5 Hindrances to Effective Prayers

Last updated: 16 Aug 2019

man, kneeling and praying by the beach


5 Attitudes and Misconceptions That Hinder Effective Prayers, is a work I first published with At the Fountain Ministries, under the name Jane Aimee.

That was two years ago. I have edited the ebooklet for sentence structure and easy readability on mobile devices, and also added some little content.

Click on this link for a FREE download of the full version in PDF (with questions for reflection) or continue reading this page for the shortened SEO version.

To pray effective prayers is the desire of every child of God, but many times that's not always the case. Usually, a lot of us struggle and feel frustrated with out prayer lives.

That is one reason I've not mentioned sin as one of the hindrances to effective prayers. I believe some sincere holy Christians still struggle developing a vibrant prayer life.

These major hindrances, which are further subdivided and explained, are in terms of wrong attitudes and misconceptions about prayer.

1. Ignorance about the purpose of praying hinders effective prayers

The simplest definition of prayer is talking with God.

According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words (1985) the Greek word, Proseuchomai, rendered “prayer” in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), the Acts of the Apostles and some of Paul’s letters as well as in Hebrews and Jude, is always used of prayer as directed to God.

Other words translated as “prayer” in our English versions can mean a wish, a desire or a vow.

Misconceptions and wrong attitudes towards prayers usually arise from ignorance about the purpose of prayer. When one comes to understand why there exists the need to pray, wrong attitudes and beliefs begin to give way, and effective prayers become the norm.

Wrong purposes for praying

i. To Fulfill a Biblical Command

Explained in the second wrong attitude below.

ii. To Twist God's arm

Prayer is not a tool to get God to do what He is not inclined to do. James 4:3 says if a request is amiss, it will not be granted, which means there are some requests that God will not honor even though He has called the Christian to ask and receive (Matthew 7:7, Mark 11:24).

We need to persevere in prayer and not lose heart until we see the answer, but at the same time it is necessary to know if we are in the will of God in our asking in that particular situation or not.

When we have not ascertained His will in the matter, persevering in prayer or refusing to let go until God grants our demand is to believe that our prayer can cause God to do what He is not willing to do. That is having more faith in our prayers and in our praying than the Word of God.

In God’s word, we come to understand His will. Where He has clearly revealed His will, we can be patient and not give up until we see the desired result.

Disillusionment is bound to set in if we believe our prayers can get whatever we believe for and desire to have. This has caused some Christians to believe God is unfaithful and that the Word is not true.

What is the purpose of prayer?

i. The purpose of prayer is to fellowship with God.

The Lord Jesus spent a lot of time alone with the Father. It would be absurd to think He did that just because the Father demanded it.

In the early morning or after the day’s activities of preaching, teaching and healing the sick, He would isolate Himself to pray, sometimes throughout the night. Why?

Because He knew He needed to have time with His Father and to be refreshed.

Jesus was God but also human. He needed that strengthening that only comes from spending time with the Father.

Christianity is relationship, and that relationship is kept fresh by consistent fellowship.

The primary purpose of prayer is to have fellowship with our Father in heaven. Here, we might not need to make requests; just worship or visit with the Lord.

Prayer is not the time to address devils.

Prayer is not the time for griping and complaining.

Prayer is not the time to get mad at God for our bad circumstances.

It is the time to pour out our hearts to the Father. And to listen to Him speak us.

ii. The purpose of prayer is to stay alert in the spirit


Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. - Luke 21:36

Prayer and watchfulness or being alert go together.

Alertness that comes through prayerfulness allows the spirit man to dominate over the flesh. This helps us to be able to effectively resist temptations. - Ephesians 6:18


Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak! - Matthew 26:41

It is an undisputed saying that overt, gross sin is a sign of a neglected closet.

Being alert also carries with it the impression of being in-tune with God.

There are things God communicates or wants to communicate with our spirits, but if we are too much out in the flesh, never having time to be spiritual, we can miss out on what God intends to reveal.

We don’t have to always consult another Christian whom we consider spiritual, to know what God has for us.

We don’t have to go great lengths to meet a prophet to know the will of God. God can speak through others, but that is not the norm.

In the New Testament era, the Lord Jesus has opened access to the Father’s presence to all.

