Hindered Prayers

“Text out of context is pretext,” our instructor said with resounding forcefulness. He was right, of course, and much misinterpretation of scripture has resulted from passages being ripped from their context and twisted to mean something wholly other than what was originally intended.

Take prayer as an example. The Bible speaks extensively of prayer, how God is attentive to our prayers and how he answers them. Do you realize that the opposite is also true, that read within the larger, comprehensive context, scripture teaches us how our prayers are hindered?

Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

– 1 Peter 3:10-12, ESV

What is it that context specifically calls out as being a hinderance to our prayers? What causes the face of the Lord to be against us? Is it not an undisciplined tongue? Lips that speak deceitfully?

James, one of the most powerfully instructive works of the New Testament (what I call “the Proverbs of the NT”), speaks with unmistakable force against the misuse of our tongues.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
– James 3:1-6, ESV

It is difficult to overstate the strength of that instruction. Such abuse of our tongues is a hindrance to our prayers. But James is not finished.

But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
– James 3:8-10, ESV

Let’s move from James to Jesus. Consider Jesus’ upper-room discourse with his disciples.

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
– John 14:14, ESV

Not read properly, in context, and in light of other biblical passages, this could be taken as tremendous license to ask for any number of wild things. Just append the request with, “…in Jesus’ name, amen” and you’ve got it!

…in my name…” In accordance with my will, under my authority.

This is confirmed in first John.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
– 1 John 5:14-15, ESV

It is easy, and common, to hug verse fifteen while forgetting we read verse fourteen. In the very same upper-room discourse mentioned above, just moments later, Jesus had this to say:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
– John 15:7, ESV

IF. The affirmative response to our prayers is conditioned on the words of Christ abiding in us. We must ask ourselves if we are even reading those words, much less allowing them to abide within us? Is it any great wonder that our prayers come off as vapid? What Jesus has said above is significantly conditional, but wrenched from it’s context it comes across as unconditional.

Lets return to James.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
– Philippians 4:8, ESV

Here we see that our own ego serves as a hindrance to our prayers. Our self-centeredness. Our lusts and our passions.

And finally, let me address just the men … married men to be precise.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
– 1 Peter 3:7-8, ESV

I ask this with only the slightest of sarcasm: Is there a taller order from God than the instruction that I am to understand my wife? That is exactly what this verse calls for. He’s not calling for patience, or tolerance, or biting my tongue with a heavy sigh. The apostle Peter said, κατὰ γνῶσιν – “according to knowledge!” If you don’t understand your wife, your work is not finished! When you pray, pray confidently, pray in accordance with the will of God, with his word dwelling in you, pray selflessly, according to kingdom goals and kingdom outcomes, and pray as a man who understands his wife and who gives honor to her specifically because she is the weaker vessel.

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

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Damon J. Gray

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  1. Karen Foster on March 19, 2024 at 7:42 AM

    Timely message and sorely needed!
    And I’ve never seen your blog so I know Gods Spirit sent your words my way.

    • Damon J. Gray on March 19, 2024 at 12:12 PM

      Hello Karen!! It’s so good to see you here. You’re all “approved” and set up to jump in whenever you feel the urge.

      I post here every Monday. It’s typically whatever is on my mind that week. I don’t blog ahead the way smart people do, so you know whatever comes out on Monday morning is fresh off the previous week. 😉

      You’re also welcome to subscribe if you like. I don’t email the whole article. Just a snippet and a link to the article.

      Bless you, my friend.

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