When Praying Falls on Deaf Ears
We have all had moments when we feel our prayers fall on deaf ears. While everyone wants to believe their prayers are heard, there are situations and circumstances when our prayers may, in fact, be ignored by God.
Unless I know a person has a faith in God and we share like-minded beliefs, I am not particularly fond of people's sentiments, when they say to me, "I'll be praying for you." While the promise to pray for me is a well-intended statement of encouragement, there are people whom I prefer NOT pray for me!
After all, I don't know what god they serve, and therefore, request they do not pray for me, as I do not share in their idolatry or worship of false idols. We are unequally yoked in our belief systems, and therefore, I prefer they not pray for me. Of course, I will not express this to them blatantly, as it would simply be rude and insulting. I would rather pray for them and ask the Lord to bless the intentions of their heart and use it as a witness of faith in God.
But, there are other times God may choose not to hear our prayers, even as believers. Obviously praying to false idols, as mentioned, is one.
Isaiah reveals the most obvious hindrance to our prayers...
"Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you. And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call! But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God. Because of sin he has turned his face away from you and will not listen anymore. For your hands are those of murderers and your fingers are filthy with sin. You lie and grumble and oppose the good. No one cares about being fair and true. Your lawsuits are based on lies; you spend your time plotting evil deeds and doing them. You spend your time and energy in spinning evil plans that end up in deadly actions. You cheat and shortchange everyone. Everything you do is filled with sin; violence is your trademark. Your feet run to do evil and rush to murder; your thoughts are only of sinning, and wherever you go you leave behind a trail of misery and death. You don’t know what true peace is, nor what it means to be just and good; you continually do wrong and those who follow you won’t experience any peace either.
It is because of all this evil that you aren’t finding God’s blessings; that’s why he doesn’t punish those who injure you. No wonder you are in darkness when you expected light. No wonder you are walking in the gloom. No wonder you grope like blind men and stumble along in broad daylight, yes, even at brightest noontime, as though it were the darkest night! No wonder you are like corpses when compared with vigorous young men! You roar like hungry bears; you moan with mournful cries like doves. You look for God to keep you, but he doesn’t. He has turned away. For your sins keep piling up before the righteous God and testify against you." Isaiah 59:1-12 TLB
While this passage is graphically and specifically clear, unconfessed sin, is a hindrance to one's prayers. While most of us feel we are "good people," being "good" isn't how you are judged and isn't how God chooses to listen to our prayers. As once stated, "good intentions pave the road to hell," meaning our good intentions are worthless in the sight of God.
Truthfully, our action is the key to God hearing our prayers. Acting upon confessing our sins, repenting, and asking for forgiveness is the action step required to ensure our prayers are heard. David agreed, saying in Psalm 66, "For I cried to him for help with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it!"
Other hindrances to prayer include living in the flesh. The fruit of the flesh is impure thoughts (lust), idolatry and demonology, jealousy, anger, unforgiveness, hatred, greed, selfishness, murder (even of one's character), drunkenness, and no self-control. (Galatians 5:19-21)
While it is difficult to keep our natural desires (the desires of the flesh) at bay, we have a Helper that assists us in controlling the wild beast of sinful nature we all struggle with.
Paul went on to say,
"I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to. For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures.
When you are guided by the Holy Spirit, you need no longer force yourself to obey the law. When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit’s power, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Then we won’t need to look for honors and popularity, which lead to jealousy and hard feelings." Galatians 5:16-18, 22-26
When we walk in close communion with the Holy Spirit, it doesn't make us perfect or without fleshly (naturally human) desires to sin. Walking with the Holy Spirit is like having a parent close by as a toddler learns how to crawl, walk, and eventually run or ride a bike.
His hand upon us will sometimes prevent us from falling, and sometimes pick us back up when we do crash and burn. While God is not expecting perfection, He is expecting relationship. And the deeper our relationship grows with Him, the less we desire sinful things and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, as mentioned above: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Those fruits will begin to grow and produce naturally without us having to force them to.
Plus, keeping in communion with the Holy Spirit, eliminates another hindrance to prayer - selfish motives.
I often say that when we pray more for ourselves than we do for others (unless, of course, our selfish prayers are ones of repentance or seeking God to create in us someone better), then we are praying against God's will. And God will not answer according to our selfish desires.