Every child of God can and should learn to hear God for themselves. He wants fellowship with each of His children.

iii. The purpose of prayer is to make our requests known to God

2. Religious formality hinders effective prayers

A prayer-less life is an abnormality for a Christian. Prayer, even constant prayer, is a biblical command.

Pray constantly, - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. - Luke 18:1

If the Christian is expected to be prayerful, there is a need to see prayer as a necessity for a successful Christian walk.

Praying simply because you want to obey a biblical command becomes a wrong attitude when the obedience is done without regard to the purpose of the command and without expectation of the answer.

With the encouragement to prayerfulness and denunciation of a prayer-less life, there is a flip side temptation to engage in the activity just to fulfill the obligation, and not necessarily because of love for it or for its benefits.

When prayer is seen as a duty to be fulfilled simply for the sake of it, without the conscious expectation of benefits, it has turned into a mere formality.

This can manifest in individual or group prayers. Words are heaped up to heaven without attention to what is being said; and they are as quickly forgotten as they are spoken.

The conscience is salved, but the benefits are not reaped.

Effective prayers are earnest

Earnest praying is that which focuses on the desired result and expectantly waits to see the manifestation of God’s faithfulness to His word.

Like Elijah’s prayer, (James 5:17-18) it gets rewarded.

When the God gives the command and encouragement to pray, He doesn’t expect a mechanical response.

Do you remember the Parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8? The one who pleaded with the unrighteous judge until he granted her request.

An example of "Pray Until Something Happens."

 First, it is important to note here that the Lord is NOT saying that until we pester our heavenly Father He won’t listen to us. The Lord is making a contrast (verses 6, 7) between a good unrighteous man and a loving righteous God.

The lesson of this parable is that results from earnest praying are a motivation to pray.

The Lord is not just saying “pray”, He’s actually saying “pray  effective prayers; pray to get results. Pray because you know God will listen and answer”.

The widow’s petition to the judge was an earnest plea, not mere words: it needed and looked forward to the answer, and that was the reason its request was granted.

Imagine the widow coming before the judge and saying “vindicate me against my adversary”, and before he could get to understand what her petition was all about, she would be gone, feeling satisfied for having fulfilled the obligation of simply issuing the request.

That kind of petitioning will never see its demands granted because it doesn’t show proof of its sincerity and need.

3. Time Consciousness will hinder effective praying

A focus on the time spent in prayer, rather than on praying, is indicative of a faulty relationship or ignorance about the purpose of prayer.

That attitude also gets you distracted.


I used an alarm as a discipline for my body so I could spend longer times than what my body wanted to endure, but along the way I stopped because of the above reason.

I became more conscious of the time and I would check the phone to see how far I still had to go, and I would feel relieved when the sound finally came.

I had to reason out that five minutes of conscious fellowship with God is better than an hour of being distracted and wishing the alarm should ring.

My flesh could feel good after the ordeal but the spiritual impact was minimal. More importantly, God is not glorified with that kind of divided attention or praying in order to keep a rule and please a legalistic conscience.

I do encourage the spending of ample time with the Lord in praise, worship, or just visiting, or seeking Him for specific direction and guidance when needed.

This strengthens us spiritually and weakens the pull of carnality.

How long you spend alone with God is not as important as your focus and the benefit of praying.

We must learn to come before God with a willing heart and a desire to spend time with Him. That way, we can spend more time without taking note of it. The closet becomes enjoyable!

You hinder what God wants to do

Prayer is a two-way communication. If you are time conscious, you may miss out on hearing from God’s side of the communication.

Sometimes your spirit may still be longing for the fellowship to continue but if you stay in prayer just long enough to register for the day, you can miss out on the opportunity of having a wonderful time with the Lord.

It’s burdensome

The clock seems to tick more slowly during prayer. Five minutes seem like half an hour! That's why our bodies dread the hour of prayer.

My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, "LORD, I am coming." - Psalm 27:8 NLT

This verse makes it clear that God enjoys the time we spend with Him.

Our bodies may love to do something else, but we can let the heart (the spirit man) take the upper hand and respond with delight to God’s invitation, not putting limits on how much time we are willing to give Him.

