12 Barriers to Effective Prayer and How to Overcome Them

As long as I have been a follower of Jesus, I should be more committed to praying than I am. Simply put, I wish I was better at praying. The truth is, sometimes, my prayer life sucks. I would imagine if you are anything like me, yours does too.  I know we don’t want our prayer life to suck. So, what should do about it? 

When I pray, I lose focus, become distracted, and sometimes fall asleep. The truth is, sometimes I am too busy to pray and pray selfishly. But, I desire to hear from God, and I know you do too. You long to hear him tell you who he is, who you are and where you’re going. Yet, it is difficult to hear him when there are prayer assassins lurking in the brush of our soul, sniping our every petition and intercession to our heavenly Father. How do we deal with a sucky prayer life?

In order for this to happen, I think we first have to recognize some of the habits that cause our prayer life to suck and intentionally fight against them. The following list identifies the most common prayer barriers in a believer’s life and how to overcome them.

  • Unconfessed sins. When we harbor sin in our lives, it dams up the flow and scrambles the spiritual channels of communication to the Father. The solution is simple. Spend time asking God to show you where you are intentionally hiding out sin in your heart and confess and turn from it. (Psalm 66:18)
  • Lack of faith. Without faith – a settled confidence – in the character and power of God, we should not expect our prayers to be answered. Our faith in God grows as we spend time hearing the Word of God. We have a good Father, and he deserves our unwavering trust when we pray.
  • Disobedience. Why would God bless us with new paths and new directions when we have not obeyed Him to walk in the paths and directions he has already revealed. Answered prayer and obedience to the Father are inextricably tied together. (1 John 3:21-22)
  • Lack of transparency with others. When we hide behind shame, fear and guilt we remain broken. However, when we confess our sins to another human being, God sometimes mysteriously answers our prayers with healing. (James 5:16)
  • Failure to forgive. When we fail to forgive others, it is a good indication that we don’t truly understand the forgiveness that God has given us. The answer to this barrier is to forgive – release others from the debt they owe us. Forgiveness removes the wedge between the other person and us, and between God and us. (Matthew 18:21-22)
  • Failure to pray. We have not because we ask not. Refusal to pray is a sure way not to get an answer to our prayers. So, pray! (James 4:2-3)
  • Selfish motives. James 4:3 says that God sometimes refuses to answer our prayers because our motives are purely selfish. We don’t want God to answer our prayers for his glory, but for our own shine. So, when we pray, let’s ask God to purify our motives so that our prayers can be in alignment with what he desires. (James 4:3)
  • Setting up idols in our lives. Why should God answer our prayers when we are giving our allegiance to someone or something other than the true and living God. God wants us to destroy our idols and give him complete devotion and control over our lives. (Ezekiel 14:3)
  • Tiredness. In Luke 22:45, Jesus finds his disciples sleeping when they should have been praying. Sometimes we are overcome by fatigue either from working too many hours or spending too much time depriving ourselves of the gift of sleep. Rested bodies can lead to a rested heart, one that is prepared to pray.
  • Unresolved marital conflict. As husbands, when we refuse to show honor to our wives as delicate gifts and live with them in an understanding way,  we actually hinder our prayers. Husbands, let’s treat our wives as special and get to know them deeply. (1 Peter 3:7)
  • Ignoring God’s complete control. God sometimes refuse to respond to our requests because we have not completely trusted him with our lives. We can completely rest in him because he’s good and wants the best for us. (Matthew 26:36-42)
  • Stubborn will. God answers and leads those who give him the freedom to search, know, and try their hearts. (Psalm 139:22-24)
He will speak to us as we allow him to remove these stubborn barriers from our lives.

Turn Your Minutes into Moments

Look over the list again. Which barriers tend to cause the most problems in your prayer life? What are some practices or tools you’ve used to overcome some of these barriers in your prayer life? 

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