Six Specific Sins That Can Hinder and Devastate Our Prayer Life


“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3 NIV).

When we pray for God to use us, is it for His glory or your own? Whenever we pray with some hidden motive (e.g., praying for someone’s salvation so that you can date that person), your prayer is canceled out, so to speak.

Having idols in our lives

“Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” (Ezekiel 14:3 NIV).

An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. It is any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport, or loyalty that to any degree decreases one’s trust and loyalty to God.

British preacher Alan Redpath said, “Our god is the thing or person which we think most precious, for whom we would make the greatest sacrifice, and who moves our hearts with the warmest love. He is the person that if lost would leave us desolate.” If God is not Lord of your life, your communication with Him will be less than it should be.


“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in Heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). Forgiven people should be forgiving people. An unforgiving attitude is one of the most common hindrances to prayer.

Unconfessed sin

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

God cannot forgive the sin you will not confess. Perhaps you have some sin in your past that has remained unjudged and unconfessed. You may even be committing a sin right now that you do not think is a sin. We need to pray as the psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).

An improper relationship between a husband and a wife

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

Three principles stand out in this verse.

  • First, this is uniquely addressed to husbands. Men need to recognize their God-given responsibilities in the home. In far too many homes, the wife is the spiritual leader and initiator. Men need to be in that position.
  • Second, men are to dwell with wives with understanding. To dwell means to “be aligned to.” It means more than just simply living together.
  • Third, men are to give honor to their wives. To honor means “to give maintenance to.” Just as a car needs regular maintenance, and the wheels can get out of alignment, so a marriage needs to be constantly fine-tuned spiritually. Husbands need to make sure that they are meeting the needs of their wives. They need to continue to cleave to them (see Matthew 19:5). The man’s full commitment must be to his wife (and vice versa). He should also see his wife as a companion (see Malachi 2:14). A companion is a person whom you are united with in thoughts, goals, plans and efforts.

When these three areas of marriage are properly maintained, your prayer life will be effective and unhindered.

A lack of faith

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5–8).

There is no question that faith is a key element in effective prayer. On one occasion, we are told, “Jesus could do no mighty work there because of the unbelief of the people” (Mark 6:5).

Some have taken this to extremes, suggesting that an affirmative answer to prayer somehow depends upon our personal faith. Yet, how much faith did Lazarus have when Jesus raised him from the dead? How much faith did the early church show when Peter showed up at their door, freed from prison by an angel (Acts 12)? They didn’t believe it could be true at first!

Yes, we need faith and should pray with as much faith as we have. But God can do a lot with a little—especially when we acknowledge our weaknesses. Remember the story of the man with the demon-possessed son (see Mark 9: 14–29). He came to ask Jesus to save the boy by casting out the evil spirit. Jesus said to him, “‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief'” (Mark 9:23–24). Jesus then answered that man’s honest plea. God wants no less from us when we pray.

If you want your prayers to be powerful and effective, steer clear of the six hindrances that can destroy your prayer life. Then you will see that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

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