Obstacles to Prayer
Even though we all long for the kingdom of God – f or unity with
God and for the total dominion of the Holy Spirit over all other spirits
– we know that we are obstacles to this kingdom. Our own nature is always
interfering when God tries to reveal himself. Our personalities get in the
way, because in each of us there are countless thoughts, feelings, and traits of
character that are not completely centered on the kingdom of God or compatible
with the spirit of Jesus. Every prayer is therefore inevitably burdened
with personal mistakes and desires.
In addition to our own failings, we are often besieged by dark clouds of
worry. When this happens we need to ask for the freshening wind of the Holy
Spirit so that, surrounded by God’s pure, clear atmosphere, we can pray tirelessly
to God, asking him to banish our anxiety and prove that he is the ruler
over life and death. By praying we can resist temptation (Matt. 26:41).
Even more dangerous than the most nightmarish anxiety is the force that
drives away the Spirit—sin. Sin fights against life and leads to death through
the demonic darkness of unrighteousness, impurity, covetousness, self-seeking,
self-will, lying and deception.
These demonic forces will yield only to prayer offered in a spirit of self-denying
love. Sin and the prayer of faith exclude each other. We cannot meet God
unless we are free from hate, anger, quarreling, and all wrong done to others (1
Tim.2:8). If we are serious about praying we must be cleansed of all sin. God
dwells only in hearts that have been completely purified. We cannot speak to
God, who is holy, unless we have prayed for the forgiveness of our sins with a
converted and changed heart and truly believe in and live in this forgiveness.
“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness”
(2 Tim. 2:19). That is the clear stamp by which God can recognize his
own. If we refuse to listen to God’s demands for righteousness, our prayer is
The Prayer God Answers
Obstacles to Prayer
an abomination. It is loathsome to God. As long as we continue to shed the
blood of others, none of our prayers will be heard. With all the strength and
determination we can muster, we must reject evil and strive to do only what
is good. We must try to show justice and love to all people, especially to the
poor and deserted, the widows and orphans. We must be ready to fulfill the
will of God with the willing obedience of faith. Only then will God take away
our sins and accept our prayers.
Unless we have utterly surrendered ourselves to God and left behind all
selfishness, our prayer for God’s gifts will have no effect ( James 4:2-3). Everything,
absolutely everything, that stifles our love for him must be burned
or melted away.
The sin that separates us from God most is the cold arrogance of a selfcentered,
individualistic life. The key to prayer is to give up all the privileges,
rights, and demands of self-esteem, all self-justification and all clinging to the
good things we have accomplished through our own virtue. Self-importance
is the opposite of love and goodness and is the deepest root of sin. Conversely,
the root of community with God and love to others is the awareness that we
receive undeserved grace and good gifts from God. If we are full of ourselves,
thinking we are better than others, our prayer will never reach God. But if we
are aware of our guilt and recognize that we are worse than others, and ask
God for his mercy, he accepts our prayers (Luke 18:9-14).
Our prayers are blocked whenever our hearts remain unmoved. To experience
a fundamental change of heart and direction and to enter a new
life in God, we must first feel profound remorse for the heartless evil of our
self-governed lives. A person who sees his guilt as it really is, learns through
God’s judgment to detest sin and to turn away from it forever. He spends
the rest of his life in awe before God, for now he knows that the Father to
whom he prays is no respecter of persons but judges each according to his
actions, and that the purpose of his judgment is to destroy what is evil in us.
When we have been overpowered by God in this way, we will keep watch in
every area of our lives and in all our relationships, particularly in marriage
(1 Cor.7:5). We will not let pleasures, especially those of possession and sensuality,
distract us from God and hinder our prayers. Prayer demands clearheaded