Hindrances to Prayer

by Evangelist John R. Rice

VII. Any Unconfessed, Unlamented, Unrepented Sin, Grieves God and Hinders the Prayers of His Children

I have given you some sample cases where particular sins are mentioned in God's Word as hindering our prayers. But I cannot mention every detail. God's Spirit must do that for you. But let us find a general rule which you can apply to your own heart and life and find what grieves God.

In Psalm 66:18 are these solemn words,

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

I want you to notice what God did NOT say. God did not say that if I have sinned, He will not hear me. No, no! Thank God, He did not say that; for if He had then God could never hear a human being pray. For all of us have sinned. He did not even say that if at this moment there is any sin in the life, He would not hear us. For I John 1:8 teaches us plainly that all of us have (present tense) sin in our lives all the time. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." The constant presence of human frailty, of bodily illness, the encroachments of age and infirmity, the limitations to our prayer and soul winning, all testify that we have sin, even now, and that we will have until we are translated when Jesus comes, or until we die. If Paul needed to say, "When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom. 7:21), so do the rest of us need to say it. I cannot come to God and ask anything of Him on the basis that I am sinless and perfect and that there is not in my heart, unknown to me, unseen to my neighbors, a single thing that is less than His best, a single thing that is not as pure as an angel or as Christ Himself. No, no! I am a sinner. But I can still get my prayers answered.

And then what does God say? If I regard iniquity in my heart God will not hear me. I am a sinner, but, oh, I must not love sin. And if I hold any particular sin in my heart and love it, and make an alibi for it, and excuse it, and cover it up - then that becomes a cause of controversy between me and God. God hates sin, but God has a remedy for sin. If we Christians confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, says I John 1:9. So it is not primarily the fact of sin, but it is a love for sin, a willingness to sin, an excusing of sin that make it so God cannot answer our prayers.

If you want to get along with God and keep sweet fellowship and have your prayers answered, then you must judge your sins. You must honestly confess your sins and take sides with God against them. There must be a wholehearted repentance, that is, the turning of the will away from all the things that grieve God. Otherwise your will is dead set against the will of God. You cannot ask anything in the name of Christ, you cannot pray in the Spirit, you cannot pray according to the Word of God, your own conscience will not allow you to believe that God will bless you while you have set your own will up as an idol, or when some secret sin has your heart's devotion which ought to be given to God alone.

Oh, dear child of God, if you would have God's blessing on your prayer life, then let your heart cry out in the words of the old song - "Return, O holy Dove, return, Sweet messenger of rest! I hate the sins that made thee mourn, And drove Thee from my breast. The dearest idol I have known, Whate'er that idol be, Help me to tear it from Thy throne, And worship only Thee."

Maybe you loudly insist, "I don't see any harm in the theater." Perhaps you repeatedly say, "There is nothing wrong with a nice dance if you have it with nice people." Perhaps you say, "Well, if I never do anything worse than smoke a cigarette, I think I am pretty good." But the plain truth is, if you in your heart excuse your sin and "regard" it and love it, then it is an issue between you and God. And that controversy will block the answer to your prayers and will steal away your peace, and leave you helpless and powerless like Samson with his hair cut off. Oh, dear friend, the smallest sin in the world, if it breaks your contact with God, will leave you powerless and your prayers without results.

It may be the love of money. It may be a shameful secret love has entered into your life. It may be a sin that nobody but God knows about. But if you love a sin and hide it, and take up for it, then your prayers will be hindered.

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