Hindrances To Answered Prayer
By Jessie Penn-Lewis
"Your sins have hid His face from you, that He cannot hear you," said Isaiah to Israel: therefore, when prayer is unanswered, you need to ask, "Is there anything in my life which is hindering God from answering my prayer? Am I regarding iniquity in my heart?"
If there is one thing in your life that is knowingly contrary to the will of God, or a clinging to anything that you have a doubt about, that thing will be a barrier to answered prayer. There are certain things which you pray for. Do you want them only in the will of God? There are things you want changed in your life – things which would be for your comfort, and you may think, for the glory of God. Would you want them if you knew that they were not in the will of God for you?
Are the springs of your desires cleansed, so that your affections do not go out to anything outside the will of God? Never blame God for suffering that comes through letting the affections go out without first seeking to know the will of God.
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much in its working." There must be practical righteousness in the life, as well as imputed righteousness in Christ. Every part of your life must be in accord with God's will and God's law as far as you know.
There must also be daily victory over sin. Nothing so quickly stops the "ask," and the power to ask, as failure in living a victorious life. The necessity of personal victory cannot be too strongly and clearly emphasized as a condition for answered prayer.
There is something within you that masters you – it is almost always focused in some one thing – just go straight to your Saviour, the Man with the marred face, and let Him apply the precious blood, and cleanse you from the "want to" of sin. He is a Saviour, "He shall save His people from their sins." An unclouded personal relationship to Christ is the very foundation of answered prayer.
In addition to personal victory in the specific things you know of as your "besetments," it is necessary to have a victorious spirit – which means victory over your environment and your circumstances. Personal victory at every point of your life is a primary factor for continual answer to prayer.
Satan Aims to Stop Prayer
The object, therefore, of the enemy in attacking a soul is to stop the prayer power. Satan cares less about the failure than about the results of it. If he can keep a believer under bondage, oppression, weight or cloud, his great gain is the stoppage of prayer. So victory is a necessity, not only for the sake of victory, but for the sake of retaining power in prayer. The little thing which seems a trifle in itself, is great in its issues if through it, the Adversary can stop the current of prayer.
Suppose you are pushed to say something you ought not to say; then you go to the Lord for forgiveness – and He gives it – but it has dulled your spirit. You cannot instantly exercise power in prayer for the deliverance of others, for there is a shadow on your spirit which checks the victorious faith which moves mountains and bids the enemy go.
For this personal victory, it is necessary to know how, in the very moment of attack, instantly to lay hold of your prayer privilege, and not allow any shadow to settle down upon your spirit. Pray at once, before the shadow settles down, or in a few hours you will not be able to pray at all.
It is a great secret in the life of personal victory, to "keep short accounts with God," to quickly seize the weapon of prayer, and pray no matter bow you feel. Whatever may be the circumstances, however you may think you are in "defeat," PRAY!
The Place of the Will in Prayer
"Ye shall ask what ye will" – not what you feel. Here we see clearly the place of the will in prayer. Is your WILL set on God's side? Have you ever experienced a conflict wherein you knew not what to do, and you have prayed this way, and that way, but the situation has become almost one of despair.
Then at last there has come to your lips, by the working of the Holy Spirit, the declaration: "There is one thing I am sure about: I do set my will on the side of God's will." And the result has been an immediate stoppage of the conflict, simply from this definite attitude of the will.
There are times when the powers of darkness bring such a cloud of confusion upon you that you cannot discern right from wrong, until you retire, as it were, from the outward conflict to the center, to your will, the helm of the ship, the center spring of your whole being – and quietly put your will on God's side against sin and Satan. Thus the will is the "casting vote," so to speak, in every time of doubt or conflict. Yes, you can "take sides with God" even against yourself!
The Self-Motive in Prayer
For answered prayer, you must cease from the "self center." "The Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends"; that is, when he ceased to revolve around himself and his sufferings, and began to pray for others. Leave the personal things with God, trust Him with yourself and your needs, and very often the answer for yourself will come while you pray for the needs of others.
This brings us to what may be described as "inverted" prayer. It is possible to pray, and pray, and pray for a certain thing until you can think of nothing else, and are in a "muddle" of self-occupation and self-centeredness, and no answer is given to all the praying. Cease from yourself, as your own center, and give yourself to prayer for someone else, and it may be the answer will come just at that point, for to pray "outside of yourself lifts your spirit up to God."
The self-motive in prayer needs to be dealt with. A believer who persistently prays only for himself or even for his own circle, needs to ask himself: Would I be just as keen and earnest if the need I pray for were the need of someone else? A mother prays for her son because he is her son, and it would be a great deliverance for her if he, and her other children, were converted.
Or it may be he is a disgrace to the family, and she wants to be rid of the "disgrace." Then there are mothers so anxious about the salvation of a son that they pester him, morning, noon and night, until he does not want to hear. Such a mother is unconsciously undoing her prayers at the very time she is offering them.
The self-motive is very strong. Do not take it for granted that every thought, every motive is pure, in prayer or other matters, even though you may think so. Ask God, with His pure eyes, to lay bare the things you may not know of in your motives, your desires, the causes of your prayers. It needs a deep work of God to bring a soul into the place where only God's will, for God's glory, is the petition, with no self-purpose or ought else behind it.
But all the power of God will be at the disposal of such a soul with such a motive. To be a man of prayer means a deep purging, not only by the blood of Calvary that cleanses us, but by the Spirit of God as fire, laying bare the dross, even in that which appears to be the highest and purest. The self-tree is a poisonous growth, and there may be filtering into that thing which appears so pure, some little tincture of the poison, which is giving ground to the enemy to injure your prayer life.