It is important to make it a habit to thank God (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20; Ps. 136:26).
As he rescues us, our response is to honor him (Ps. 50:14-15). We should aspire to be like the one leper who returned to thank Jesus out of the ten who were healed and went on their way. After he has answered our prayers, we should pause to express gratitude (Heb. 13:15)!
Hopefully, you have seen God at work. 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. 32:27).
- 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.
When we try to pray in disobedience, we approach the battlefield with our weapons in hand but no bullets to use.
Study the biblical passages below that describe situations in which our prayers won’t work.
- Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. -Isaiah 59:1-2
- If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. -Psalm 66:18-19
- “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
- And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. -Matthew 6:7-8
- 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
- Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. -1 Peter 3:7
- But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. -James 1:6-8
- 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
- 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
- Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is detestable. -Proverbs 28:9
- The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered. -Proverbs 21:13
- And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. -1 John 5:14-15
These verses are very specific. Out of the above passages, which ones are the most dangerous for you?
Confess those to the Lord and begin to clear the path for your prayers to be heard.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.