We are God’s children, and He loves to talk with us. He delights in answering prayers as a good father delights in giving his children gifts. If even earthly fathers can give good gifts to their children, how much more so a perfect Heavenly Father?
But God also hates selfishness because it hurts us and it hurts others. He does not hate us, but He hates it when we only think of ourselves. He calls it sin.
I love my children, but I hate it when they only think of themselves and are unkind or act like bullies. I want to give my children gifts. I want them to have privileges, but it is more important to me that they develop good character than they have exactly what they want at every second. God feels the same.
You might not be aware that God has laid out some clear guidelines in the Bible of what can hinder or block our prayers. These are not the only reasons that prayers are delayed, but they might be!
Here’s 3 things that can hinder our prayers from being answered:
1. We take advantage of other people.
To exploit someone means to use him/her for our own benefit or to take advantage of them. Maybe we are not CEOs in a multi-billion dollar company, but we can still be competent in exploitation.
When I was in 6th grade, a boy on the bus liked me. I did not really like him, but I did like his Kris-Kross cassette tape (yes, now I am dated!). So I agreed to “go out” with him (whatever that meant at age 11 or 12) to get access to his cassette. I think I broke up with him a couple of days later. This is exploitation. I was only thinking of myself.
Do we try to manipulate other people with our emotional outbursts (anger, tears, silence)? This is an attempt to control another person. If you’d like to see this played out, just spend a few hours with any toddler, and you will probably see some form of exploitation.
But God says clearly in Isaiah 58 that if we want our fasting (going without food to add power to our prayers) we cannot exploit others.
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decision and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:2-3)
2. We quarrel and strive with others.
The following verse in Isaiah 58 says that we cannot expect our fasting to be heard if we end it with quarreling and strife. Ouch. God is serious.
James 4:1 says that quarreling comes from our own selfish desires. We want what we don’t have, so we try to get it.
The object of our desire might not even be a physical one. Maybe what we want is love or respect or someone’s attention or vengeance. Whatever it is, we are not getting it, so we quarrel to try to get our way.
I am guilty of this. When I feel out of control, instead of leaving the results in God’s hands or getting direction and peace from Him first, I can try to determine the outcomes myself. I quarrel with my husband about getting things done around the house because I expect it to look a certain way. I quarrel with my kids and demand too much of them because my own selfish desires are tied up in the mix.
But until I recognize and repent of what I’m doing, I’m blocking my own prayers. And the Holy Spirit is always faithful to show me. I usually know before I even open my mouth that my heart is not in the right place. And I definitely know after I have opened my mouth that it was not. The only reason I might not hear His gentle conviction is if I have blocked His voice on the issue for a long time, thus forcing Him to get my attention in other ways.
It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer me or help me. It’s that I can limit Him by walking my own paths instead of His.
God also clearly says that if husbands don’t treat their wives as they should, their prayers can be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). We are to care for and love each other, especially those that are physically weaker than we are or can offer us no reward for our kindness. We can’t expect God to treat us with favor if we treat others poorly.
3. We hang onto our own way.
Isaiah 59:2 says it pretty clearly, “But your sins have cut you off from God. Your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear.”
God is not trying to be nasty to you. But He is concerned about you, your past, present, and future. He wants you to walk in His ways because His ways bring freedom. If we continue to walk in our own selfish ways (sin), it blocks His face. When we agree with Him, come back to Him, and leave our selfish paths, He forgives us.
Some of us are really stressed out because we won’t repent (turn away from) the sin that we love. (Isaiah 48:22 “There is no peace for the wicked.”)
If we want our prayers to be heard and answered, we have to align ourselves with what God says to be true.
No one has perfect revelation of truth. But we all have some. Holiness is living up to what we’ve already been given. And when we fail to do so, confessing and continuing on with God’s help (because we can’t change ourselves).
So maybe it’s forgiving your spouse, not talking about your neighbor behind her back, giving a portion of your income away. Whatever it is, whatever light God has given you to follow, do so, and your prayers will be answered. And you will have peace.
In college, I really liked a young man who did not know Jesus. He was a good guy, and I allowed my attraction to determine my choices. But I knew in my spirit, that I was not meant to be playing that game. In the end, I broke it off, but I hurt him and I hurt myself, and I hurt Jesus. I wish I would have listened to Wisdom the first time.
God truly is a good Father. Whenever I wonder how or what God might be up to in any certain situation, I ask myself, “What would a good father do here?” Sometimes I can’t always see it because I don’t have the perspective that He does. But I’m a parent and I realize that my understanding is much greater than my children’s, simply because of experience and age. So is God’s. He sees what’s ahead. He knows what He is preparing us for. He is fully aware of the best way to live. So at times, He must hinder our paths if they are headed towards destruction. Because He loves us.
And the good news is that we can always turn around from where we were headed and find complete acceptance.
Sometimes the answer to prayer tarries because of circumstances beyond our control. But sometimes it’s hindered because of our choices. It’s worth checking to make sure! If we can correct it, God will be faithful to point it out right away.
If you’d like more resources to grow in your walk with God, join me on Pinterest!