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The Power of Prayer
Rarely do we understand so much about a subject and practice it so little. This series on prayer can transform your life. Learn not only precepts about prayer, but how to pray in an effective, powerful manner that will elicit supernatural results.More from this series
This morning, we want to talk about “Removing the Roadblocks to Answered Prayer.”
You need to hear the spirit of this, because some of you have grown up – and I don’t know where we got this, but a lot of people, at least in my generation, and older, grew up with this view of God that He’s always pointing His finger, that He’s got His hands on His hips, and He’s just waiting for you to mess up.
I’ve written here, “Roadblocks are anything” – notice – “known, or unknown, that hinders our prayers from being answered.” And just like in a hose, it doesn’t take a big kink sometimes, does it? It doesn’t take a big wire. It just takes a little something that can cut off the power.
Roadblock number three is sin in the heart, or the life. The context of this passage – Isaiah 59, verses 1 through 3 – is, the nation of Israel was very religious, very religious – going to the Temple, doing all the right stuff, offering the sacrifices – but they weren’t getting the answers to their prayers.
And so, they come to Isaiah, and they say, “Maybe God’s winding down. Maybe He’s tired. Maybe He’s having a bad day. Maybe He’s just not up to the job anymore. Because we pray, and it’s obvious that we’re good and righteous people, but He just can’t come through! Maybe He just doesn’t have what it takes anymore.”
And so, Isaiah responds to that, in verse 1 of Isaiah 59. He says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” You can almost hear Isaiah saying, “Hey, look, buster. There’s a problem here, but it ain’t with God, trust me. His arm is strong to do whatever. If His ears aren’t hearing your prayers, it’s not because He has a hearing problem.”
And in verse 2, he says, “You want to know what the problem is?” He says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” And then, he didn’t leave it vague. Verse 3 – he gives them four examples. He says, “For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.”
The Scriptures teach that when there is sin in my life, when there’s sin in my heart – this isn’t reference to having a few ups and downs, and struggles, and failing here and there. We all have that. We’re talking about God revealing: This is wrong in your heart, and your life, and you say, “Tough. I’m not changing this one.” It’s Him showing you that you’re selfish, or there’s an attitude toward another person, or an unforgiving spirit, or a moral issue, and you say, “I’m not changing.”
In fact, the principle, here, is in verse 18 of Psalm 66. It says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” You might ask, why? Why? God’s first and primary goal in your life, on this whole planet, is not to make you happy, or successful, or have a connected family, or to boost your self-esteem. His primary purpose on your journey through this planet is to make you like His Son. Period.
As a byproduct of your relationship with Him, your self-esteem will grow. There will be blessing. You’ll have joy that’s incredible. But His number one agenda for your life is to make you just like Jesus: loving, holy, pure, compassionate, honest, a man or woman of integrity.
And so, when you have an issue in your life that’s unresolved, and you pray for these things, God doesn’t answer because He wants to allow some frustration to occur, so that, as you pray, your prayers will shift from the outward focus to asking the question, first, “Is this God’s will?” and then you check the Scripture and say, “Yes,” to where you and I would start asking, Lord, is there a kink in my hose anywhere? Is there a short in the wire? Is there something You want to do in my life that I’m unaware of?
I got done with my message, and I looked at the whole thing, and I had this awakening. And I looked at it all, and I thought, Wow! Prayer is such a double-edged sword. There’s part of it that so attracts me. It’s so exciting, this power, and this provision, and marriages coming back together, and kids coming in the door and saying, “Mom and Dad, I’m sorry,” and, “Yeah, let’s pray! Are you ready to pray?” “Yeah, let’s pray!” And you all go, “Yeah! Yeah!” Right?
But there’s another side of prayer is that you don’t pray like that, just saying, Okay, God. That takes some real, serious, prolonged, honest times before God, where you come before His throne.
Now, here’s the double-edged sword. What I’ve learned is when I come and I want to believe, and I want to pray unto God, and when I know it’s according to His will, and I want to come boldly, and in confidence, as I sit quietly before God, He starts showing me about my attitudes, and my pride, and words that are coming out of my mouth, and the tone of voice that I speak to my kids, and the insensitivity that I have for my wife, and He begins to show me all kinds of areas. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it!
And I’ve got a solution: Don’t pray. It’s worked for me. I’m serious! That’s why I don’t want to pray! I don’t want to pray because – have you ever heard that little line, “Prayer changes things”? It’s true. But you know who changes the most? The one who prays.
And see, this is the most critical message, in terms of long-term impact, because if you decide that you want to experience His power, and you want to see the supernatural, and you want to see Him do some major things, I guarantee, you get honest before Him, and He’s going to say, from a Father’s love heart, Chip. Bill. June. Sally. There’s a kink in the hose. The reason there’s no power is, there’s a kink in the hose.
He’s not like your brothers and sisters, growing up. He doesn’t go hide in the bushes, and hold the hose like this, right? So that when you look at it, and then, you go…
We think God’s like that; He’s not! He says, now, point it out, and He’ll take away that kink so that the love can wash you, and cleanse you, and forgive you, and empower.
So, what’s the application? The application is to do what David did: Psalm 139:23 and 24, where David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and see if there’s any wicked way in me.”
And then, he goes on to say, “Cleanse me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” It’s confession. It’s getting honest with God about any sin in my heart, or in my life, so the kink can come out of the hose.
