Pt. 3 - Prayer Walls
We have talked about how prayer reveals our intimacy levels. We are intimate with who we pray to, for and with reveals how "deep" you are in your walk with your Father and with. Then last week we discussed pattern. How many of you have been consciously praying the pattern? God be revealed. God set our world right. God meet my basic needs. God help me to be forgiven and forgiving. God protect me from me and the enemy. This pattern pulls at the heart of God. If we are going to pray we might as well pray like God!
There is an obscure passage of Scripture found in a book in the Bible that most people don’t read very much because of its dark and dreary inclination. But hidden in it’s 3rd chapter is a statement that describes with supreme accuracy most of us and how we feel when it comes to prayer. The writer is discussing his relationship with God and his prayer life and he makes this statement:
8 And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers. 9 He has blocked my way with a high stone wall.
Or perhaps even more like us in the Message translation:
Even when I cry out and plead for help, he locks up my prayers and throws away the key. He sets up blockades with quarried limestone. He’s got me cornered.
III. Blocked and Stopped
Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever felt like God was not only not listening, but perhaps was shutting out or throwing out your prayers? Have you ever felt like shaking your fist at God and asking Him why He refused to listen and respond? Ever felt like your prayers were blocked and stopped? I know that is the case in my prayer life at times. What I have discovered is that according to Scripture there are at least 3 reasons why our prayers are locked up, shut out, and stopped. We have direct control over 2 of these blocking factors. The third is out of our hands, but must still be recognized and factored into the equation of our prayer life!
A. The Wall of Iniquity
The first wall that can block and stop our prayers is revealed clearly and multiple times in Scripture. Listen to:
Psalms 66:18 - If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
(If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened.)
Proverbs 28:9 - He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. (God has no use for the prayers of the people who won’t listen to him.) - Can you blame Him? I don’t have a lot of patience when my kids won’t listen to me. When they ask my advise and then won’t do what I told them to do why bother listening or answering?
Isaiah 59:1-3 - Look! Listen! God’s arm is not amputated—he can still save.
God’s ears are not stopped up—he can still hear. There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.
Your hands are drenched in blood, your fingers dripping with guilt, Your lips smeared with lies, your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities.
Did you see the wall? Our own regard for iniquity. Our own sin blocks our prayers. I hate these passages of Scripture! My sin keeps God from hearing me! The silence I endure is my fault.
This is why I am constantly challenging you to live pure. I know it is hard. It is a constant struggle to keep our mind stayed on the Lord, to capture the mind of Christ. However, your prayer life depends on it. I know God responds to the cry of a sinner because He responded to mine. However, if we believe the Word then it is those of us who are His children, the saved, that He doesn’t listen to if we have regard for iniquity. That is a higher standard. Didn’t say we had committed sin just regarded it. You can block your own prayers! We build walls that defeat and stop our own prayers!
I want to challenge you this morning . . . if your are faced with unanswered, blocked, stopped, prayers and if silence is like a canopy over your head you may need to examine whether or not Isaiah 59 (you ought to go back and read the first 15 verses) doesn’t describe you. Perhaps, if we would simply repent, get our mind right, drop iniquity like it was hot, then at the same time we would turn the key and release our prayers and find our answers, direction, and provision!
B. The Wall of Injury
There is a second wall that can block our prayers. This is another wall that we hold the key to. It is the wall of injury. Jesus was clear. Jesus left us no room for negotiation. He set it as a law of the kingdom that when you approach the altar injury can keep you from being heard! Listen again to Matthew 5. Don’t give yourself permission to dismiss its instructions. Don’t justify injury and block your prayers! Listen. . .
"You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ’Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ’idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ’stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. "This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
When you come to the altar and remember. Isn’t it interesting that we typically remember at the moment we begin to approach God? Injury between you and someone else can stop your prayers! Injuries interrupt!
Some of us are are suffering in silence because we refuse to the do the hard and painful work of reconciliation. Earthly relationships can block your heavenly relationships! Our unity has more bearing on our ability to communicate with God than we realize. Jesus himself recognized the key ingredient of unity. He prayed that unity/love would invade our lives because He knew that without it we would come to the altar with no ability to hear or to be heard.
If we are not careful injury builds a wall around our prayer life and stops clear communion and communication. Who has you boxed in? You can’t work things out with God until you first work things out with them!
C. The Wall of Silence
I think one of the biggest mistakes we make in our prayer life is that we mistake silence for lack of response. Silence is part of prayer! There are several reason prayer is sometimes walled in silence.
1. God is silent at times because we pray contrary to His will. He is silent because our prayer doesn’t demand a response because He has already responded in His Word and we have failed to read that Word or heed His Word. When your kids ask you a question that they already know the answer to do you feel compelled to respond? Sometimes silence is simply God shouting "I have already spoken!"
2. However, there is another reason for silence and that is interference. This is what Daniel experienced. In Daniel, 10 the Bible accounts for a prayer session in which Daniel prays and doesn’t receive any answer for 21 days. An angel appears to Daniel after the 3 week delay and informed him that he had been held up by enemy resistance.
The enemy can and will interfere with our prayers. However, the great truth in that account is found in Daniel 10:12. Daniel is informed that from the moment he humbled himself and began to pray his prayers were heard!
That should encourage you! There are some of your prayers that you have prayed months and perhaps years ago that are still alive and still in the process! Don’t give up. Don’t mistake silence for a lack of response! It may be that your answer is simply delayed or detoured, but the answer will come! Hold on. Believe. Trust. Walk in the assurance that interference doesn’t equate to interception. Interception is a turnover. Interception means going the other way and defeat. Interference only equals delay!
Silence requires more discernment. Is silence a response? Or is silence a result of interference. What it isn’t is lack of interest!
Pray is often walled in, stopped and blocked. What we have to determine, if our prayers are going to be effective, is am I fighting my own prayers by regarding iniquity or injury or is my prayer blocked by interference?
Silence never gives us license to take matters into our own hands unless that silence is a result of iniquity or injury. Then we have to step up and tear down those walls so that we can press through to the communication that we so desperately desire and need!