Today I’m going to talk to you about prayer, specifically seven factors that could be hindering answers to your prayers. This is important to me because I want you to see your prayers answered. And if there was something hindering an answer to your prayers, wouldn’t you want to know?

Let’s begin with number one: having a sinful imagination. We find this in Psalm 66:18, where the Bible says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

This is a very important verse. It doesn’t matter how loud you scream or how much you fast — if you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you.

What does that mean, “…regard iniquity in my heart…”? The Hebrew literally means, If I have conceived sin in my heart, if I have indulged in the imagination of sin, if I deliberately purpose to commit sin again and again…. In other words, if you have some sin that you’re not willing to abandon — unforgiveness, hatred, or a temptation you’re meditating on again and again — and you hold it in your heart and choose not to do anything about it — God will not hear your prayers.

This verse clearly teaches that if a person deliberately imagines, considers, or plans sin, it shuts the ears of God to him or her. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the ears of God to be shut to my prayers.

Maybe you’re in this place right now. If this describes you, what can you do to reopen the ears of God to your prayers? God’s ears are reopened when you pray a prayer of repentance.

That’s why I recommend that you begin every morning by getting quiet before the Lord. Find some place that is quiet and ask the Holy Spirit, “Is there anything in me that I need to repent of?” And if the Holy Spirit reveals something to you that you need to change, then obey First John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

According to this verse, our confession of sin causes us to be forgiven. God releases us from it. He cleanses us from it. And this prayer of repentance reopens the ears of God.

The number-two factor that can hinder prayer is praying incorrectly. Many people pray very sincerely, but they do not pray correctly. But biblically, there’s a right way to pray and a wrong way to pray. And it is essential that you pray correctly. Praying correctly is when you pray scripturally and in agreement with the Word of God.

First John 5:14 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us.” This is a guarantee — if we ask anything according to Scripture, God will hear us.

When we pray, God is not just listening for our ideas — He is listening for His Word.

For example, if Denise was sick, I could pray and say, “Oh, God, I just hate to see Denise feel so bad. Would You please make her feel better?” There is no Word of God in that prayer. But if I prayed, “Lord, according to Your Word, You took those stripes on Your back for Denise’s healing. And according to the promise of Your Word, I ask You to heal her body,” the Lord will hear His Word and respond.

God is listening for His Word. And if we’ll get in line with God in what we say, our answers will come to us much quicker.

How do you do this? Whether you need healing, a job, forgiveness, or a relationship restored, get into the Bible and find what the Bible says about your need. After you’ve done this, pray according to the promise of the Bible for that need. If you pray according to the promise of the Bible, you are praying according to the will of God and doing that guarantees God hears you.

The third thing that can hinder your prayers is a lack of faith. Mark 9:23 says, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

If you turn this principle around, it also says, “If you don’t believe, nothing will be possible to you.” Friend, the issue of what you believe is very important.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. When God gives me a new direction for our ministry, I know that I can do it because if God tells me I can do something I can do it — and if God tells you to do something, you can do it too. But I don’t usually tell anyone else right away, because when God gives you a new direction or vision, it might seem bigger than your faith at first.

My spirit knows that I can do whatever God tells me to do, but my mind may need some help believing I can do what He has asked me to do. I need time to work on my faith and to work on my mind so that I can adjust my thinking. I have to think what God thinks and begin to say what God says. And by doing this, I’ve learned that if I can get my faith up to the level it needs to be, there is absolutely nothing impossible for me.

So make sure you’re believing and thinking correctly because what you believe is exactly what you’re going to receive. If you believe wrongly, it will affect your ability to receive the answer to your prayer.

The number-four factor that can hinder prayer is a negative confession. What do I mean by that? If you pray one way and then talk another way, it will cancel your prayer. I’m going to say that again: If you pray one way — in faith — and then talk another way — in doubt and unbelief — it will cancel your prayer.

Let’s say you pray in faith for finances to come. You prayed and thanked God, and you continue to rehearse His Word in your heart and to praise Him for His faithfulness. But then you say to your friend or your spouse, “Oh, I’m just so worried that we won’t have enough finances this month.” You have just canceled your prayer. Your words nullified the effects of the prayer you prayed. Thank God, you can turn from your negative, unbelieving confession and pick up where you left off in your prayer of faith — but your mouth and your heart must agree and “say” the same thing in order for your prayer to be answered.

Look at the powerful words of Jesus in Matthew 12:37. “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Your words will either justify you or your words will condemn you. You need to be very careful with your words.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue….” That is how powerful the words we speak are. If you want your life to be blessed — if you want your life to be filled with good things — you’ve got to get your mouth into agreement with your prayers.