Roadblock number four, as you look over to the side of the page, is an unforgiving spirit. That’s the key word in there, unforgiving. We’ve looked at Mark 11:24, but maybe you didn’t know verse 25 comes right after it. It says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you’ve received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” – notice why – “so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”
An unforgiving spirit makes it impossible for God to hear our prayers. How can we, who are God’s children – and He’s extended mercy, and forgiveness? And I’m talking about the clenched grudge, “I’m going to walk with God, and I’m going to love these people, but that person is on my black list. I don’t look at them. I don’t talk to them. When bad things happen, I secretly rejoice.” An unforgiving Spirit, Jesus says, “I forgave you, when you didn’t deserve it. I command you to loose, or forgive, others.”
Do you have someone that you have an unforgiving spirit toward? Forgive them. Forgive them. Forgive them so God can take the kink out of your hose.
Roadblock number five is the wrong treatment of our mate – or you can put it “husband/wife.” In verse 1 of 1 Peter 3, it says, “Wives are to submit to their husbands,” but notice what it says in verse 7: “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate” – literally, it means “live according to knowledge, or with understanding” – “as you live with your wives. Treat them with respect” – and the word respect, there, really means “honor.” It was used of kings. Ladies, you’re eating this up, aren’t you? “…as with the weaker partner as an heir with you of the gracious gift of life.”
Now, basically, men, it says we’re supposed to love our wives, and treat them in an understanding, compassionate way. Why? “So that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
Unity in our homes is a prerequisite for power with God. The word for hinder, there, it means, literally, “to cut up,” or “to cut into.” If you were an army, and you were running away from another army, what you would do is you would cut up the road to make it a hindrance, so they couldn’t get their horses and chariots on it.
And what he says is that when your life, when your marriage isn’t what God wants it to be, gentlemen, when we’re harsh, insensitive, or ladies, when there’s a lack of respect and submission, that what you’re doing is, you’re putting roadblocks between you, and God, and the effectiveness of your prayers.
And, again, ask, why would God hold up your prayers? Because He’s more concerned that the wife and the husband have this kind of relationship that models the love of Christ than He is you getting what you’re asking for.
And as you ask and ask, and you know it’s God’s will, and you don’t get it, some of you will be like me, and you’ll get smart enough to say, “Hmm, is there any problem that I should look at?” And He’ll gently take that orange wire, and put it in just the right position, and say, Maybe your marriage needs a little attention, and you give it that attention, and we’ll get this power on in the things that you’re praying about.
Roadblock number six: stinginess in our giving. There is a direct correlation, in Scripture, between the power of prayer, and the generosity of our hearts. Proverbs 21:13 says, “If” – here’s a condition – “a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
Wow. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it? When there are people with need, and we shut our ears to their cry, it says, God, in turn, then shuts His ears to us. When your heart, and my heart, is open, and pliable, and generous to meet the needs of other people, then God hears our prayers. In fact, there’s a correlation that as we are givers and lovers of others, that God promises He’ll just keep the pipeline full, so that…
Do you know why He entrusts certain people with money? He entrusts certain people with money because He knows they’ll give it away. And some people He won’t trust with money because they’ll just use it on themselves, to bring destruction on themselves. So, there are certain people that God will entrust lots of money to, because they have really loose hands, really loose hands. They just keep passing it on.
In fact, the principle – I’ve put it down. Look at verse 8 of 2 Corinthians chapter 9, in bold. It says, “God is able” – or “powerful,” the word we get dunamis from. It means “dynamite.” “God has dynamite power to make” – now, circle all the times the word all shows up. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound” – or “overflow” – “in every good work.”
Is that a promise to God’s child? Wow! Isn’t that great? He says He’s got this boatload of grace, and mercy, and gifts, so that all grace can abound, for all things, for all your needs, so you have enough to share.
Notice, now, the context. Verse 8 is only true of people who practice verses 6 and 7. What’s verse 6 say? “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
It’s a farming, agricultural – this is nuts and bolts. If you throw out fifteen seeds, you get “X” amount of crop. You throw out fifteen hundred seeds, you get “X” amount of crop. That’s all he’s saying. That’s how it works. The more you plant, the more you sow, the more you get back.
And then, he now spiritualizes it, and applies it to us. Verse 7: “Each man should give what he or she has decided in his heart.” See, it’s a personal matter of generosity between you and God, not pressure, not manipulation, not guilt, not “ought,” but, “as he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly, not under compulsion” – why? Here’s the reason – “for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The word cheerful is where we get our word hilarious. God loves a hilarious giver. He loves people who aren’t tight. He just loves people who say, “My stuff, my home, my money, my time, my energy – it’s God’s. I’m going to share it, and I’m confident that, as I share it, He just keeps the pipeline filled up.”
Six roadblocks. Roadblock number one: Is it prayerlessness? Are you failing to ask? Roadblock number two: Are you asking with the wrong motives, asking selfishly? Roadblock number three: Is there sin in your heart, or your life, that you just know it, and you simply need to confess, and repent, and decide, today, That’s it. I’m not doing that anymore?
Roadblock number four is an unforgiving spirit. Is there someone you need, right now, just to forgive, to let go of, maybe even need to make a call, or write a letter today, make restitution? Roadblock number five: Is there unity in your marriage, or does your marriage hinder your prayers? And roadblock number six: Is there stinginess in your giving?
Ask the Holy Spirit to just search you, not because He’s down on you, but so He can just get the kink out, so the love and the power of God can really flow into your life.