Hindrances to Prayer

There are many reasons that God has for not answering prayer.  Sometimes it is simply because He knows better than we do.  He sees the beginning from the end.  He knows how the thing we ask for will affect others, and even if the thing we ask for is good in and of itself, we cannot see all the consequences.  But He can.  Sometimes the answer does not come to spare us from some consequence and sometimes it might be because He has something else for us that will actually be better for us in the end.  Those two reasons are completely out of our ability to do anything about and not the purpose of this lesson.  Today we are going to concentrate on the reasons that God does not answer prayers that we can do something about.  We are going to look at what God says in the Bible things that are hindrances to prayer.

I.  Neglect of Prayer.

We have not because we ask not.

James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

II.  A Wrong Motive in Our Prayers

James 4:3  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

a.  It could be something lustful.

b.  It could be something good but we are asking for our selfish gratification. Not for others and not for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

John 14:13  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

A well-known preacher of old said, “The first great purpose we have in asking anything should be that God may be glorified in giving it.  But this is far from the thought of many of us when we pray.”  Torry

We have all heard about George Muller starting and running orphanages in England.  But we often do not hear what his motive was.  He wrote, “Before I began my orphan work, very rarely did I see someone in business taking a stand for God, showing a holy determination to trust in the living God, or depending on Him in order to maintain a good conscience.  Therefore, I desired to show to these people, by a visible proof, that God is unchangeably the same.  My spirit longed to be instrumental in strengthening their faith, by not only giving them instances from the Word of God of His willingness and ability to help all those who rely upon Him, but also showing them by visible proofs that God is the same in our day.

I well knew that the Word of God ought to be enough, and it was, by grace, enough for me.  Still, I considered that I ought to lend a helping hand to my brothers, if by any means, by this visible proof of the unchangeable faithfulness of the Lord, I might strengthen their faith in God.  The best way to testify to God’s faithfulness seemed to be to establish an orphanage.  It needed to be something that could be seen, even by the natural eye.

Now if I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained the means for establishing and running an orphanage without asking for help from any individual, that would be something that, with the Lord’s blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God.  Additionally, it would be a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted to the reality of the things of God.  This, then, was the primary reason for establishing an orphanage.

Certainly, I desired to be used by God to benefit the poor children… Still, the first and primary objective of the work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need only by prayer and faith… so that God’s faithfulness might be seen.  Through His provision, others would see that He still hears and answers prayer.”  (From Release the power of prayer, Pages 18-20, George Muller)

We need to be careful that our primary motive for our prayers is the Glory of God.

III.  Sin in the Heart or Sin acted out in our lives.

Isaiah 59:1-2  Behold, the LORD’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, that he will not hear.

Sin in our hearts or our lives will hinder our prayers from being answered even though the thing that we are praying for is according to His will.  If you are praying and not receiving it, do not assume that God does not answer prayer today as He did in days gone by.  It could be out of His will, or there could be some sin in your life that you need to confess and give up.  “God’s ear is just as sharp to hear the voice of true prayer as it ever was, and His hand is just as long and just as strong to save as it ever was.” R.A. Torry

Let’s look at some specific examples from the Word of God.

a. Idols in the Heart. Ezekiel 14:1-3

Eze 14:1  Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.

Eze 14:2  And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Eze 14:3  Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?

Eze 14:4  Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

Eze 14:8  And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

The leaders of Israel had come to ask for prayer, but God stopped Ezekiel and said do not pray for these men.  They have set up idols in their heart.

Simply put and idol is a replacement for God.  Anything that you put above God is an idol.  It can be a vast array of things and even people.  I have seen parents make idols of their children.  Don’t get me wrong, we cannot love our children too much, but when you make decision based on pleasing your children instead of pleasing God, then you have made an idol in your heart.

I have seen several families do well in church, they are growing and serving, and in love with Jesus.  Until their kids get old enough to play T Ball.  Then they start skipping church for practice and then games.  The service stops.  They teach their kids that what the kids want is more important than God.  Then they wonder why their kids grow up self-absorbed.  I have seen a few of them come back 10 years later, the kids are a mess.  They expect the church to fix their kids, clean them up, and get them to suddenly start loving Jesus.  It usually does not end well.

Please do not miss understand what I am saying.  I am not saying T Ball is wrong or evil.  It is not a problem unless you put it above God.  Even good things can become an idol if they are not kept in their proper place.

People make idols of entertainment, careers, money, social status, hobbies.

Our priorities need to be God first, then everything else.  We need to search our hearts and pray that God will show us what idols we may have made in our hearts.  Idols in the heart hinder prayer.

b.  An Unforgiving Spirit.

Mark 11:25 is attached to the verse before it, which is one of the wonderful promises in the word of God about prayers getting answered.

Mar 11:24  Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Mar 11:25  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Mar 11:26  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

The connection makes the implication very clear.  To receive the promise of verse 24 you had better meet the condition of verse 25.  It is very important to not be carrying any bitterness in your heart when you go to God in prayer.  An Unforgiving Spirit is a serious hindrance to prayer.

c.  Stinginess In Our Giving

Proverbs 21:13  Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

If we block our ears to the cry of the poor when they cry to us, He will block His ears to us when we cry unto Him.

Luke 6:38  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

God measures out His benefits to us in the same measure that we measure out our giving to others.  God puts His gifts into our lives in answer to our prayers according to how we deal with others.

d.  Wrong Treatment of Spouse.

1 Peter 3:7  Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Some people are looking and wondering why they have no power in prayer, but they really do not need to look very far.  God takes the relationship of the husband and wife very seriously.  It is supposed to be a picture of Christ’s love for the church.  If you are messing that up, don’t expect to get too many of your prayers answered until you fix that.

We have all heard about men who would put on a good front at the church house, and some women would say to the wife, how lucky you are, it must be wonderful to be married to a man like that, but at home it is a different story.  He is horrible to live with.  Unfair, harsh, overbearing, unreasonable.

Before the wife thinks she is off the hook here.  Verse 7 is connected to verse 6 with the word likewise.  Verse 6 is talking about the wife being right in the relationship and fulfilling her role in the marriage picture.  The wife mistreating her husband will also hinder her prayers as well.


We need to be a praying people.  And we must pray with the right motive and with a heart and a life that is right with God.  We should love getting answers to prayers more than we love the sins that hinder getting those answers.

We live in an age of entitlement.  Too many people believe that they should get all kinds of stuff simply because they deserve it.  You will often hear verses quoted about getting prayers answered but without the context of the verses before or after it that will show that there are often conditions associated with those promises.  Nowhere in God’s word will you find an unconditional promise to answer the prayers of ungrateful, rebellious, disobedient children living with some sin in their heart.

Do not misunderstand.  We do not have to be perfect to get prayers answered.  Amen!

However, we are dealing with a Holy God who clearly says in His Word that sin does hinder prayer.

See more lessons on Prayer