By Harold Fite
Through our sophisticated communication systems the world has shrunk. Via satellite we can receive pictures from outer space. Through the marvel of television we can visit interesting places throughout the world without ever leaving our living rooms. By telephone we can talk to friends in Europe or the Orient as if they were next door.
While technology in this field is brilliant, it is not without its intermittent failures. There are a number of things which can hinder its efficiency: atmospheric conditions and water in the underground cable can produce static which prevents one from seeing and hearing clearly. There is nothing wrong with the system, but foreign matter can prevent sharp reception.
Prayer is our method of communicating with God. This system far surpasses the accomplishments of our hi-tech age. But our communication with God can be hindered so as to negate the power, purpose, and blessing of prayer. The fault does not lie with God or the system — but with us!
Our problem is neither poor grammar nor the inability to form flowery phrases. Impressive language has never been the criterion by which God answers prayer. G.C. Morgan said, “A man may offer a prayer, beautiful in diction and perfect in the number of its petitions, but if it gives him gratification afterwards, that prayer cannot have been truly prayed.” It makes no difference to God whether our prayers are “long” or “short.” It is not the number of prayers, nor the eloquence and length of them that causes God to hear; it is the disposition of heart that counts.
Our prayers are hindered by an insincere heart. Prayer without sincerity becomes a useless ceremony and an empty directive. When prayers are spoken to display personal piety we become like the hypocrites. Jesus said, “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward” (Matt. 6:5).
When we pray “vain repetitions,” we identify ourselves with the heathen: “they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (v. 7). Both are obstacles which impede the progress of prayer.
Our prayers are hindered by doubt. “For he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed,” James said. “Let not man think he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:6-8).
Doubt reflects a lack of faith in God’s promises and in His ability to answer prayer. A “double-minded man” is a man with two hearts. That man is not going to receive wisdom or any other thing for which he might ask.
We have the assurance that if we ask according to His will and keep His commandments, He hears us and grants our petitions (1 Jn. 5:14, 15; 3:22). The fact that God listens is the basis of our prayers, and “according to his will,” is the principle determining His answer. There is not basis for doubt.
If radio’s slim fingers
Can pluck a melody
From night, and toss it over
A continent or sea —
If the petaled white notes
Of a violin
Are blown across a mountain
Or a city’s din –
If songs, like crimson roses
Are culled from thin blue air,
Why should mortals wonder
If God hears prayer?
Let us ask, nothing doubting, recognizing that He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
Prayers are hindered by wrong motives. Oftentimes we ask for things to feed our selfish pleasures. “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that you may spend it in your pleasures” (Jas. 4:2, 3).
I have seen those who are resentful of the prosperity of others and who become obsessed in possessing what others have. This insatiable desire to have what the world has drives and torments the individual. He is filled with quarrels, conflicts, and strife. His worldly lust is the cause of this inward turmoil, and is the reason for the rejection of his prayer.
A Christian who tries to use prayer to obtain selfish worldly pleasure is “ask(ing) amiss.” His attitude has robbed his prayer of power.
Poor husband-wife relations hinder prayer. “Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7).
Failure to honor the wife as the weaker vessel becomes the obstacle that impedes the husband’s prayer. One cannot act wrongly toward his wife and be right with God. The wife is the weaker vessel-not morally or intellectually, but physically. The knowledgeable husband will be considerate of his wife, recognizing that she has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, that she also is an heir of the grace of life.
But should the husband take advantage of his weaker vessel and become harsh, careless and brutal in his treatment of her, his prayers become ineffective. Likewise, should the wife use her limitation of strength selfishly to impose unjust and unreasonable demands on the husband, her prayers will be hindered. “Cold wars,” animosities, and fightings in the home are devastating to effectual prayer. The husband and wife cannot use one another as verbal punching bags and expect their prayers to be heard. This kind of environment is not conducive to prayer in the first place, much less to the answering of prayer. “Static” in the home will produce “static” on the prayer line.
Sin hinders prayer. “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1, 2).
God will not hear impenitent children of God! Our lives must be consistent with our prayers. If not, we must make proper corrections. God will forgive any sin which the child of God confesses (1 Jn. 1:9). We must work toward that which we pray. When our prayers are not supported by righteous living, prayer becomes a mockery. Remember, it is the prayer of the righteous man that avails much (Jas. 5:16).
Our prayers are hindered when we are not at Peace with our brother. Before prayer we are to be reconciled to our brother (Matt. 5:23), and if we expect the Father to forgive us of our sins, we must forgive others (Matt. 6:15).
Prayer when understood and properly applied is a marvelous tool God has given us. It not only allows us to talk with God, but it cultivates our spiritual nature, secures blessings, obliterates anxiety-producing that peace which passes all understanding. May we be constantly on guard against those things which hinder our prayers.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 15, pp. 466-467
August 1, 1985