The Key to Powerful Intercession & Repairing the Breach of Unanswered Prayer
It’s not always easy to know how to pray, what to ask for, or be able to discern to what God is doing. Prayer is a very general term that encompasses many different types of communication with God. The spectrum is truly broad and wide. Prayer can take many forms for which there is no ritual or formula. But there is one thing God requires in prayer and that is truth in the innermost being. He wants us to be genuine. He wants us to be real. He wants us to be raw. God wants us to be free to pour out our hearts to Him in complete abandon without any fear of rejection. He loves that. Yet more than anything, He wants us to be led by His Holy Spirit. That is the key to effective prayer that many miss.
Are you frustrated in your prayer life? Are your prayers being hindered? If so, this post is for you.
We may get it all right, but there are things that can hinder our prayers, making them ineffective. And if you’re frustrated in your prayer life, wondering why things aren’t happening, we’re going to address that here by discussing the obstacles that may keep your prayers from being answered.
The Prayers of the Saints
We are told in Revelation that the prayers of the saints are like sweet incense that is offered before God (see Revelation 8:3-4). It is a sweet aroma to Him. This altar originated in the Old Testament Tabernacle (see Exodus 30:1-10), where we see a picture of the Altar of Incense where prayers were offered to God by the High Priest before entering the Holy of Holies. Let us remember that in the Holy Place we see three articles that clearly reveal Christ: the Lampstand and its oil with the light it emanates, the twelve loaves of fresh baked bread, and the altar of incense. This is where we are called to worship Him and join with Him in the ministry of His Spirit (the Lampstand), the Word (the bread), and Prayer (the Altar of Incense). Only the High Priest could enter this area and perform the ritual ceremonies God had ordained and so carefully outlined. There were strict orders under the Law that governed how the High Priest was to approach God and conduct these services. We know that the old order has passed away now that we have Christ. Christ declares us all to be kings and priests through the shed blood of His holy covenant, opening the way to all who believe upon Him into the most sacred place where His manifest presence dwells – The Holy of Holies. That does not mean, however, that we are always prepared for duty or know how to conduct ourselves in these specific ministries Christ has outlined.
Christ Jesus now lives to intercede for us (see Hebrews 7:25). The Spirit of God intercedes for us as well (see Romans 8:14-27). Likewise, we are also called to the ministry of intercession.
The Altar of Incense was the last article within the Holy Place where the High Priest would minister before God in offering prayers on behalf of the people. During these times of prayer the altar would burn with hot coals, smoke would go up, and the room would be filled with the aroma, often clouding the vision of the High Priest in that Holy Place. All that could be seen was the light of the Lampstand filtering through. That gives us a picture of this ministry. When we are truly in intercession our soul has no place. All we see is the substance of our prayers which are born of the Spirit.
This altar of incense was the very last ministry prior to entering the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was located. That is the innermost place of God’s Temple, where there was nothing but darkness. God alone was its light.
Led of the Spirit
When we go into prayer we often conduct ourselves toward God like well-meaning children often do: we present our petitions, supplications, desires, needs, and urgent requests. However, this is not what intercession is about. That is not to say it’s wrong to request things from God – not so – for even Christ taught us to ask, and if we believe we will have whatsoever we ask of Him in faith.
But there is something more. There is intercession – this place where you graduate beyond your own soul realm or understanding. You can’t effectively intercede from your soul. You must be led by the Spirit of God. I believe this is why many believers are frustrated in the prayer life. They simply do not know what to pray, or how to pray.
The key to intercession is yielding in full surrender with an open heart which God can use at His will and whim, turning it within the individual in whatever direction He chooses. When the Spirit of God is able to lead our prayers, we pray powerfully and effectively, revealing the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. In contrast, when we rely upon our own carnal understanding, thoughts, vain imaginations, and personal desires to intercede we will find ourselves frustrated, and our prayers hindered – meaning they are not fully effective.
When we are able to be led of the Spirit in our intercession, we will graduate to the Altar of Incense where we move beyond petition and supplication. This is where God is able to use our hearts to pray as the Spirit wills, speaking forth those things, and communicating those things to God as only He could have us do.
When we look at the prayer life of Jesus Christ, He prayed according to the perfect will of the Father, fully surrendering Himself in body, soul, and spirit to His Father’s perfect will and purpose – regardless of what He may have felt or wanted. The prayers which Christ prayed on earth are still being answered today (see John 17). Christ modeled prayer for us in very practical, effectual, and intimate ways.
Common Hindrances to Prayer
There are plenty of promises in the Word of God to encourage us in prayer. Yet we often dismiss the warnings God gives with regard to those things that can hinder our prayer lives. We must embrace both. If you’re wondering why your prayers are being hindered, I beg you to consider the following list and begin seeking God. You may well find your answer to your unanswered prayers. However, if none of the following are appropriate or fitting, we must remember that God’s silence does not mean He is neglecting to answer. His silence is just as precious as His willingness to speak. We must learn to trust His silence just as much as we trust His Word. If He wants to speak to you, He can – and He will.
1.) UNFORGIVENESS – (see Matthew 5:22-24) This is by far the most common of any, which is why Christ addresses it within the LORD’s prayer front and center. When we hold onto the sins of others, we condemn ourselves. We must learn to love mercy. It doesn’t mean we stop hurting. It means we embrace the mercy of God rather than resentment, bitterness, anger, and the like. This opens the door for God to bring the healing we need for the offense committed against us. Christ tells us that before we can bring a gift to the altar (the Altar of Incense), we must be willing to be reconciled with our brother first, and then we can come and offer our gift to God.
