Hindrances to Prayer
by Evangelist John R. Rice
I. Wrong Relationship of Wives to Husbands and of Husbands to Wives Hinders Prayer
In the matter of hindered prayer, we ought to begin where God begins. In First Peter 3:7, the Lord says, "... that your prayers be not hindered." Speaking first of the sins of a rebellious wife that hurts her prayers, He discusses that in detail. And then the Scripture speaks of the sins of a husband who does not take his proper, God-appointed place in relation to the wife, and warns both wife and husband that they are to obey God in this matter, "that your prayers be not hindered."
Will you read prayerfully these seven remarkable verses, which may show why God does not hear your prayer?
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (I Pet 3:1-7).
Here God speaks to the wife about her duty to the husband. And in the matter of getting your prayers answered, it does not matter, says the Lord, what kind of husband you have; you must obey him, you must be subject to him. A woman must be subject to her husband, or her prayers are hindered. He may even be an unsaved man, one who will not obey the Word of God, who will not listen to the Bible, will not attend church; and yet a Christian woman is to be subject to such a husband, says the above Scripture, that her prayers be not hindered.
It is even inferred that the wife's prayer for the salvation of her husband may be blocked by her own disobedience. A woman may seek to use her influence with her husband by adorning her body, by the plaiting of her hair, by the wearing of gold, or by her neat and attractive dress; but the Lord here says that these things are not to be the beauty, the adornment, the attraction of a Christian woman. And they will not win her husband; they will not get her prayers answered. Rather, every Christian woman is to have that "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (verse 4). It is not wrong to plait the hair, or wear clothes; but the only ornament to win a husband for God is the ornament that will cause God to answer prayers, the ornament of a meek, obedient spirit.
In this matter, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is held up as an example. She called Abraham lord, as she obeyed him. And God gave Sarah a baby when she was ninety years old, wonderfully answering her prayers. And so, argues the Word of God, Christian women, if their prayers are not to be hindered, must be subject to their husbands.
Many a Christian woman has wept as she told me how earnestly she prayed, how diligently she attended the house of God, how eagerly she did church work, and God seemed not to hear her prayers about an unsaved husband or son or daughter! It is a remarkable fact that in nearly every congregation of Christians are godly women, women who pray, who read their bibles, who live lives more or less separated from worldliness in general, and yet who cannot get their prayers answered for the conversion of their loved ones. "Why? Why?" the cry comes. The answer is not found in the public church services. The answer is not found if you watch such good women singing in the choir, teaching in the Sunday School, attending bible conferences, giving money to the poor. No, no! Our sins and hindered prayer are primarily home-sins. The sins of Christians which hinder their prayers and stop Heaven, and shut the ears of God and grieve Him till He turns His dear face away from His own born-again children, are not most often the sins of the tavern, nor of the dance floor, nor of the theater. They are not the public sins so much as the private sins. They are not the sins in the church so much as in the homes!
You remember Achan and the wedge of gold and the two hundred shekels of silver and the Babylonish garment which he stole - treasures dedicated to God. When the curse of God was pronounced upon all Israel, Achan finally admitted, "They are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it" (Josh. 7:21). Achan's sin was not a public sin. Others never dreamed of it. It was a home-sin.
And, dear wife who reads this, if you are guilty of this horrible sin of rebellion against the one whom you took with solemn vows as your husband, to honor, love and obey, then that sin today hinders your prayers! That rebellion is the secret of why God has turned away His face and many of your prayers go unanswered.
Rebellion is the sin of fallen angels. Rebellion is the sin which damns every Christ-rejecting sinner. Rebellion against authority is the heart of all crime, and every criminal in a penitentiary has been guilty first not of murder, nor of theft, but has been guilty first of rebellion against authority. This was the sin of the prodigal boy. Rebellion is the very heart of all sin. Dear Christian wife, God says to you that if you will not be subject to your husband that your prayers are hindered.
I dared not use this Scripture without an honest interpretation of it. The meaning surely is clear. Rebellious wives have their prayers hindered.
And again, He says, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." Husbands, too, have their prayers hindered if they do not deal Scripturally with their wives.
Husbands are (1) to dwell with their wives "according to knowledge," that is, based on an understanding of the Scriptures relating to husband and wife. (2) "Giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel," and (3) "as being heirs together of the grace of life." Husbands, then, should take the place accorded them in the Scriptures as heads of the home, high priests unto God, responsible for the home and for the children, like Joshua, who said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," for "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:23). Husbands are to "rule over" their wives (Gen. 3:16). A husband who does not dwell with his wife according to knowledge of the plain command of Scripture is likely to have his prayers go unanswered, hindered.
A husband is to remember that he is stronger than his wife. His life should be an example to his wife. The husband should be able to explain the Scriptures to his wife (I Cor. 14:35). The heavy responsibilities of earning a living, of disciplining children, winning the family to Christ, of religious instruction in the home and the family - these heaviest burdens ought to fall heaviest on the husband's shoulders. The man who shirks and avoids such responsibilities, leaving them for the weaker partner, sins before God and will have his prayers hindered.
And the husband should feel himself as one with his wife, one flesh. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherished it" (Eph. 5:29). The husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.
And this general surrender to God's pattern for the place of the husband in the home is essential to the full, happy life of daily answered prayer. The slacker husband will find that his prayers are hindered.
Discord in the home grieves God. And if there be children that rebel against parents, let them know that such rebellion turns away the face of God and stops His ears and hinders their prayers.
If an old-time revival of Bible Christianity can be had in the homes, how blessed, how far reaching will be the results! Heartfelt surrender to the will of God and obedience to His plan in the home is more important than any kind of public worship or any duties of citizenship. The hindrances to prayer are often in the relations of wives and husbands and of children and parents in the home.
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