Hindrances To Prayer
There is such a thing as being hindered from prayer – and that may be done by falling into a generally lax, lukewarm condition in reference to the things of God. When a man becomes cold, indifferent and careless, one of the first things that will suffer will be his devotion. When a sick man is in a decline his lungs suffer, and his voice – and so when a Christian is in a spiritual decline the breath of prayer is affected and the cry of supplication becomes weak. Prayer is the true gauge of spiritual power. To hold back prayer is dangerous and of deadly tendency. You may depend upon it that, take it for all in all, what you are upon your knees you are really before your God.
What the Pharisee and the Publican were in prayer was the true criterion of their spiritual state. You may maintain a decent reputation among men, but it is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment – men see only the surface – while the Lord’s eyes pry into the recesses of the soul. If He sees that you are prayerless, He makes small account of your attendance at religious meetings, or your loud professions of conversion. If you are a man of earnest prayer and especially if the spirit of prayer is in you, so that in addition to certain seasons of supplication your heart habitually talks with God, things are right with you. But if this is not the case and your prayers are "hindered," there is something in your spiritual system which needs to be ejected, or something lacking which ought to be taken care of at once. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23), and living prayers are among those issues.
Prayers may be hindered, next, by having too much to do. In this age this is a very common occurrence. Many a man who might have been of great service to the church of God becomes useless because he must branch out in some new direction in business which takes up all his spare time. Instead of feeling that his first care should be, "How can I best glorify God?" his all-absorbing objective is to "stretch his arms like seas and grasp in all the shore." …The rich man in the parable had no time for prayer, for he was busy in planning new barns in which to bestow his goods – but he had to find time for dying when the Lord said, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12:20). Beware, I pray you, of "the desire of other things," the canker of riches, the insatiable greed which drives men into the snare of the devil, for if it works you no other ill, it will do you mischief enough, if your prayers are hindered.
We may even have too much to do in God’s house, and so hinder our prayers by being like Martha, numbered with much serving. I never heard of anyone who was hindered with too much praying. The more we do, the more we should pray, and prayer should balance our service, or rather, it should be the lifeblood of every action and saturate our entire life, as the dew of heaven filled Gideon’s fleece. We cannot labor too much if prayer is proportionate, but I fear that some of us would do far more if we attempted less and prayed more about it.
I said we might do too much and I could not balance that truth unless I added that a very large proportion of Christians do too little. God has given them enough wealth to be able to retire from business. They have time upon their hands and they have even to invent ways of spending that time – and yet the ignorant require instructing, the sick need visiting, the poor need helping. Should they not lay out their abundant leisure in the service of God? Would they not, then, be quickened in prayer? I wish that all could say with one of the Lord’s saints, "Prayer is my business and praise is my pleasure" – but I am sure they never will till the zeal of the Lord’s house shall more fully consume them.
Some people hinder their prayers, again, by a lack of order. They get up a little too late and they have to chase their work all the day and never overtake it. They are always in a flurry, one duty tripping up the heels of another. They have no appointed time for retirement, too little space hedged about for communion with God and, consequently, something or other happens and prayer is forgotten – no, I hope not quite forgotten, but so slurred and hurried over that it amounts to little and brings them no blessing. I wish you would each keep a diary of how you pray next week, and see how much, or rather how little time you spend with God out of the 24 hours. Much time goes at the table, how much at the Mercy Seat? Many hours are spent with men, how many with your Maker? You are somewhat with your friends on earth, how many minutes are you with your Friend in heaven? You allow yourself space for recreation, what do you set apart for those exercises which in very truth re-create the soul?
Taken from the sermon "Hindrances To Prayer" by Charles H. Spurgeon.