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Seven Hinderances to Prayer and How to Pray Boldly

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

Do you struggle with prayer?

So many Christians seem to struggle with prayer. Maybe it feels awkward to talk to someone you can’t see. Maybe because of experiences in your life you feel inadequate to come into the throne room of God and ask anything of Him. Or maybe the lifestyle you’re living now keeps you out of the throne room. Maybe you prayed once, but it seemed as if God wasn’t listening and you gave up. Whatever it is that keeps you from “praying without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), you need to put it down and run to the throne because God longs to speak to you.  (click to tweet) 

Come boldly to the throne of God in prayer

Through the writer of Hebrews, God tell us we can come boldly to the throne. Praying boldly means we should be able to approach the throne of our Heavenly Father in a confident and courageous way, demonstrating a willingness to take steps of faith to be obedient to Him. (click to tweet) The Greek word used here refers to having freedom of speech in such a way that we can speak our mind in a straightforward manner with great confidence. We can be frank with God and tell him exactly how we feel and what is going on in our lives. We don’t need to “sugar-coat” it. Nor do we need to try to paint it up with religious words.

When you think about it, God is omniscient. He knows everything. We can’t hide anything from Him – so we might as well be honest with Him. We can’t be too frank, too bold, too honest, too outspoken, or too blunt. (Click to tweet) He wants us to bare our hearts and soul to Him. We do need to come to him in reverence, but also with the whole and complete truth laid out before him.

What hinders us from bold prayer? 

Prayer Hinderance #1: Rejection

Most of us hate being rejected. We hate the word “no” all the way back to our two-year-old temper tantrums. So we come before God with hesitancy instead of boldness and confidence. We often associate “no” with not being liked. We tell ourselves that if God loves us he would answer this prayer the way we want Him to. However, we seldom ever consider that God’s no is for our best because he can see what’s in store for our future and that thing we think we want so badly we only cause us pain. Don’t be afraid of God’s “no.” Instead know that God has something even better in mind.

Prayer Hinderance #2: Doubt

Sometimes when we pray, we ask, but either expect God to say no or we don’t have the faith that God can do what we’re asking Him to do. Prayer and faith cannot be separated. Instead, we need to ask with expectancy and we can only do that if we have first taken the time to seek His will. James 1:5-7 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”

Prayer Hinderance #3: We feel we’re pestering Him

Sometimes we feel as if we come to God so often that we must be pestering Him. In our mind we might see Him rolling His eyes and saying, “you? Again?!” But we have to remember that in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to “pray without ceasing.” We can’t pester God too much.

Prayer Hinderance #4: Fear of being demanding

Sometimes we treat God like a genie in a bottle ready to do our every command. But if we have a healthy fear and respect for God, then we understand that we can’t “demand” our way and get it. Instead, we need to be sure that we have taken the time to seek His will, make sure our request does not go against scripture, and then bring our requests to Him – not our demands.

Prayer Hinderance #4: Unconfessed Sin

Psalm 66:18 says, ““If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” If you feel like God isn’t hearing you, ask Him to reveal any unconfessed sin in your life and then confess it, repent, and seek His forgiveness.

Prayer Hinderance #5: Wrong Motives

James 4:3 says, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.” We must ask in accordance with God’s will as revealed in the Bible. We must ask only for things that are consistent with the character and nature of God. We must ask for things that are for the spiritual benefit of ourselves or for the person on whose behalf we pray. God will not answer our self-centered, self-serving prayers.

Prayer Hinderance #6: Ignoring Bible study

Proverbs 28:9 says, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” It is impossible to have our will and motives aligned with God, if we don’t know what His Word says. Without Bible Study, prayer is like a one-way conversation with you doing all the talking. But if we can’t take the time to listen to God and His instructions through His Word, God will not honor our prayers.

Prayer Hinderance #7: Harboring unforgiveness

In Mark 11:25 Jesus says, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Harboring unforgiveness makes you angry and bitter – and God will not listen to your prayers.

Why can we have confidence to pray boldly?

Here are 11 verses that tell us why we can come to the throne of God boldly and with confidence when we come to Him in prayer.

  1. Nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37)
  2. God keeps His promises (Joshua 21:45)
  3. God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19)
  4. We are a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
  5. God cannot fail (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  6. God has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11)
  7. He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
  8. When our hearts are right, our motives are right, and we have confessed any sin, we can know that God hears us. (Micah 7:7)
  9. Our prayers make a difference (James 5:16)
  10. We have been made righteous through Christ (Proverbs 15:29)
  11. God will do more than we can think or ask (Ephesians 3:20-21)

How can our prayer be bold?

1. Before prayer, Seek His Will

1 John 5:14-15 says, “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” Seeking His will can be time consuming and it’s hard work. But we have to understand that this verse does not promise that we will get everything we want. We have to ask according to His will and you don’t know His will if you don’t seek for it. But when we pray – knowing that our prayer aligns with His will – then we can pray with confidence – and that prayer will be heard and He will answer it – in his time, not yours.

2. Be Persistent in prayer

In Psalm 88:1 we find that David cried out to the Lord day and night. 1 Chronicles 16:11 tells us to seek the face of God continually. Jesus told the parable about a widow woman who wanted justice and she sought the chance to plead her case to the judge, but he ignored her. She came every day until the judge gave in and she received justice. (See Luke 18). In Acts 1, the apostles were continually devoting themselves to prayer. If you know your prayer aligns with God Word and His will, then be persistent. Too often we give up praying just one prayer before God answers and therefore we never see the answer.

3. Align your prayers with God’s Word

If what you are praying for does not match up with Scripture, then you can bet God won’t answer the prayer. For example, if you ask God to help you come up with a good lie to tell your boss so you can skip out of work today, God won’t answer that prayer because His Word says, “Thou shalt not lie.” If it feels like God isn’t hearing or answering your prayer, search the Scriptures and be sure it aligns with what God says in His Word.

4. Pray God’s Word back to Him.

Once you have searched the scripture and found that your prayer does in fact align with Scripture – pray that verses back to Him.

5. Have an attitude of humility, not entitlement, in your prayer

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18:13-14 about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Both prayed, but it was the Tax Collector’s prayer that was heard. In these verses, Jesus said, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

6. Pray with confidence.

Pray with confidence – not doubt or expecting God to say no. Ephesians 3:11-12 says, “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” 1 John 5:14 says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

7. Be patient

Be willing to be patient – God’s timing is not always our timing. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.” Trust His timing. He’s never late and He is always working everything out for your good and His glory. Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. 

8. Be obedient

Be willing to be obedient – Remember that our omniscient God already knows everything. He knows that if you are not going to obey Him, so if he knows you’re not, then why should He answer your prayer. If you are asking Him if you should take Job A or Job B and Job B pays more and should more exciting, but in your heart you’ve already selected Job B, then why should He answer our prayer – you’ve already answered it for Him without knowing what he knows. The company of Job B might be heading down financial disaster and a year from know it will fold and close it’s doors forever. God already knows that and so he might want you to take Job A while trusting Him to provide and meet your every need. Be willing to be obedient.

What is holding you back from praying bold prayers?

Whatever is holding back your prayers from being bold and confident, seek God’s wisdom, forgiveness, and ask Him to grow your faith. As His child, you have instant access to Him and He’s waiting now for you to come to Him in prayer.

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