“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)
Prayer is powerful. Through prayer, faith is strengthened, shackles are broken, and sickness is healed. Through prayer, wisdom is given, peace is felt, and fear is eliminated. And through prayer, we draw closer to God. In the fifth chapter of the letter of James, we read that prayers offered by a righteous person have great effectiveness. Scripture tells us that God hears our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12). Jesus taught that whatever we ask for in prayer, we will receive if we believe (Mark 11:24). But if this is so, why do some prayers go unanswered? What are the hindrances to prayer?
There are a number of things that can hinder our prayers – actions, attitudes, and motives that lead to our prayers being unanswered. Sin hinders our prayers. So does selfishness. James 4:3 makes it clear that at times, when we ask and do not receive, it is because we are asking wrongly, looking to satisfy our own passions rather than looking to satisfy God’s will. Selfishness is expressed through greed, ambition, and boastfulness. When we are seeking things from God that would satisfy any of these things, our prayers will go unanswered. But when we seek His will above our own, He will hear our prayers and supply the things that we need (Matthew 6:33).
Another hindrance to prayer is injustice or indifference to the needs of others. Proverbs 21:13 says that those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will not receive an answer to their own cries. We must show mercy, concern, and caring for those around us who are in need. In Isaiah 1:17, we are told to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” We must always seek the good of others, placing the needs of others before our own needs. When we do, God hears our prayers and will answer.
Do your prayers seem to be going unanswered? If so, it may mean that God wants you to examine your heart, to see if there is something in you that is hindering your prayer. It is at these times that you need to cry out to God as the psalmist did in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” When you ask God to search your heart, He will reveal the things that you need to deal with, the things that are hindrances to your prayers.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®
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The New International Version. (2011). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.