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*LESSON 11: HINDRANCES TO PRAYER AND UNANSWERED PRAYER*
 
Often, when a person is struggling with a personal issue, he~/she may say something like this:
 
I have prayed and prayed about this matter, but I don’t seem to get anywhere.
Doesn’t God hear?
If He is listening, why doesn’t He help?
Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?
Many people often find themselves in that situation.
They believe in God and the Bible, and they attend church regularly.
They witness to their faith.
They know that the Holy Spirit dwells within.
But when things are tough and they pray fervently about something, God doesn’t seem to answer.
Or if He does answer, it’s in a way which they cannot perceive or understand.
In that situation, they become like a man and his motor car.
There was a time when his daughter was driving his car.
It was noticed that it was suddenly overheating.
The man's wife was called in to help.
She did what she could without too much success.
So here is a car.
It looks good.
Its motor is in excellent condition.
The tires are all pumped up to the right pressure.
There is plenty of gas in the tank and oil in the engine.
There are not even any squeaks.
They sit in the car ready to go and either we go nowhere or at best we move such a small distance, overheat and stop again.
When we find ourselves in that situation, how do we respond?
Do we say, ‘I give up.
I don’t believe in motor cars.
I’ll walk.
In fact, I don’t think motor cars have ever existed!’
Of course we don’t react that way.
We set to work to find out where the problem lies.
In the case of our car, it was a small radiator hose which had sprung a leak.
Once that was fixed, the vehicle purred off once more.
If we think that we are not moving ahead in God and that our prayers are not being answered, then rather than cease believing in the existence of God, it’s better if we took time to have a look to see where else the problem could be.
In doing that, we may be surprised to learn that the problem was never with God, but was with us.
The Bible and many others affirm that God is alive.
He hears our prayers and He wants to answer them.
When they appear not to be answered, we need to go back to basics and check out the fault-finding systems of our relationships with Him.
One day, a pastor’s wife decided to meet with two prayer partners weekly to pray for their church.
As they came together each week, they found they could get nowhere.
For six weeks the Lord directed them to Psalm 66:18 which says:  “/If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened/."
/ /
"Us?
With sin in our hearts!"
thought those ladies.
"Well, the Bible does say in 1 Peter 3:12 that: /'The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil/.'
"
/ /
‘Sin in our hearts?
Well, that would certainly stop God acting on our prayer,’ they thought.
As they waited on God they found that they had not been practicing any of the spectacular sins that we sometimes hear in public.
But God did expose matters of pride, self-satisfaction, critical thoughts and pretence on their part.
The prophet Isaiah said: "/Your iniquities have separated you from your God.
Your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear/" (Isaiah 59:1-2).
So many people cry out to God while continuing to cherish unconfessed sin.
And it is that sin which separates.
There are many references in the Bible that clearly state that prayer will not be answered if certain things are within us.
We need to look at these areas, but not in the sense of bringing anyone under judgment.
That is not our respons­ibility.
Only God is our judge.
But there is a need to develop a check chart whereby if, at this time or at some time in the future, we feel that we are not getting through to God, then we will be able to take it out, check through it and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal in which particular areas of our lives the problem might be.
Here is a non-exhaustive list (not in any particular order of priority) of sins that may hinder prayer:
 
*1.
Unforgiveness~/Criticism*
 
The first area we need to look at is that of unforgiveness and criticism.
These two are linked because it is so difficult to separate them, and they are probably the most common hindrance to answered prayer.
The writer of Hebrews said:  "/See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no hitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many/" (Hebrews l2: 14-15).
Jesus said: "/If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins/" (Matthew 6:14-15).
He additionally said:  "/If you hold anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins/" (Mark 11:25).
"/If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift/"/ /(Matthew 5:23-24).
If we do not have good, open, healthy relationships with everyone, then our prayer life is going to be hindered.
When we come to God in prayer, we come on the basis that our sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ.
He in turn asks that we forgive all others.
If we do not, He will not.
If we do not forgive, we develop a critical attitude, and that in turn leads to bitterness, resentment, animosity, coldness -- even hatred.
If we hold a grudge or maintain ill-will toward anyone, then God is closed off from us.
If there are unre­solved issues between us and another, then we may pray all we like, but those prayers may go no further than the ceiling.
Forgiveness may not be easy.
But Jesus regarded it as so important that he did not ask us to forgive, He commanded it.
Many years ago there was a man called Hyde, who for a time worked as a missionary in India.
He was very careful with whatever he said in public.
No critical word ever left his lips.
But his prayer life was slightly different.
One day as he knelt to pray, he felt a keen burden to pray for an Indian pastor.
He started to talk to the Lord about this pastor’s unfortunate mannerisms, of how cold he seemed to be.
But then a finger seemed to touch Hyde’s lips sealing them shut.
Mr.
Hyde believed he heard the voice of God softly say to him, ‘He who touches that pastor touches the apple of my eye.
 
So Hyde immediately cried out, ‘Father forgive me.
I have been an accomplice of Satan.
I have been an accuser of the brethren before you.
 
Hyde begged God to show to him instead good things in this pastor’s life.
As they came into his mind, he prayed over those good things and started to praise God for this pastor.
Shortly afterwards, revival broke out in that Indian church.
One of the releases of that was that the blockage of silent criticism had been removed from Hyde’s prayer life.
In a world which is littered by protest signs, with our streets often clogged by demonstrators, with newspaper editors constantly seeking for something to pounce upon, and Parliamentarians throwing insults at one another, it’s so easy for Christians to slip into the unforgiving, harsh, critical spirit of our age.
We need to resist that lest we inhibit what God might be really wanting to do in our lives and through his church.
A Turkish soldier had beaten a Christian prisoner until he was only half-conscious.
As he continued to kick him he shouted, ‘What can your Christ do for you now?’
The reply? ‘He can give me strength to forgive you.’
* *
*2.
** Undiscipline*
 
A second reason for our prayers being hindered may be undiscipline.
The great dividing line between success and failure in many things, may often be expressed in just five words: ‘I did not make time.’
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