, "no" answers, which are answers; I don't mean, "wait" answers, which are answers; I mean when we receive absolutely no answer whatsoever from our prayers repeatedly in life). Did Jesus have unanswered prayers? No. Even in the Garden, He received answers He didn't like, but He was answered. Did Paul have unanswered prayer? No. Even with the "thorn in the flesh", he received answers he didn't want, but he was answered. Are there times of silence from God? Absolutely—to test our heart and desire, test our resolve. But, that is not the same, nor is it an excuse for the "Norm" in your life to be not hearing from God, not seeing God move, not knowing God's will—which if honest, is where most us are most of the time. The problem is that most of us don’t get alarmed by unanswered prayers. Why? Because we expect it. It is just, "The way things are..." in our spiritual walk, and it's just like most everyone around us. So, why should we be alarmed? We have to change our most basic thoughts about prayer. Nowhere in Scripture, do we see this is, "the norm", nor should it be the expectation for a faithful servant of Christ.
If unanswered prayer is a warning indicator, our concern should not even primarily be that we are not getting answers, but that God is allowing these unanswered prayers to warn us of a problem between Him and us. [Are we even listening?] Let's look at some of the main issues that Scriptures tell us are hindrances to our relationship with God and prayer. We will use another unusual, but effective memory peg: Memory: "You have the answer to prayer in your hand." 1) Pinky Finger: ever heard of a "Pinky Promise?" Have you first even searched God's Word concerning wisdom or promises about your subject of prayer? 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 15:4. It may very well be that God has not given you a revelation about your request, simply because He has already answered your question in Scriptures in great detail. God will not give you a personal, earth shattering revelation over something that He has already addressed in His Word for you and I to study and live by. I have personally witnessed people praying, asking others for counsel, and agonizing over things that Scriptures very distinctly address, either because they don't care enough about God's Word to study it, or because they know what God's Word says already, and it doesn't agree with the answer they want. They try to find someone to agree with them, on "Why they are the exception. So first, search the Promises of God for your answer. 2) Ring Finger: What do you put on this finger? Wedding band. This illustrates another major reason for unanswered prayer that we discussed last week: poor relationships—starting with your marriage: 1 Peter 3:7. But it does not stop with your marriage. Your relationship with everyone greatly effects your prayer life: Mark 11:25-26. If you are harboring unforgiveness and spite in your heart, God says release it when you come to Him, or He’s not hearing you: Matthew 5:23-24. If you have people that you know have been wounded or hurt by you, even if unjustly, and you have not tried to reconcile, God says don't bother praying. Why do forgiveness and reconciliation play such a part in prayers? When you hold others in contempt, when you willingly leave others offended or rejected, how can God speak to your heart about His Will? Why should He give more of His Will, or show His Power if it will be misused? [This is a major issue with some of you. You can hardly go through a day, or even a few hours without being bitter, angry, or sarcastic and hurtful to someone.] Many of you are stuck right here, and even after hearing this, you will choose to hold onto your spite in pride rather than choose the love and power of God. 3) Middle Finger: I don't think that I have to illustrate what the middle finger is almost universally known for, do I? For something that you ought not be doing with it, right? So, that is our memory peg for this finger: "Something that you ought not be doing": sin. 1 John 3:22; John 9:31; Psalm 66:18. [We have such a problem here, and we are not willing to do anything about it.] So many of us have everything together, but that one thing, and that one thing is all Satan needs to keep your heart away from God and into something else. That one thing is all it takes to keep you carnally minded, self-focused, guilty, and distracted. But you won't deal with that one thing. What is your one thing that you hold onto again and again? (lusting, pride, selfishness, gossip, jealousy, anger, substance abuse, etc.) Could you give it up if you were guaranteed a closer walk with Christ, and real power in your walk? Unanswered prayer may just be a warning sign from God about this problem in your life. 4) Pointing (Index) Finger: What does the patriotic poster of Uncle Sam always show? Uncle Sam "pointing" at you and saying, "I Want You!" We've made it clear that prayers must be in God's Will, but it goes much deeper than that. Not only must the prayer be in line with God's Word, your heart must be in line with His Word. You must be wanting His Will for the right reasons: James 4:3. We can ask for good things, even things He may want us to ask for, and still not get them because we ask for our own benefit, selfishly, instead of for the love of God or others first. (material things for pleasure rather than helping, salvation for a loved one so life will be easier, etc.): John 15:7-8: abiding In Christ means loving Him so much, that you want what He wants, that you ask in His Name, for His purposes, because His purposes are your purposes. 5) Thumb: Ever give a "Thumbs Up" when you get excited? This stands for "passion & excitement”. We so often pray out of routine, and necessity, not really passionate about anything in our excessive, happy, selfish life, not moved by God's call on our lives, not moved by the broken people, or lost souls around us. When was the last time you prayed with abandon, and passion, and persistence about something? I don't mean it insultingly, and I am glad that we don't do things for show, but, most in here have so little true passion for what you pray about that you are more worried about what others will think of you if you come down to the altar in God's House than you are having your prayers answered: 2 Chronicles 7:14. Jacob, the man given a new name by God, "Israel", of whom the nation was named after, wrestled God with passion: Genesis 32:26. What on earth do you think God would do if we came to Him with this attitude, about being used for His Will? 6) Close fist: Stop holding on to stuff. Be ready to use your life, resources and time for Him. If you're not ready to do that, if you are holding onto things too tightly, He will not answer your prayers: Proverbs 21:13. 7) Hold hand open, palm up: Let go of expectation. Often it isn't that God will not answer us, it is because we are so narrow-minded about what we want to hear and see, that we miss God's answer because we are not really listening for Him, but us. Ever say something to a person, and they totally misinterpret and misconstrue everything you said to their benefit? We can often be guilty of this with God—either hearing what we want to hear, regardless of what He really said, or, missing His Voice and His actions in our lives altogether because we are looking for something else! Psalm 3: 8. God will begin to move in new ways, talk with new clarity, when He knows you are serious about following what He says. Do we have the power and answered prayers that we read about in Scriptures? No.: 2 Timothy 3:5. So where does that power come from? God alone! And what is the only way to get anything done in His Power? Prayer! It is not with more or better preaching, better music, better building—all are good, but powerless to get God involved—only prayer will empower us, and the church; only prayer will get God involved, even if He has wanted to all along.
And it is what we do the least of, with the least amount of enthusiasm, and the least amount of expectations, almost as a legality or formality.
It's time we understand why Satan wants this one weapon to be so ineffective in our lives, and take it back from him.
Pinky: Faith in Promises; Ring: Right relationships; Middle: Get control of sin in life; Index (pointer): He wants you, Abide in Him and His will; Thumb: Passion and excitement in prayer; Closed fist: Make your, "Things" available; Open Hand: Listen with no expectations.
What is truly keeping you from a possible breakthrough in prayer? From seeing God come alive in your life?
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