If you pray for blessings, don’t start speaking curses — speak blessings. If you pray for healing, speak healing. If you pray for finances, then speak increase over your finances. Your mouth and your heart have to be in agreement to obtain answers to prayer.

Saying the right things when you leave prayer are just as important as what you say when you pray. If you pray one thing, but then say another, your own words may be the thing that’s stopping you from receiving your answer from Heaven.

The number-five factor that can hinder prayer is bad, or troubled, relationships. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus said, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

It is very important to keep your relationships right if you want your prayers to be answered. Jesus taught us that if you’re praying or worshiping or you’re in the presence of God and suddenly somebody comes to your mind against whom you have a grudge or who has a grudge against you for some wrong you committed, the Holy Spirit is alerting you that this may be blocking your prayers. So to the best of your ability, go to that person and reconcile the offense between the two of you.

Maybe the person has moved to another city or state or isn’t accessible to you for some reason. In that case, forgive him or her in your heart. But if the person is near enough that you can go to that individual, it’s important that you do it and simply say, “I’m sorry for my attitude toward you. I’m sorry if I’ve caused you to have an attitude toward me. Please forgive me.” Ignoring this may affect your ability to receive your answer from Heaven.

The sixth thing that can hinder answers to prayer is spiritual opposition. We find this truth in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

There are spiritual powers that are against us and that try to oppose us. They may even stand for a time between you and your answer from Heaven.

We see an example of this in Daniel 10. Daniel prayed and angels began to fight in the heavens — archangels and wicked principalities. Those wicked principalities had stood against Daniel’s prayer, and for Daniel to get his answer from Heaven, he had to press hard into the realm of the spirit, even with fasting.

I have experienced spiritual opposition many times in my life. To break through that spiritual opposition, I had to be committed, and you will need to be committed to your answer too. You may need other people to stand with you and fight as well. With God’s help, you can do it. You simply have to break the power of that opposition, and it often takes time — but you can do it!

This happens to everyone at times, so don’t feel discouraged. The truth is, if the devil is opposing you, you’re probably headed in the right direction. He’s trying to stop you because you’re headed to victory.

The seventh thing that can hinder answered prayer is failing to understand timing. As human beings, we love for everything to happen instantly. We don’t like waiting for anything. But often, there is a period of waiting involved in receiving the answer to our prayers.

For example, when a farmer plants a seed, he plants it with the expectation of increase, but he doesn’t expect to see his increase the next morning. Imagine a farmer who says, “I planted those seeds two days ago, and I still don’t see anything. I’m tired of waiting for my seeds to grow.” That would be very foolish because farmers know it takes time for seeds to grow. When they plant them, it takes time for the seeds to mature and start bearing fruit.

Timing is a key factor in receiving any kind of harvest, and learning to wait patiently and in faith is an important lesson to learn in life.

Sometimes we pray the right thing, our hearts are right, and we have no hindrances between us and God, but we still don’t receive an answer to our prayer right away. There is a “waiting period” that’s taking place. And it’s not God just waiting — it’s God waiting for us to be ready to receive the answer. We are sometimes not mature enough yet to receive what we prayed for.

When I was a young man, I knew I was called into the ministry. I was 17 years old, and I was so convinced God was going to use me that I printed posters about myself that said, “Rick Renner — man of God. Come and hear.” And nobody came. I was so disappointed. My prayer was right. My desire was right. But being 17 years old, I was not prepared for what I had prayed. I had to mature and grow in my personal life. God had to see that He could trust me with my ministry.

Timing is very important. And I know that at times it can feel like it is taking “forever” for our prayers to be answered. But Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” If you stay in faith, and if you don’t give up, you will reap the things you’ve been praying for. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time.

If you find that your prayers are not being answered, pray and ask the Holy Spirit what may be hindering you.

  • Maybe you have sin in your heart that you need to repent of.
  • Maybe you need to begin praying what the Word says regarding your need.
  • Maybe you need to renew your mind with the Word so your faith can grow.
  • Maybe you need to get your heart and mouth into agreement.
  • Maybe you need to reconcile with someone in your life.
  • Maybe you need to break through spiritual opposition.
  • Maybe you just need to wait!

Ask the Lord to reveal the next step of obedience for you to take and watch Him open Heaven to you. Don’t be afraid to ask Him what may be hindering your prayers today. We serve a God who wants to hear us and who is faithful to meet our needs!