It’s like talking to a wall.
There are times (for the honest among us) when prayer seems empty, like God is not listening.
Prayer is so important to the working of God in human affairs, that he has left us with the simple promise: “pray and it will be done for you”. So why is it at times that our efforts at talking to God seem like echoes off granite walls? It might come as a shock, but perhaps that is because prayer can become just that—wasted breath.
Although few want to hear what God has to say about this subject, it is nevertheless addressed repeatedly throughout the Bible, and is worth considering for those interested in hearing back from God when they pray.
If your prayers, or those within your church, seem little more effective than random chance, you might want to consider whether or not God might have something to say to you first.
The first point should be obvious. You must profess faith in Jesus as Lord of your life before you should expect his promise to answer your prayers to come true. As the Bible describes some of those who attend church, “many live as enemies of the cross”, and therefore should not think that their prayers will amount to anything more than a humidifier. As a curious thought, it might be a garlic humidifier if that person had Italian food for dinner.
One of the strongest cautions in Scripture comes from the Apostle Peter and is directed specifically to husbands, although the point is equally valid to both parties. How a man treats his wife will directly impact the effectiveness of his prayers. If he is inconsiderate, shows little respect or gentleness for her weaker condition, or disregards her as a partner in life, it could “hinder your prayers”. Sadly, many church-members slog through life with dysfunctional marriages without realizing that their prayers are held captive by their sin. As Paul pointed out, this same caution holds true for how each of us, male or female, treats the “Bride of Christ”. Those who reject the Bride in favor of worshiping God on their own, might want to change their tune if they want their prayers to ever be heard again.
Perhaps the questions is, Why should God listen to us, when we won’t demonstrate listening to him first by how we apply his words to our circumstances and relationships?
Many prayers are little more than hedging-our-bets. Many have almost become numb to the silence, but don’t want to lose out on the off chance of things working out, so they pray. In response, God says he will not answer because “they do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds”. Prayer must be a passionate expression from our deepest parts, a cry of our hearts, not some casual hope-I-win-the-lottery request. That doesn’t mean we have to squirt tears or flail about to get his attention, it just means he wants us to be serious, to have considered well how our desire may or may not fit with what he has already revealed in his word, to have measured our lives in obedience before we plead our case. We are talking about the Almighty God here, not some random vending machine.
Praying according to God’s will is essential to hearing anything in return.
The double-minded “should not think he will receive anything from the Lord”. That would include those who doubt, as well as those who try to live for the world while living for Jesus. A split focus would also include those who worship material self-interests like “Mammon” along with God (something “Christians” might attempt to double up on). Those who are caught up in living the good life, entertaining themselves from one thrill to the next, shouldn’t bother with prayer—it would just be a waste of breath.
In spite of what is often touted by global evangelism efforts, Jeremiah, Jesus, and John all record God’s restriction on random prayers for others. Three times in Scripture, the statement is made that God will not answer prayers about those he does not intend to bless. The point is that we must always seek the Spirits direction on who to pray for. Assuming that we should pray for everyone violates the word of God and those who persist in it, shouldn’t expect God to answer their other prayers while they continue in their rebellion. Think before you leap, even in prayer.
Jesus taught that some “expect to be heard” when they babble on with repeated phrases in prayer. In contrast, he called his faithful to ‘’not be like that”. Although he encouraged us to be like the persistent widow in our prayers, he draws a line when it comes to excessive chanting or magical incantations. Like superstitious pagans, some “Christians” have become deceived with the notion that God can’t resist responding to certain phrases. Babblers should expect to hear only their echo in reply to their prayers.
Those within the church who take the Lord into their life in an “unworthy manner”, should not only expect to have problems in their prayer life, but to suffer with weakness, sicknesses, and even premature death. Prayers are especially hindered when dead. The prescription: “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment”. In other words make an assessment of your walk as a Christian, make appropriate adjustments, and THEN expect God to answer your prayers.
The problem is that under certain circumstances God has “covered [himself] with a cloud so that no prayer can get through”.
Perhaps the most widely proven restriction in Scripture is that of rebellion. Those who harbor closet sins that no one else knows about, should expect silence in response to their prayers. Those who excuse gluttony, greed, gossip, or other cultural “white-sins” that don’t seem as sinister as the black ones, should enjoy their own voices, because that is likely to be all they will ever hear of their prayers. And churches who collectively disobey the word of God by ordaining ministers contrary to God’s instructions, or who refuse to deal with member conflict according to biblical guidelines, or who insist on promoting Judaic laws like tithing, should expect frustration and even rejection to their pleadings.
Those who repent of the above should make their requests in the morning and eagerly await God’s blessed answer.
Where can you improve the strength of your Prayer connection?