I cannot recall a time when prayer has been so needed in our personal lives and for our country. This reality has caused me to do a message series on prayer in my church and on my broadcast. I have certainly spoken on prayer before but this time I am sensing God is doing something different and I think big. I know only prayer can bring the breakthroughs that are necessary. You can call it revival, renewal, favor or whatever term you like but we must have it in our individual lives, our families, our churches, our communities and our country.
But there are distinct barriers to effective prayer. These barriers can keep the power we need from being manifested in our lives and country. James 5:16 tells us, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." But is unrighteousness the only barrier to powerful and effective prayer? I am certain there are other barriers as well. Let me identify six.
The Neglect Barrier
It may seem obvious but prayerlessness is the first barrier. Too many talk about prayer, say they believe in prayer or can explain about prayer but are not actually praying enough. This neglect may be simple busyness but what should be more important in our schedule than prayer. We are filling our lives with reality television, video games, soccer practices and miss out on what matters most. Some may think God is not interested in the details of their life or why ask when He already knows. But these are just excuses erecting the barrier of neglect.
The Righteousness Barrier
Certainly lack of righteousness is a barrier to effective prayer. In fact the Psalmist tells us, "If my thoughts had been sinful, he would have refused to hear me." (Psalm 66:18) We can actually block the answer God has for our prayers by the sin in our life. The good news is the answer to overcoming this barrier is clear — repent. When we acknowledge our sins and repent of them we will be forgiven. Then there will no longer be a barrier standing in the way of God hearing and answering our prayers.
The Motives Barrier
Only an individual and God know their true motives in what they pray for. James 4:3 says, "Yet even when you pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons." Prayers go unanswered when our motives are not right. One way to eliminate selfish motives is to pray for others instead of oneself. God wants to answer. He wants to provide for us, we can count on His goodness and mercy. But wrong motivations are a barrier that we must address for Him to do it.
The Relationships Barrier
Our prayers will be hindered when our relationships are not right. There can be no powerful, effective prayer as long as we are not in right relationship. Jesus tells us (Matthew 5) before we worship we must first make peace with the person who is angry with us. I Peter 3:7 says, "A husband should be thoughtful of his wife…then nothing will stand in the way of your prayers." How can we pray in agreement with fellow believers if we are not in right relationship with them? We cannot have the power that comes from agreeing in prayer unless our relationships are healthy.
The Faith Barrier
Asking God to do something is the start of a powerful prayer but believing He will actually do it requires faith. James 1:6 tells us, "When you ask for something you must have faith and not doubt." Without faith prayers can never be effective. Faithless prayers result in no answers perpetuating the false belief that God doesn't really answer prayer. Jesus is looking for faith from us and when he finds it powerful things happen like never before. Believing for specific answers, praising God for the answer in advance and spending more time in prayer will create greater faith leading to effective prayer.
The Persistence Barrier
Maybe the biggest prayer barrier of all is giving up praying when the answer doesn't come soon enough. Jesus knew lack of persistence would be a huge barrier to effective prayer so he told his disciples a story about how they should keep on praying and never give up (Luke 18:1-8). God is not like an unjust judge, He will respond to the prayers of his people. We persist in prayer because we may need to build up the strength, accumulate the knowledge or fashion the character for God to answer our prayers. If we keep praying, however long it takes, and not quit God will answer. When these six prayer barriers are overcome our prayers will be powerful and effective. And we need it like never before.