Prayer Series #6 – Obstacles to Answered Prayer

In order to get more answers to prayer, we have to understand the spiritual realm and the obstacles that threaten the success of our prayers. Here are a few of the tools for overcoming prayer obstacles.

This is the 6th in an 8 part series on Prayer. It’s best to read these lesson posts in order.

2391-01The picture we get of prayer in scripture would make anyone think that it is simple. Jesus did it with 100% success. He promised that if two or more agree on anything, it shall be done by His Father in heaven (Matt. 18:19). Scripture also says that everyone who came to Jesus received what they asked for; furthermore, Jesus said that God already knows what it is we need and want, but He instructs us to ask anyway.

These are great promises and models for prayer which should encourage us to pray. We learn from them that God wants to answer every prayer; but there are, however, things we don’t understand about the Kingdom of God and the spiritual realm that keep us from getting all our prayers answered. The challenge is that the standard for getting answered pray is low, but the standard for measuring success is VERY high – it’s “perfect”. Obviously, not everything we need to know about prayer is immediately evident in scripture. There are certainly other things to learn about getting answers to prayer.

The first post of this series underscores that prayer is part of the bigger conversation which exists in our relationship with God. In that relationship, there are many types of prayer. There are questions in which we ask for answers to things we want to better understand. There are expressions of joy and sorrow and praise for God which arise in our daily life and walk with Him. There are also requests for things we need or want for ourselves, which God says He delights in hearing and answering. Some people feel guilty about asking for things for themselves, but scripture makes it clear there is abundant provision laid up for us which God wants to give us. It would be wrong not to ask for what He has provided!

Our prayers for the things we need are sometimes hindered by the limitations in our relationship with God. All prayer is a product of relationship but the depth of our relationship can limit what we are able to receive from Him. God is a lover and He delights in our “connections” with Him even if they’re brief and self-centric. We come with our list and recite our requests, but He desires to give us even more than what we ask – Himself. We can’t get our requests from Him; they are “hidden” in Him. His answer to our request is “Take Me in a greater measure and everything else that you request will be included.” Obstacles in personal prayer are frequently rooted in our concept of God and His love for us, and our relationship with Him.

Sometimes what we are asking for requires us to gain a higher spiritual “position” or level of authority. Jesus faced this problem when the disciples asked to receive positions of authority in His Kingdom. The request was immature. He was about to give them all authority, but He could not give them positions of honor in His Kingdom. Honor is given to those who humble themselves as Christ did. That’s how the Kingdom of God works; Jesus gained His authority in the wilderness and His position of honor at the cross.

When we pray and don’t get answers, it’s because the answer requires us to take the next spiritual step in our maturity and authority. That “step” happens when we put our personal objectives (flesh) to death by choosing to forgive others and/or to make Christ lord of our life in a greater way. If there is a prayer which has stubbornly been unanswered, it’s not God who’s holding back the answer, it’s us. For more information on this topic, check out the book, “A Journey In The Wilderness – Becoming Fruitful In The Kingdom”, on the sidebar to the right.

It’s common among believers to ask over and over again for the same thing, hoping to convince God that He should give them what we want. There are several parables in scripture where the concept of “continuing to ask” is one way to answered prayer. We can’t beg or ‘bug’ God into giving us our request; He already wants to give it to us because of love. This parable is about a “grump, unwilling, and unrighteous  judge” who gives in to the request because of the persistence of the person. This is not a characterization of God but of the “requester”. The purpose of the allegory is to give high standing to persistence, because it should drive us to pursue answers to our unanswered prayers. If we know God’s love we know He will help us learn to be successful in prayer.

3180-30Praying for people or situations brings a whole new set of obstacles to prayer, than when we pray for ourselves. We are challenged in scripture to overcome the flesh, the devil, and the world. These are every Christian’s enemies. The “flesh” refers to unbelief and the intrinsic hostility humanity has with God which is rooted in unbelief. We do not naturally believe in His love for us, because we have never known unconditional love. Our unbelief separates us from God and blames Him for our sorry state.

The “devil” represents woundedness, sickness, greed and “lack” of all kinds. This is the nature and work of the devil according to scripture. When we oppose these works in our actions or prayers, we’re fighting the devil by bringing the blessing of God to people who have been cheated out of it. Our prayers have different obstacles when we are praying to take back ground which has been under the oppression of the devil and his work. As with most “wars” they are fought with knowledge and careful strategy.

In the next post, we’ll look at the tools for overcoming the devil in order to get more of our prayers answered.

Your comments are invited……

This is the 6th in a series of 8 posts about prayer. Please invite your friends to join the conversation. The image below can be saved to your computer by right clicking and selecting “save image as” and then it can be “attached” or “inserted” in a email message. You can also become a “subscriber” and never miss a new post. Check out the “Meta” section “Entries RSS”on the side bar to the right.

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