Prayer: The greater work.
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What Hinders us?
What Hinders us?
Alexander White once said, “If you want to humble a man, ask him about his prayer life!”
17 pray without ceasing,
commands us to pray without ceasing, so why do we struggle to pray? I must admit that I am first preaching to myself this morning. As I prepared this sermon, preparation came with great conviction. So with that being said, “I want to look at four hinderances to our prayers.
Before we look at the hindrances, let’s define what true prayer is.
According to John Bunyan, “Prayer is sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.
So what hinders you from pouring out your heart to God in prayer?
The first hindrance to our prayers, we seek the wrong thing. We seek the benefits of God and not God Himself which will lead to discouragement.
You treat God like a big cosmic vending machine.
I remember a story about a nurse. She met a family because the grandmother had been hospitalized on her floor. She walked in the room one day to discover the family getting ready to pray over grandma. She asked if she could join them and they said sure. She remarked how the family prayed with faith and zeal for God to heal grandma. She prayed several times with the family. Then one day as she started her shift, she discovered grandma had died. She went into the room to offer her condolences, she asked if she could pray with them one last time. She was shocked by their response. They said no, they said they were done with God because He did not heal Grandma… This is a difficult example of how we can lose sight of seeking God and begin seeking only His benefits.
Remember our John Bunyan quote? As you pour out your hearts in prayer, you proclaim the promises of scripture for the good of the church, with submission to God’s will. So was the family wrong in what they prayed? No absolutely, not. We pray every week for people and their physical needs. God calls us to bring those requests to him. So where did the family praying for grandma fall short? They did not submit in faith to the will of God. This is tough. But if we believe God is sovereign and all knowing and all loving we have to trust Him even when we don’t understand why He allowed the opposite to happen that we prayed for. This reminds me of Sherman Smith’s testimony. Sherm Smith was an NFL running back. He said he was around believers in college, but he said their faith didn’t accomplish anything in the christian’s life. He said the so called “Christians” talked the way he talked, they watched what he watched, they went to the same parties he went too. So if nothing was different, then what was was the point of being a christian? Then Sherman got drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL and he met Ken Hutcherson, who played for Seattle and was a Christian. And Sherman thought yeah ok we will see. We will see if you are any different than anyone else. And during a game Ken injured his knee and word made it back to the sidelines his career was over. And when Sherman made it back to the locker room he was shocked. There was Ken with ice on his knee, his NFL career over which would have divested the vast majority of players and there sat Ken with a huge smile on his face and said “Sherm I can’t wait to see what God has for me. Because nothing in this life happens that is not filtered through God’s hands. How powerful is that, to have that attitude? That no matter what trial we are facing, to realize that God is not caught off guard, He is in complete control and what ever is happing He allowed it, and that we can trust Him in it. And when we don’t understand why he allowed something, but to know that He is in control and He has a plan what a difference that can make in our lives.
****SKIP at UCC Churches*****
One of the hardest funerals I have ever attended was for my cousin. She was 33 years old and died of cancer. She loved the Lord and left behind her husband and her son. Why would God take one of His followers so young. Why will her son grow up without a mommy? I don’t know. Human wisdom will never give a satisfactory answer. But I can tell you one thing. At her funeral When her parents and husband stood on the stage and sang the song Only Jesus that we sang earlier. It was very powerful and her mom told me she knew there were people there that didn’t know the Lord. So while we were all left wondering why, we must remember that that event was filtered through the loving hands of our Father in heaven and we must trust His heart while we submit to His will.
****SKIP at UCC Churches*****
Another good example from Scripture of someone desiring the gifts of God and not desiring God Himself is found in Acts. Simon the Sorcerer saw Peter and John laying hands on people and they would receive the Holy Spirit. Simon the Sorcerer was very impressed with this power. He desired the power so much that he offered Peter and John money for them to give him the power. You see he wasn’t seeking God. He wanted what God could offer.
An example of the correct attitude is found in Job. Remember Job was wealthy and very blessed. He was a righteous man but what happened to Job? Listen to chapter 1,
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job was wealthy and lost it all but above that Job lost all seven of his children yet he would not curse God instead did you catch his reaction? Job tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground to what? He fell to the ground to worship?
Or compare the psalmist prayer in Psalm 42:
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Did you hear the psalmist heart? He describes prayer as pouring out his soul and what is his desire? His desire is God, not what God can do for him. No his soul pants for God like the deer pants for water.
The second hindrance to prayer is confidence in ourselves. I am very guilty of this one. I go about my day quote “handling” everything that I can on my own, and only turn to God when I encounter a problem that I determine I can’t fix on my own. I don’t know if you have ever experienced this or not, but I have found myself facing a situation or a decision and I am asking everyone their opinion. What they think I should do and at some point I realize that I haven’t prayed about it. I have asked a lot of friends and family and fellow Christians… Not to say that asking other is bad but I never asked Jesus what I should do. I never prayed for wisdom.
James 1 says,
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
The Biblical example that comes to mind is David when he faces Goliath. How many people thought that it was a good idea for David who was just a boy to face Goliath who was a seasoned warrior? No one but David. Why was David willing? Was he full of self confidence. Did he think that he was the best slingshotter in all of Israel?
Let’s read 1 Samuel 17:32-37
32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
So where was David’s confidence? Was it in himself and his abilities? Did David say I have killed a lion and I have killed a bear and I will kill Goliath… No David said that God gave the lion and the bear over to him and that God would give Goliath over to him. David’s confidence was in the Lord not in his own abilities.
The third hindrance to our prayer is our love for our sin. We often think of our desires being to strong and that is why we sin and why we can’t break free from them but I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis. He says,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinte joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are so distracted by our pursuit of sin, we lose our desire to pray.
John Buyan warns,
“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.”
There is another side effect of our sin on our prayers. Your sin prevents your prayers from being heard according to psalm 66 which reads,
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
So you must purify your heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, or sin will distract us from prayer effect our focus in prayer or completely keep us from prayer. So you must battle sin with prayer or it will hinder and keep you from prayer.
The fourth hinderance to our Prayers is a lack of faith.
Example from Parenting Class. Children act the way they do because it works.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
You must believe that it you seek to draw near to God through prayer He will reward you.
22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In closing I want to look at three quotes on Prayer.
Oswald Chambers – “Prayer doesn’t fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
“You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed”
One more quote from Bunyan --
“Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.”
What a thought your prayers are shield to your soul, a sacrifice to God and a scourge for Satan.”
So I will leave you with the question this morning, “What is hindering your prayers?”
Let us pray!