Offenses hinder prayer

Unresolved Offenses Hinder Prayer

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”
Psalm 119:165

“Harboring unforgiveness, resentment or bitterness is like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies.”

One night as I was praying for faithful people still struggling with health or family problems, I was wondering (asking the Lord), why haven’t they been healed yet, or had a positive breakthrough in their families?

I knew the usual reasons – weak or wobbly faith, unbelief, doubt, fear, and overt or covert sin being the primary ones. None of those seemed to apply here.

Were positive answers in the will of God? Yes, I am certain they are. Are the hindrances in me? In the needy person? Or both? So I kept on praying, meditating, and asking the Lord to show me the reasons.

“Offenses,” the Holy Spirit said.

The Greek word for offense is skandalon:

(1) A trap or snare. A hunter may use one, and we know an enemy who is hunting, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
(2) Any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling) i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling.

Jesus called Peter an offense to him, because Peter’s ideas of what Messiah should be and do were so different from what Jesus was describing. (Matthew 16:21-23.)

The Lord began showing me a list of specific, hurtful, offensive things that had happened in the past, either to me, or by me, or in the life of the people I’ve been praying for. No matter whose life they had affected, our prayers were being hindered.

Some of these offenses had been dealt with in the past, supposedly, but “reminders” would pop up now and then and an old hurt would be felt again, memories still buried deep in the brain’s memory banks. The list included the following:

    • Unforgiveness on your part, no matter how horribly bad the other person’s acts or words were, no matter how strongly you feel that they don’t deserve forgiveness.
    • Unforgiveness from someone else towards you, whether you did anything wrong or not, not resolved by explanations or apologies.
    • Memories of personal attacks, bad actions or words spoken against you and perhaps to you in the past.
    • Resentment of other people’s bad behaviors or words to you, or about you to other people.
    • Bitterness about being mistreated unfairly, whether it was deliberate or not.
    • Being taken for granted; made to feel “put upon,” misused, given more responsibilities or burdens than others who should be helping but aren’t.
    • Selfish pride, ego.
    • Misunderstandings, no matter whose side it started on, never straightened out.
    • Being robbed or abused, physically, materially, emotionally or socially.
    • Jealousy, on your part or against you on someone else’s part, deserved or undeserved. This is different from godly envy.
    • Unresolved anger, sadness or grief at being misunderstood, mistreated, cheated, i.e. sinned against.
    • Suspicion – not spiritual discernment – of someone’s motives, finding fault with them without a real cause. Avoiding them because of this.
    • Not praying for your enemies, or for your “frenemies,” because you don’t feel you can do it in faith so why bother to do it at all.
    • Believing you can’t do it, whatever it is, because you’re not good enough, clean enough, anointed enough, educated enough, trusted enough, whatever, thus you don’t even attempt, because you just know you’d fail.
    • Not using the authority of the believer given to you by God; not exercising the power of the Holy Spirit as He directs.
    • Believing a lie from the enemy – this affliction must be God’s will.
    • Fear of being ridiculed or losing something important – a relationship, reputation, position, etc.
    • An important one – underestimating the limitless grace of God.

There may be others. One thing they all have in common: They are triggered by words. Negative words. Some are whispered words from the enemy, not your own voice but masquerading as yours. All that brought up an important question:

How do these offenses hinder our prayers?

“They are spiritual leeches,” the Lord said. And then he showed me what they do in the natural – leeches, and ticks, and fleas. Here’s what I learned:

Leeches, ticks and fleas:

    • As leeches bite, they inject anesthetic, so you don’t even know what they are doing to you. Then they begin sucking blood out of you, little by little (remember, life is in the blood, and with it strength, energy, faith, confidence, assurance, all spiritual abilities, including discernment of what the enemy is doing.) They also can inject diseases, viral and bacterial, diseases which can kill you if not detected and treated, such as HIV, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and others.
    • Ticks also inject saliva which exhibits cytolytic, vasodilator, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, and immunosuppressive activity. Many species can transmit diseases to animals and people, such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
    • Fleas likewise inject saliva which contains anticoagulants to keep the blood flowing and an enzyme to keep blood from clotting at the wound site. Fleas also carry diseases that can be transmitted through bites, such as flea-borne spotted fever, plague, typhus, and cat scratch fever.

All that was eye-opening and disturbing, to say the least. They are draining our faith, confidence, assurance, peace of mind, leaving uneasiness, being unsettled mentally, emotionally or spiritually, and resulting in unanswered prayers. My next question was,

How can we deal with such offenses?

His reply was just one word: FORGIVENESS. He reminded me that forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision – and an excellent spiritual disinfectant and “pest control.”

