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Pray effectively

Abraham Lincoln is quoted saying something to the effect of, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

Whether he really said that or not is beside the point – those words do make sense in many situations, one of them being that of prayer.

What I mean by that is that there is no point praying to God if God is not listening to you.

For this reason, when we pray, we must first make sure that our relationship with God is such that God is listening to us.

Now one might think that if we have ‘accepted Christ’ God will surely listen to us. But things are not that simple. God has listed in the Bible the conditions under which He does and does not listen to us when we pray, and He also tells us how to pray. We ignore what He has said to our own peril.

Some people pray and when their prayer doesn’t get answered they conclude that God doesn’t exist. Others conclude that God doesn’t really care. But what if God does exist and does care, but He doesn’t answer only because we have not fixed the things that need to be fixed before He can hear our prayer?

Here are some of the things that hinder your prayer…

  • Laziness in asking (i.e. not asking at all!) (Lk 11:9-10) (Mk 11:24).

Lk 11:9-10 9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."

Mk 11:24 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."

  • >Asking with the wrong motive (Jas 4:3).

Jas 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

  • Not seeking the kingdom of God first.

Mt 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

  • Not being righteous.

Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.


Pr 15:29 29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

If you are cheating your employer or your insurance company then you are not doing what is right, and therefore you are not righteous. You may have a little extra money, but God is not going to hear your prayer.

  • Not asking earnestly (Lk 18:1-8).

Lk 18:1-8 1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’" 6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

  • Unforgiven sin (Ps 66:18) (Pr 15:8) (Jas 5:16).

Ps 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

If you are back-biting or gossiping or slandering or thinking of taking revenge God is not going to hear your prayer.

Pr 15:8 8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Do you give money for God’s work? Do you spend time doing God’s work? If you behave wickedly towards others all these things that you do is an abomination in God’s eyes.

Jas 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

People often pray for others to be healed, but do they confess their sins first?

  • >Holding a grudge against someone or not having forgiven somebody (Mt 18:35) (Mk 11:25-26).

Mk 11:25-26 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]

  • Not living with your wife in an understanding way and honoring her as a fellow heir of the grace of life (1 Pet 3:7).

1 Pet 3:7 7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

  • A woman praying with her head uncovered (1 Cor 11:5) or a man praying with his head covered (1 Cor 11:4).

1 Cor 11:4-5 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

  • A proud person will not be heard (Lk 18:9-14).

Lk 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

You have to come to God in Jesus Name and not in your own name / credentials.

So then, don’t neglect to ask God for help, but make sure that you have taken care of the things that can hinder Him from listening to your prayer.

Copyright (c) 2007-2026, Rosario (Ross) D'Souza. All Rights Reserved
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