Sooner or later, the body would be trained to let go of its constant resistance and submit during the hour of prayer.

4. Seeking an emotional experience will hinder effective prayer

Monkey shouting in cavePhoto by Asa Rodger on Unsplash

Prayer can be emotionally satisfying but that experience is not always guaranteed.

Prayer is an activity done in faith. We believe that God, who is invisible, actually hears us and answers us, and is able to respond to us regardless of how we feel.

Emotions are unreliable. They depend on environment and circumstances. The presence or absence of emotional sensation is not an indication of the presence or absence of God.

As with praise and worship in church, we can mistake the emotional satisfaction derived from wonderful melodies and sound accompaniment for the move of the Spirit, and we sometimes would feel like “the Spirit is not moving” when the music or song doesn’t move our emotions.

And as relates to personal prayer, if we seek an emotional satisfaction, an emotional experience, we will feel as not having prayed well if we don’t feel good about the prayer.

There are times that happy feelings just escape us: times of grief, sickness, loss of a job, etc.

If we only enjoy prayer or choose to pray when it feels good, then during moments of being emotionally down, negative feelings will prevent us from having fellowship with God.

Prayer is not primarily for our enjoyment

Prayer [including praise and worship] is not primarily about us, though we do get to enjoy being a part of it. This enjoyment should come in the form of joy and refreshment as a result of being in the presence of God, not as some tingling or funny sensation which gives us a false satisfaction.

There are many assurances from the Word of God, including the truth that those who seek Him diligently will find Him, and that He will answer those who call on Him. These benefits can only be experienced as a result of trusting in the faithfulness of Him who has promised.

How we feel during and after prayer is inconsequential if we believe the promises of God. If we ask amiss, it doesn’t matter how good we feel about the prayer, the request will not be granted.

Prayer is not meant to give us an emotional encounter with God. It can be laborious trying to get an emotional high during prayer.

As an aside: It is my opinion that when we dwell much in the carnal realm, with the many distractions that abound around us, and then we come to the closet, there is always that tendency to want to contact God through the emotions.

This is because our minds are distracted and can’t easily be brought to pay attention. We long for an emotion that will convince us that God is close and that we are connected with Him.

But if we will cultivate the habit of dwelling in the presence of the Lord throughout the day as we go about our activities, if we will not let ungodliness fill our minds and get our attention, during the moments we set aside to be alone with the Lord it won’t be hard to plug right into fellowship.

5. Praying at special hours is a hindrance to effective prayers

As a young and immature believer, I was taught that a Christian should not let the Muslim call to prayer precede their morning prayers because the Muslim would collect the blessings God releases for the day and the Christian’s prayer after that is useless.

God alone knows how that mentality hindered me. Because I couldn’t always keep to the time, I would not pray because of guilt and I would feel condemned.

I have heard people talk about midnight, 2:00 a.m. etc. and the impression is that prayers at certain hours are most powerful.

God lives in eternity

In Scripture there is no special hour for effective prayers, no special hour when God answers prayers. Time is for our sake, not God’s.

It is better to pray and spend time with the Lord in the morning because we are starting a new day and the best way to start is with God. But what hour exactly of the morning is the right one?

Does God release blessings against each day that anyone irrespective of what they worship can collect? The answer is no.

The remedy for this misconception would be to come back again to the purpose of prayer, the purpose of spending time with God.

The reason why the early morning hours are better for meditation is because our bodies have rested in the night and our minds more attentive. During the day we may be busy, and the in the evenings we may be tired.

Some people work jobs in the night and they have free time during the day. For them, that is the best time to spend with the Lord.

Conclusion

Prayer –whatever kind – can be effective: fruitful and rewarding. A Christian should be prayerful, but it is as important to have the right attitude and beliefs about prayer.

True biblical prayer is that which is directed to God in faith with an expectation of His response in the provision of the answer.

Knowledge of the Word of God, through which we understand the will of God, is paramount if we are to avoid praying hindered prayers or devoting our prayer life to things we shouldn’t be praying about.

The best way to measure our prayer life is in the results we get from praying.


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Janet is a Christian with a knack for writing. She's passionate about encouraging the pursuit of God and a life of purpose.

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