Now, that’s a lot to take, I know! But . . . there’s more! If we really want to examine what sins we might be harboring in our hearts, we would be wise to consider these verses.
Here’s one for husbands. 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” The degree to which we treat others with consideration and respect, particularly regarding a husband’s treatment of his wife in this verse, is the degree to which our prayers are unhindered.
And here are three that scare me:
Proverbs 21:13: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
James 4:17: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Yikes! The first verse tells me that God does not listen to us if we ignore those in need. And the second two broaden the definition of sin. Sin is not just doing things that we know we shouldn’t do; it’s also sin to not do what we know we should do and to do anything that doesn’t come from faith. And sin hinders prayer.
This really opens up a whole new side of our responsibility, of what God expects from those of us who call ourselves Christians. Do we ignore needs that we see? Do we turn a blind eye at injustice? Do we fail to treat others kindly? Do we fail to do the good that we know we should do? This is sin!
What, in our lives, are we doing that is a result of faithlessness? Do we hoard money because we don’t have faith in God to provide? Do we seek our own ways out of trials because we don’t have faith in God to help us through? Do we look to satisfy our desires outside of the boundaries God has given because we don’t trust that God’s way is best? Do we fail to obey because we are afraid of what obedience will cost us? This is sin, too!
We can open up to just about any passage in the Bible and find something we should be convicted about, something that will lead us toward a deeper relationship with Him and a better idea of how to live righteously, which leads us toward more “powerful and effective” prayers. But how many of us take the time to do that? How many of us read the Bible with the intention of seeking to live more righteously? Of getting to know Him better, as He really is? Or have we become comfortable in our own little world, behind our walls of fear, self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, and sin?
1 John 3:21-23: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
Notice that it’s not just an inactive, passive command to avoid doing anything that doesn’t please Him. It’s an active command that instructs us to live our lives doing the things that please Him. But we shouldn’t look at obedience as a way to manipulate Him to get what we want or as something that we have to do out of duty or irrational fear or to earn His love. The desire to obey is the natural response of a heart that properly fears God and that is so full of His love and of love for Him that you want nothing less than to do His Will and bring Him glory.
John 15:7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Now, if we ended with that verse, it would sound like a blank check. (Notice, though, that we need to be remaining in Him and to store up His words in our hearts. That’s a lot of responsibility.) But we need to go on to the next verse to find out what kind of prayers God is talking about. Is it really “whatever you wish”?
Verse 8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” God grants the prayers that are centered on bearing fruit for the Father’s glory, that show others that we are His disciples. And this comes as a result of remaining in Him, which means way more than just reading our Bibles, going to church, and praying every now and then. Remaining in Him, as a tree branch remains connected to the trunk, means being vitally connected to Him. It means absorbing and living in His Word, love, power, grace, etc. It is not a casual thing, and it is not about our wants and desires!
When I consider all these verses together, I can see that it doesn’t mean that He will always grant anything that I ask. Am I abiding in Him daily? Or am I just running to my Vending Machine God to ask for what I want or think I need? Do I have my plans, pleasure, and glory in mind, or God’s? (And here’s a scary question: Does my life currently show obedience and reflect His glory and His love and His Word? How about in my home, in how I treat others, in how I speak and think, when I am in a crowd, when I am alone, etc.?)