Let’s get practical:

  1. Ask the Lord to reveal specific things, then deal with each one as they come to mind.
  2. Forgive others, forgive yourselves, ask forgiveness where needed if still possible, and if not extended or not possible, forgive them for NOT forgiving you.
  3. Refuse to harbor bitterness, resentment or grudges. Repentance is a good remedy for those. If a thought, image or feeling about a past offense arises again, (remember, Satan is the father is lies, deception, illusions, delusions), deliberately visualize yourself kicking that things right off a cliff to its demise.
  4. As often as you need to, deliberately do this again, reminding the enemy that it has been dealt with. Any remembrance of it that he brings up is another lie.
  5. Replace it with spiritual memories, God’s word, His promise of life, healing, health and wholeness to you. Personal answered prayers in the past, testimonies of others’ answered prayers.
  6. Use scriptural reminders regarding forgiveness; look verses up, write them down, read them to yourself and remind the Liar in Chief of them often. He loves to interfere with our prayers; don’t let him get away with it.
  7. And keep “short accounts,” that is, deal with anything offensive as it occurs; don’t put it off.

Offer Father God praise, worship, and thanksgiving, even when you don’t feel like it. He is worthy!

Unbelief can kill you

Hindrances to successful prayer

Living here and now, believers in Christ have God the Holy Spirit living inside of them, interested in their daily activities, their thoughts and wishes. Instructing, explaining, giving out assignments and directions, including what to pray.

If we are inhabited by God himself, and if we are praying what God desires for us to pray, then what might hinder us from getting those prayers answered?

Unbelief, which can come from (1) a willful refusal to believe, or (2) ignorance of who God is, his character, his love, his grace, and his will. The result is the same, a lack of active, energized faith. Faith and belief are from the same Greek word, pistis.

  • Matthew 13:58, Mark 6:5-6 – Jesus could do no mighty works in Nazareth because of unbelief.
  • Matthew 9:25, Mark 5:40 – Jesus put unbelievers out of the room (case of the ruler’s daughter).
  • Acts 9:40 – Peter also put unbelievers out of the room (case of Tabitha/Dorcas). Read the passage about Aeneas first, then this passage.

Peter put the unbelievers out of the room first, before praying. He prayed not for the dead woman, but to get God’s instructions on what to do about her. Then he turned and just spoke to her, as he had done to Aeneas, telling her to do something she could not do. And she did it. There was a good reason to put the unbelievers out, unbelief can kill you.

  • In Mark 9:23-24, the father of a demon-oppressed boy came to Jesus after the disciples couldn’t help him. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Honoring the small faith the boy’s father did have, Jesus helped his unbelief – he healed and delivered the boy. (Jesus told the disciples, this kind comes only by prayer and fasting.)

Misbelief, a mistaken belief, believing the wrong thing, such as:

  • Miracles ceased with the apostles, not for today – yet more miracles occur today than ever.
  • Healing is not in the atonement, it’s not always God’s will – but Jesus healed ALL that came to him. The word for healing is the same Greek word for salvation. You can’t parse this word, it’s the same, single word: Greek sozo, soteria.
  • “Whatever will be, will be” – but that’s from Eastern religion, it’s not a Christian principle.
  • You can’t really know God’s will for sure – but He wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. See Colossians 1:9.
  • You don’t deserve answers to prayer because of past sins, or not being good enough. But salvation is by grace, it’s not deserved, it is by accepted faith. So are answers to prayer.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Current sinful practices may hinder answers, but it’s not because you don’t deserve answers. You put up a barricade to receiving answers by believing the wrong things.

Doubt. Doubt may come before faith, and frequently does. Doubt simply means trying to decide between two things; the choice and decision is yours. This is usually from the Greek word diakrino, to examine in order to make a determination; to judge, discern, contend, waver, determine; doubt.

  • In Matthew 21:21, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”
  • In Mark 11:23, he said “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
  • James 1:6 translates this word as wavering, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

Doubt is not bad unless you remain there, never coming to a decision.

Note: Sometimes you have plenty of time, but sometimes you have to decide quickly. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can you make the right decision when you don’t have much time…

  • In Matthew 14:26-32, Peter was headed to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. As the wind arose he looked at two things, Jesus and the boisterous waves. Doubting his own ability (and perhaps his survival), Peter had to make a quick decision. He made the right one. “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Belief problems can be solved. Hindrances to successful prayer, God-directed prayer, can be removed. Studying the scriptures and getting to know God’s character is essential to that, because active faith – belief – comes by hearing, present tense, the word of God (Romans 10:17).

(Notes adapted Class Notes, Principles of Intercessory Prayer.)