Summary: Most unanswered prayer goes back to our not doing something right to begin with, so we need to make sure that our prayers are not obstructed by worthless and unnecessary obstacles

The Secrets of Ineffective Prayer

Griffith Baptist Church – 7/23/06

P.M. Service

Text: Matthew 6:5-15

Theme: Most unanswered prayer goes back to our not doing something right to begin with. We need to make sure that our prayers are not obstructed by worthless and unnecessary obstacles


In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peal.

When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn’t taste good, but it made him feel very grown up…until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father’s attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.

“Can I go, Dad? Please, let’s go when it comes to town.”

His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot.

“Son, he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.”

- Kirk Russel

John Lavender, Why Prayers are Unanswered

Successful prayers must be done God’s way

• When we pray, God leaves a wide open opportunity for variety in our prayers

• We should never have cookie-cutter, rote prayers

• They should be passionate and organized and immediate

• There is nothing wrong with spontaneity but we still need to think through what we are saying

However, there are principles that we can follow that are better at getting God’s attention on prayer

To ignore these principles can lead to prayer disaster

Let’s see what happens when we take the opposite approach

Impact Statement: Effective prayer needs to be unhindered by wrong thinking and unbiblical habits that cloud our way to the throne room of God.

1. Pray to Impress – 6:5-6

A. To be seen and heard

B. What is the motivation to pray?

C. It should be with humility (with thanksgiving and praise) coupled with boldness

D. Our opinion of ourselves is to high – Luke 18:10-11 – 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

E. We need to pray in the Spirit (right attitude, motivation and foundation) – Ephesians 6:18 – With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

2. Pray long and pointless without direction or focus – 6:7-8

A. In November, 1975, 75 convicts started digging a secret tunnel designed to bring them up at the other side of the wall of Saltillo Prison in northern Mexico. On April 18, 1976, guided by pure genius, they tunneled up into the nearby courtroom in which many of them had been sentenced. The surprised judges returned all 75 to jail. September, 1980, Campus Life

B. Meaningless repetition – to stutter

i. This is not the same as praying for something on a continual basis (i.e. someone’s salvation, change in job, deeper walk with God, etc.)

ii. This is a repeating phrase, such as a mantra

iii. It is not a heartfelt request, but a habitual duplication that has no meaning

C. More quality than quantity – Ecclesiates 5:2-3, 7 (NASB) - 2Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. 3For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words. 7For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.

(NLT) - 2And don’t make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. 3Just as being too busy gives you nightmares, being a fool makes you a blabbermouth. 7Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead.

i. We can have length to our prayers

ii. We just need to make sure that our prayers have substance

iii. Prayer does not need to be prefabricated

iv. The best kind of prayer is well-thought out, yet from the heart.

D. Direct and focused is what God expects – Matthew 7:7-11 – 7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10“Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

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