In this article, we will continue to look at the reasons why our prayers may be hindered. There are many people who blame God when prayers are not answered the way they thought they ought to be answered. The scriptures, however, teach us that we may be the cause for “no” answers in prayer.
James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.” James tells his readers that the reason they are not receiving from the Lord when they ask is because they have the wrong motives. They are asking amiss, as some translations read. Their motives were selfish, that they would receive something for their lusts and desires. Verse 1 tells us that the people had allowed all of these cravings and desires for the pleasures of the world to enter their hearts. Verse 4 drives the nail home that the problem was their friendship with the world. God had become a vehicle for these people to ask for all the things they wanted. He had been turned into a Santa Claus of sorts, that God will give them all the things that they ask for. It was all about everything that God would give to them. We see in them a very selfish and materialistic heart toward God. James tells them that they are not receiving from the Lord because they ask wrongly.
I wonder at times how we would do if God were to strip away all the things that we have. We may realize that we serve God because he gives us good things. Many times are prayers can be filled with simply selfish requests to fulfill our desires and lusts for pleasure and materialism. And if this is the case, we are asking amiss. When Jesus offered a prayer to teach his disciples how to pray, did he say give us this day our daily four course meal with all the trimmings? Did Jesus teach us to pray for the extras in life? Did Jesus teach us to pray for luxuries, pleasures, and riches? I do not remember that at all in the prayers of Jesus.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray to have enough for today. I think we need to be able to distinguish what God has told for us to pray for. There is a difference when I pray about a way for transportation to work than praying for a new car. There is a difference when I pray for a place to live, than praying for a new house. I can pray for my needs and that God will take care of my needs. I can pray for God to bless me. But what I am I doing if I am praying for material things? I am being selfish and materialistic. God knows what we need (Luke 12:30). Our friendship with the world causes us to ask for more instead of letting the Lord bless us with any extras. We also need to be aware that our prayers are not simply centered around these things. While we must always be thankful for all that we have, we are not to neglect the other things that must be prayed for. We cannot neglect the work that God has given to each of us in growing spiritually, serving others, teaching the world, and knowing Christ more fully. We must remember to give praise and adoration that God deserves as well. Our prayers are not to be self-centered or self-serving. Let us make sure that we ask with proper motives for God to take care of us as He seems fit.
Improper Relationships (1 Peter 3:7)
Peter also tells us that our prayers can be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” Here is the admonition to husbands that if they are not dwelling with their wives with understanding, then their prayers are hindered. Husbands, we need to live with our wives, and this is not talking about in the same house. It means that we must put in the effort to have a relationship together and develop a closeness and intimacy together.
Husbands need to be understanding with their wives. Husbands need to know that there are differences between men and women and they have a job to be understanding. I like how the KJV says to dwell with them “according to knowledge.” Husbands are to know the needs of their spouses. A husband must know his spouse to be able to be the husband that God has called him to be. Husbands are also told to give honor to their wives as the weaker vessel. The word “honor” literally means “a valuing by which the price is fixed.” This is seen in the way the word is used elsewhere in the scriptures. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are Gods.” The word “price” in this passage is the same word translated “honor” in 1 Peter 3:7.
Now there are many ways preachers have tried to explain this passage. I believe what Peter is saying that we need to treat our spouse as someone that has a great fixed value. How do we handle something that has a great value? Delicately, carefully, softly because we know the vessel demands that kind of handling. Allow me to use an imperfect illustration. My father has an autographed baseball of Tony Gwynn, one of the greatest baseball players. What do you think my father and I do with that ball? Do we go outside and play catch with it? No, that would be treating it as common and ordinary. This baseball has value and is special. Instead we bought a holder for the ball and put it in plastic casing so that nothing can happen to it. Then we put it up high so that we can admire it. It is special and we are very careful with it.
I believe this is the picture that Peter is communicating. Do not treat your spouse as ordinary and common. Treat as someone who has great value. She is not a common, average person. She is your wife and must be treated with respect and containing great value. When husbands are not dwelling with their wives in knowledge and giving honor to them, then Peter tells us that our prayers are hindered.
Does this mean that wives can be terrible people in the relationship and God still hears their prayers? No, I do not think so. The word “likewise” in verse 7 suggests are parallel between the instructions to the wife and the husband. In a concluding point, Peter says that we are to act this way so that our prayers are not hindered. How we treat one another and how we handle our relationships has an impact upon our spiritual relationship with God. It is foolish to think that any person can act improperly in any relationship and think that they are still in good fellowship with the Lord. This is why Peter wraps up his thoughts in verse 8 saying that we need to have compassion for one another, show love as brothers, be tenderhearted and courteous to another. Let us be sure that we consider the impact our relationship with God will suffer before we mistreat others.
When God says that our prayers are hindered, we must take those things very seriously. God is telling us that we have done something to our relationship with God. We must make corrections or suffer a severed fellowship with God. Instead of blaming God for unanswered prayer, let us first look to see that we are not the ones to blame.