What gets in the way of your prayer? What reduces the quality of your praying? Is it busyness? Lack of faith? Laziness? Let’s see what God through Peter has to say about prayer, from 1 Peter 3 and a bit of chapter 4.
3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
… 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
These are the only three places Peter mentions prayer in 1 Peter, and there is a common thread.
I tend to think of prayer as part of a godly life – something I should be doing that will help me. But these passages don’t reason that direction. They don’t say that you should pray to help you live right; they say you should live right to help you pray. The way you live matters for your prayer life. That means “there are ways to live that hinder prayer, and there are ways to live that help prayer.”(John Piper)
Let’s look again at the 3 mentions of prayer:
- In 3:7 – Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. Show them honor, keeping in mind they are an heir with you. Why? So that your prayers may not be hindered.
- In 3:12 - All of you be united, be tenderhearted and humble toward each other. Don’t get revenge, don’t speak evil. Pursue peace, bless others. Why? Because God’s ears are open to the prayer of righteous people, not the evil.
- In 4:7 - Be self-controlled, sober-minded, clear-headed. Live in a way that makes sense here at the end of the world. Why? Because it will help you pray.
These passages highlight two sources of hindering prayer:
- The references in chapter 3 point out that God may hinder or not listen to our prayers. God will not bless the prayers of someone who is stubbornly disobedient.
- Chapter 4 verse 7 implies that we can hinder our own ability to pray. Undisciplined thoughts and living will keep us from being able to pray effective prayers.
We know that our judicial standing with God is secure in Christ. We are perfectly accepted in Jesus’ righteousness. We are loved no less on our worst day, and loved no more on our best day. We are “beloved children” according to Eph. 5:1 and “there is therefore now no condemnation” according to Romans 8. These are precious truths, and the bedrock of our identity in Christ.
However, Peter tells us this doesn’t mean we always experience the same closeness of personal relationship with Christ. To be a believer means that we know something of communion with God: a feeling of adoration, closeness, safety and intimacy as we listen to and reply back to our Father. But we don’t always experience prayer that way, and sometimes it’s because of our sin. At such times our lives and ministries are not as fruitful and useful as they could be. These passages tell us our prayer are also not as effective.
Here’s how I was feeling yesterday, as I tried to force my uncooperative brain and heart to read, love my family and get ready to share this devotional:
- My mind was jangling around from one irrelevant topic to the next, consumed with my tiredness, what happened in football over the weekend, and many other things. I felt deranged, uneasy. I checked the news and email compulsively on my phone – hoping there would be something new. I could hardly focus on anything – let alone God.
- I tried to pray at meals, and with the girls, and words just got stuck. I couldn’t formulate prayers. I felt phony. My mind was full of worldly, earthly desires. Prayer was not sweet, peaceful, confident communion with God. It felt like I was pretending to care about God, just trying to remember what I’d said in the past that would sound right.
Reflecting on that experience with these texts I most see a deficiency in self-control and sober-mindedness. I haven’t been seeking God much in the last few days, and felt I deserved a break after a full week and weekend. Almost every chance I got, I was just doing whatever I felt like in the moment. And my prayers were hindered, until I repented and turned back to God for the help I desperately needed.
Questions for Reflection:
- Does it seem of any great consequence that your prayers would be hindered? Does difficulty in prayer raise a red flag for you that something is not right in your life?
- Does prayer have a key place in your life and ministry? Do you depend and rely heavily on connection to your Father through prayer? Would your ministry and life be very different if you stopped praying or if your prayers were hindered?
- When is the last time you did something intentional for the sake of your prayers?
Application: Opening the way for our prayers is something we can work on. For the sake of our prayers, Peter calls us to be intentionally pursuing:
- As husbands – living with our wives in an understanding way (working hard to know & understand them), showing them honor (putting them first) and viewing them first and foremost as an heir of Christ’s inheritance with us. This isn’t just being nice, it’s key to maintaining vital access with our Father.
- “All of you” says Peter – be united, be tenderhearted and humble toward each other, don’t get revenge, don’t speak evil – pursue peace, bless others. Are our relationships in the church, in your family, in the world characterized by being tender-hearted? Are we pursuing peace, and seeking to bless even our enemies? That’s the righteousness out of which God loves to hear prayer.
- Be self-controlled, sober-minded, and clear-headed – living in a way that makes sense here at the end of the world. Is our use of free time indistinguishable from an unbeliever? Does our thinking and prioritizing keep in clear view that Jesus Christ is coming back soon, and everything in this world will be destroyed? Or are we making foolish choices that cloud our thinking with earthly desires? Are we drunk on this world?
Peter’s motivation for living rightly in these verses is not just to make your life happier, but so that you will be effective in Christ’s kingdom through prayer. Live righteously and think seriously, says Peter, “for the sake of your prayers.”