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Summary: Dr. Jim Dunn relates 10 hindrances to effective prayer in the life of a christian.

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What Hinders Our Prayers?

Psalm 80:4

1. Failure to come clean with God … Psalm 66:18

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In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is revival without reformation, without repentance." Quoted by C. Swindoll, John The Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.

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The sure test of the quality of any supposed change of heart will be found in its permanent effects. ’By their fruits you shall know them’ is as applicable to the right method of judging ourselves as of judging others. Whatever, therefore, may have been our inward experience, whatever joy or sorrow we may have felt, unless we bring forth fruits meet for repentance, our experience will profit us nothing. Repentance is incomplete unless it leads to confession and restitution in cases of injury; unless it causes us to forsake not merely outward sins, which others notice, but those which lie concealed in the heart; unless it makes us choose the service of God and live not for ourselves but for Him. There is no duty which is either more obvious in itself, or more frequently asserted in the Word of God, than that of repentance.

M. Cocoris, Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, Moody, 1984, p. 65.

2. Trying to make a good impression with false motives … Matthew 6:5

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Some years ago a remarkable picture was exhibited in London. As you looked at it from a distance, you seemed to see a monk engaged in prayer, his hands clasped, his head bowed. As you came nearer, however, and examined the painting more closely, you saw that in reality he was squeezing a lemon into a punch bowl!

What a picture that is of the human heart! Superficially examined, it is thought to be the seat of all that is good and noble and pleasing in a man; whereas in reality, until regenerated by the Holy Ghost, it is the seat of all corruption. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather that light."

Moody’s Anecdotes, p. 69.

3. Asking God for what we have no right asking … James 4:3

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

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."

4. Refusing to believe that God will answer our prayer … James 1:5

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When her husband, Edmund Gravely, died at the controls of his small plane while on the way to Statesboro, GA, from the Rocky Mount-Wilson airport, NC, his wife Janice kept the plane aloft for two hours until it ran out of fuel. During this time she sang hymns and prayed for help. As the plane crossed the South Carolina-North Carolina border, she radioed for help: "Help, help, won’t someone help me? My pilot is unconscious. Won’t somebody help me?" Authorities who picked up her distress signal were not able to reach her by radio during the flight because she kept changing channels. Mrs. Gravely finally made a rough landing and crawled for 45 minutes to a farmhouse for help. How often God’s people cry out for help to God, but switch channels before God’s message comes through. They turn to other sources for help, looking for human help. When you cry out to God for His intervention, don’t switch channels!


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