Why Your Prayers Hit the Ceiling

We can study the pages of Scripture and believe that prayer works.  Many of us can look back over our lives and testify to the power of prayer.  But have you ever wondered what causes prayer not to work?  What is so powerful to render our prayers ineffective?

Our prayers cannot be thwarted due to the degree of difficulty concerning our situation (Jer. 32:37).  Our prayers will not be stopped by the religious practices of those who believe in false gods (Ps. 115:4-8).  Even the Devil himself can not hinder our prayers (James 4:7; 1 John 4:4).

In fact, there is only one person that can cause your prayers to be ineffective: you.

God has promised in his Word that he does not listen to certain prayers.  He refuses to answer prayers that he feels are not worthy.  Don’t assume it’s because we don’t pray with enough eloquence or have failed to find a secret set of prayer steps to pray.

God refuses to answer our prayers when we refuse to obey his Word.

11 Reasons Your Prayers May Not Be Working

Here are some passages that may reveal why your prayers are hitting the ceiling.

  1. Unconfessed Sin.  If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.  However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer.  -Psalm 66:18-19
  2. Attention-Seeking Motives.  “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!”  -Matthew 6:5
  3. Babbling Words.  When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.  -Matthew 6:7-8
  4. “Unspoken” Prayers.  You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.  -James 4:2
  5. Selfish Desires.  You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.  -James 4:3
  6. Family Disharmony.  Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.  -1 Peter 3:7
  7. Ungenerous Lifestyle.  The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered.  -Proverbs 21:13
  8. Unforgiving Heart.  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.  -Mark 11:25
  9. Faithless Requests.  But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.  -James 1:6-8
  10. Contrary to God’s Will.  Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.  -1 John 5:14-15
  11. Disregarding Scripture.  Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is detestable.  -Proverbs 28:9

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.