OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #244 Loading the Dishwasher
I opened the dishwasher this morning and noticed that several of our small plastic tumblers had turned over. Instead of being empty, clean and dry, they were filled with dirty dishwater. Something about the way I loaded the machine caused them to catch the cleaning jets and flip over. Just as the way I loaded the dishwasher made it ineffective, there are things I may do which block my prayers and make them ineffective.
Sin blocks our prayers. Proverbs 28:9 tells us that “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”* Is it reasonable to expect God to respond to our prayers if we actively rebel against him? In this case, prayer of repentance (1 John 1:9) is the place to start.
The way we treat people affects our prayers. In Isaiah 58 the prophet notices how eagerly they seem to seek God, but their well-disciplined spiritual practices mean nothing because they cheat their workers and can’t get along with each other. “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” (58:4)
Unforgiveness is another prime blocker. “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) Just in case we missed the implication, Jesus follows up with direct teaching: “... if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (6:14-15) The problem is that we expect to receive a lot more forgiveness than we are willing to give, but it is not meant to be hoarded.
The way I treat my wife affects my prayers. Peter reminds us, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” (1Peter 3:7) If I lead my family by threats and anger, or worse by intimidation and violence, if I insist that my opinion is the only one which really counts, if I disregard my wife’s hopes and desires for our future, if I dismiss her needs and feelings, if I am unfaithful to my vows, I will hinder my own prayers.
There is a part of me which reacts to these as being unjust or unfair. Shouldn’t God just listen to me anyway? I’m not at all comfortable with the idea that my prayers sometimes bounce off the ceiling because of what I am doing. But every time as I read these passages I see the gap between my life and my desire for more effective prayer. If I want to be more effective and powerful in prayer I must change the way I conduct my relationships with God and others.
Prayer is not only about our relationship with God. As we look to God we are pointed back to our relationships with others. And so the cycle ought to repeat over and over as we continue to be transformed spiritually and relationally.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Dec 8, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com.