2.) UNBELIEF – (see Hebrews 3) We are told that unbelief is a sin. God considers the heart of unbelief to be evil. You may wonder why, and Scripture tells us: it insults Him. God cannot lie. He is perfect and can do no wrong. When we fail to believe Him we call Him a liar, and we go astray. Unbelief will quench the Spirit of God in ways nothing else can.
3.) DOUBT – (see Mark 9:24, Matthew 9:18-26, and John 20:19-29) Doubt is not quite the same as unbelief. We can all echo with the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” That is doubt. And although Christ often dealt with doubt very sternly, it didn’t always limit Him the way we might have expected. We can doubt and still possess that mustard seed of faith which He honors and accepts. The key is recognizing the doubts you have, and allowing Christ to address them – much in the same way He addressed Thomas when He offered Him His hand and side and said, “…be not unbelieving, but believing.” Christ is compassionate toward our doubt when we struggle to believe. And He will honor the smallest faith we demonstrate toward Him.
4.) WRONG MOTIVES – (see James 4:3) This principle is very simple. When our prayers lie outside of God’s perfect will then it is entirely at His discretion in whether or not He chooses to answer it. This is where we learn to trust Him as our Heavenly Father. When our motives are entirely selfish, He may not give us what we ask. I’ve had prayers answered which I knew were born purely of my own desire. I took responsibility for them. God chose to grant (some, not all) those requests. And although I learned from Him in those things, if I had to do it over again my request would be much, much different. God’s “no” can indeed be very loving.
5.) UNREPENTANT SIN – When we hide sin in our hearts, God is not obligated to hear. We may be getting many things right with Him, but when we refuse to repent of those issues He’s already addressed by ignoring or neglecting them, we are putting a distance between us and God that need not be there. Repent of those things He’s shown you. Be of tender conscience toward God and humble yourself before Him.
6.) DISOBEDIENCE/REBELLION – (see Hebrews 10:26-39) God tells you one thing, but you choose to do another. You can’t walk in your own way and think your prayer life will be effective. God calls this heart and lifestyle “witchcraft”. Blatant rebellion is not something God will wink at. It is an abomination to Him that warrants His righteous and just judgment.
7.) PRAYING AMISS – Sometimes what we pray for simply is not God’s will. We just miss it. This has nothing to do with our motives. Our motives may be entirely pure, good, and holy. But if it’s not God’s perfect will, He’s not obligated to grant it. Super simple. Christ understood this principle, and therefore said, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
8.) DISHONORING GOD– (see Malachi 1:6 & Deuteronomy 28:23) We are told that when we dishonor God the heavens become as brass and the earth like iron. Nothing yields. God created the heaven and earth to yield its fruit for us. We cannot dishonor God and be so cocky as to think He’s obligated to grant our requests. Not so.
9.) DISHONORING OUR SPOUSE – (see 1 Peter 3:7) This can happen in many diverse ways. But the Bible is clear that our prayer lives should be intimately connected with our spouse. When we dishonor our spouse we create a breach in the spirit that must be repaired through repentance and forgiveness. That breach can hinder our prayer lives in devastating ways. God requires unity within marriage for our prayer lives to be effective.
10.) PRIDE – (see 1 Peter 5:5-10) God hates pride. He will stand against the proud. He resists them. We are told that pride will actually set us up for a fall, and that God will humble all those who are proud. Yet He exalts the humble. Pride will remove His grace and favor from you, and when that happens you will eventually find yourself humiliated. Not good. Not fun.
11.) DECEIT – (see Psalm 139 & 51) We can’t play games with God. When we come to Him with insincere hearts that are putting on a show, He can’t truly relate to us. He cannot bless an act. This is where truth in the innermost being is of the essence.
12.) DEMONIC FORCES & ASSIGNMENTS – (see Daniel 10:12-13 & Ephesians 6:10-18) The book of Daniel is perhaps the greatest example of this. Paul also speaks of demonic forces in the heavenlies being unleashed against us. God’s angelic armies hearken to His word. True intercession releases the word of God and the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. This is where warfare is realized. And if this is the reason your prayers are not being answered, then fasting is the only way to break through. So be prepared.
The Key to Powerful Intercession
Be led by the Spirit. Be moved by His Spirit. Walk in His Spirit. This requires a fully yielded vessel. The Spirit of God is the only One who can truly intercede. You may not know what or how to pray, but the Spirit knows the will of God, and is able to speak to that precisely and perfectly.
When we yield ourselves to God in intercession we’ll find ourselves praying for things and people we would have never thought about – and perhaps don’t even know. By that same rule, God may completely rearrange your prayer journal. You may find He does not lead you to pray for certain people or entities at all. Trust Him in that leading. Venturing into territory of your own volition which He does not sanction is dangerous business.
Finally, don’t confuse the issue of timing as a hindrance to prayer. It’s not. God’s timing is sovereign. There is an appointed time for all things under heaven. God’s answer may be a resounding “YES!” to your prayer. But if timing is the issue, you’ll be waiting a while before the answer arrives. So learn patience in the promises of God. Don’t ever mistake His timing as a “NO” in answer to your prayer. There is no need to doubt God in His “YES”. Instead, you must learn to wait, cultivate patience, persevere in faith, and allow God to strengthen your trust in your relationship with Him.
FOLLOW THE INTERCESSOR.
The purpose of our prayer life is to see the will of God performed on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus Christ is our Intercessor (see Hebrews 7:25). When we can follow Him in our prayer lives, just as we do in all things – we will pray powerfully.
Cheers & Shalom,