The Hindrance to Prayer
"If I cherish iniquity in my heart — the Lord will not hear me." Psalm 66:18
We ought not to be satisfied with praying — but expect that God will hear us — and look out for His answer. If we pray aright, we pray for what we . . .
ardently desire, and
cannot be holy or happy without.
And if we pray for such things we must desire, and ought anxiously to expect our God to bestow them. He has promised. He is faithful. He ought to be believed. But this cannot be, unless we expect Him to hear and answer our prayers. The Lord loves to hear us pray, and He loves to answer our prayers!
There is but one effectual hindrance to the success of your prayers; if you love sin — then God will not hear you; He cannot hear you, for He hates sin with perfect abhorrence.
A deep sense of your own unworthiness is no barrier to success. You may feel unworthy to lift up your eyes to Heaven, us the publican did; and yet obtain answers to your prayers. You may feel yourself to be only dust and ashes, as Abraham did; and yet plead with God and prevail. You may feel like the prodigal, only want to be treated as a slave; and yet find acceptance with God as a son. A sense of unworthiness actually befits us, it is profitable, provided it is not associated with unbelief.
The weight of afflictions will not prevent success, though it may press you down, and fill you with distress. Who more burdened than Jacob, on the plains of Peniel? And yet who more successful than he? Was not the Psalmist deeply afflicted? Yet the Lord accepted his prayers, answered his petitions, and delivered him out of all his troubles.
Temptations cannot prevent success. They may confuse the mind, terrify the conscience, and trouble the heart; but our God distinguishes between the injections of the enemy — and the weakness of his child. If tempted not to pray — pray the more. If tempted to postpone prayer — pray at that very time. Most probably God has a blessing for you. Satan suspects he has — or he would not be so anxious to persuade you to put off prayer. Pray most — when tempted not to pray.
The lack of gifts cannot hinder success in prayer — or else the gifted hypocrite would be heard, and the ungifted saint rejected. The Lord looks at the heart! He is not pleased with the tones of a man's voice, moved by the eloquence of a man's lips, or affected by the order of a man's sentences! He regards the sincere desire, the ardent longing, the heartfelt cry. If the heart is honest, if the desire is sincere, if the motive is pure — He will hear, though the voice be unmelodious, the language broken, and the sentences disjointed.
But there is one thing that will effectually hinder success in prayer — it is SIN — the love of sin — sin cherished in the heart. It may be a hidden sin — as enmity against a brother; envying another's prosperity; covetousness; pride; hard thoughts of God; or unbelief. But if sin is loved, indulged, or cherished — then God will not hear us. We may ask — but we shall not receive; because we ask amiss. Therefore the Apostle exhorts, "Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord — and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10.)
Prayer and repentance must go together. If an impenitent sinner could pray — God would not hear him, because he regards iniquity in his heart. If a praying soul falls, so as to indulge in, and love sin — then his prayers are of no avail — God will not hear him.
Examine yourself therefore. Ask, "How is my heart disposed toward sin?" As we are disposed toward sin — so is God disposed toward us. If we love sin, "He hates all the workers of iniquity." If we hate sin, "He honors those who fear the Lord." "The prayer of the upright is His delight."