Nearly every Christian I’ve met desires to have an effective prayer life. Many, however, don’t realize that the Bible outlines several things that will actually cause our prayers to be unanswered. In order to pray effectively, we must avoid the following things:
1. Wrong motives
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” – James 4:3
The easiest way to avoid wrong motives is to consider whether the request is selfish or not. For example, “Lord please give me a Ferrari” is a selfish prayer. We must ask according to God’s will and not our own. What is God’s will? The Bible has a lot to say about that.
2. Unconfessed sin
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. – Isaiah 59:2
James tells us that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) If, however, we don’t find ourselves in a righteous state, we are praying ineffectively. The good news is that we can made righteous as soon as we confess our sins! 1 John 1:9 tells us that when there is sin in our lives God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness the moment we confess it. Then we can approach a Holy God with boldness and confidence (Hebrews 4:16) because of what Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross.
He makes us righteous!
He makes our prayers effective.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” – James 4:6
Pride was the first sin ever committed. (Isaiah 14:12-26) It separates us from a loving Father who wants to know us and answer our prayer. How do you get rid of pride? It’s a choice. You must choose to submit your will to God and trust that His will is better than your will. Pride says, “I know what’s best for me.”
Humility says, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea,
blown and tossed by the wind. – James 1:6
Faith is always a key component to prayer. During Jesus’ time on earth we saw him attracted to faith, yet there was a city where he couldn’t perform any miracles because of people’s doubt and lack of faith. When we come to God in prayer we have to believe that God can actually do the very thing we’re praying for.
5. Family conflict
In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter shows us that if there is marital conflict our prayers will be hindered. Peter is particularly addressing the fact that husbands were to honour their wives.
So men, love and honour your wives, not only will your prayers be more effective, but your overall (Matthew 15:38) satisfaction in life will increase drastically.
6. Not the right time
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9
Just because we haven’t received an answer to prayer doesn’t mean it’s a no. Sometimes, it’s not yet. My boys really want to drive our car, but my answer is a hard ‘no’ until they are old enough. I want them to eventually have independence and enjoy things like driving, but it would be irresponsible for me to let them drive now. God knows what’s best for you. Trust that He knows what’s best and that His timing is perfect.
7. You never asked
You desire but do not have, so you kill.
You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God. – James 4:2
Probably the biggest reason for unanswered prayers is simply the fact that we do not ask. Our heavenly Father is a good God who loves to answer our prayers and give good gifts to us. In fact, we honour Him when we ask Him to do the things that only He can do. I love my kids and want the very best for them, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask?” (Matthew 7:11)