I know people who buy lottery tickets and "pray" God blesses them with winning the millions! Guess what? Those prayers fall on deaf ears. Praying for vengeance against a personal enemy or someone who has done something wrong against you falls on deaf ears. Praying for good health while abusing the body or mind God gave you (through addiction or self-abuse) falls on deaf ears.
These types of prayers are wasted because they go against God's will. And He will not and cannot go against His own will. But, when we ask according to His will (even when we don't necessarily know His will), He will answer. 1 John 5:14
Jesus modeled this in Luke 22:42, as He prayed to the Father for the Father's will to be done rather than His own. Keep in mind that this was during the time Jesus was preparing to be crucified. Although Jesus was God in the flesh, He, too, was feeling the weaknesses of the flesh and the vulnerability of the moment.
Living according to the fleshly, selfish desires produces hardness of heart (hatred/bitterness and unforgiveness) and jealousy towards others. And God don't like ugly!
When we pray, we should first seek God's will, second pray for the needs of others, and third our needs. And when we pray with an attitude of gratitude, giving thanks for the great things He has done for us, our prayers become effective and powerful. James 5:16
Unbelief and doubt often hinder effective prayer, as well. While some preach that God will grant our requests (like a genie in a bible), if only we have "enough" faith or belief without doubting. However, God is not a slot machine or playing a game with our faith. These types of statements are totally misleading and false! He is not obligated to answer our prayers just because we pray like He is.
Praying without doubt of disbelief is about understanding God's character, nature, and His intention. Faith is believing His existence. When we pray to God, doubting His character, nature, and promises, we insult Him, greatly! Think about it. As a parent, you want your children to understand that every decision you make, whether they like it or not, agree with it or not, understand it or not, is done with their best interest in mind. Our nature is to protect, serve, and train them to become positive role models and productive citizens of heaven while on earth. Granted, despite our best intentions, they don't always follow the "rules" or "laws" of the house or community. They often rebelliously do their own way, turn out not to be quite as "good" as we had hoped for or expected, and challenge us at every level (particularly when they become teenagers).
No matter what, however, we hope we instill in them enough trust to know that when the going gets touch and life throws them a curveball they are not equipped to catch, we, as their parents will always be there to support them, pick them up, and nurse their injuries or bruised egos back to health. They develop a faith in believing we will be there for them.
But, if they fall and come to us saying, "I don't know why I'm calling you. You don't care. You want to see me fail. You are excited and happy to see me fail. You just want to tell me 'I told you so,'" would you be offended and insulted to think your child thought so lowly of you? Why? Because for most parents that would never be our intention. Not to digress into dysfunctional families where parents WOULD be vindictive, most parents have the best intentions for their children and spend lifetimes sowing into their every being in order to help them maneuver life's highways and roadblocks.
God is the same way.
His intentions for us are even far greater than ours is toward our children. So much so, that His ultimate motive is that no one should perish or be condemned to eternal damnation for breaking the law, rebelling, being disobedient, or unfaithful. That's why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment or consequences of sin on our behalf! Nothing says love more than an innocent person dying to save someone else who's guilty!
As a parent, most of us would "take the bullet" to protect our child! Most of us would run in front of the car and risk getting hit if it meant saving our child from tragedy. Because our love is greater than the risk of death, we would sacrifice ourselves for our children. And God, sacrificed Himself for you and me - His children.
So, if that doesn't paint the picture of God's true intention, nothing will. Therefore, when we pray and believe in His will, we surrender the stress and control of trying to figure it all out to no avail. He hears us, takes care of us, and shows us the way, while meeting our needs and filling us with the fruit of His Spirit in the process. Our confidence in knowing that when we pray for His will, He is able and quick to respond to our request, and His answer, even when it may be "no," is always going to be the best case result.
James 1:5-8 TLB paints a great picture of trusting God and not doubting:
"If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer."
Despite the hindrances, we can ensure God hears our prayers by confessing our sin, repenting (turning away from our lustful desires), and relying upon the Holy Spirit to guide us. He is faithful to forgive us and wipe our record clean (1 John 1:9). This opens the communication channel so our prayers are heard, and the response will always produce peace, joy, love, confidence in Him, strength, protection, healing, and deliverance, among others. That's His promise.
That's how warfare in the spirit realm is conducted. Prayer is a powerful weapon that the devil cannot hear, and yet he will feel the profound effects of our requests when prayed fervently and effectively.