THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 Peter 3:1-12)
By his use of the words “so that nothing will hinder your prayers”, in 1 Peter 3:7, it is obvious that Peter takes it for granted that Christians pray. Prayer is assumed to be the regular habit of believers, but does every Christian pray? Unfortunately, some Christians do not pray; they do not pray privately, go to the prayer meeting or have family prayers. How often we are hindered from praying, and even when we do pray how often our prayers are hindered! Scattered throughout the Word of God are clear warnings and statements as to how prayers are hindered - look up Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 21:13; 28:9; Isaiah 59:2; Ezekiel 14:3; Malachi 3:7-10; Matthew 5:23-24; Mark 11:25; James 1:5-8; 4:3; 1 John 3:21-22. From these verses we learn that there are specific things that hinder prayer and also that there are conditions that have to be met if prayer is to be effective. Let us think of some of the things that hinder us from praying and of some of the things that hinder us from prevailing in prayer.
1. THINGS THAT HINDER US FROM PRAYING.
There are hindrances that prevent us from praying. For example: if we allow ourselves to become spiritually slack and careless we shall find that prayer is hindered, our desire for prayer will go and our estimate of prayer will change completely. If we give up reading the Bible we shall find prayer is hindered, for the reading of God’s Word stimulates and encourages prayer. Overwork will crowd out prayer. It is possible to be so busy for God that there is little or no time left for prayer. We need to beware of the barrenness of a busy life. A worldly spirit hinders prayer. If our affections are set on earthly things that we are neglecting heavenly and spiritual things, then we shall lose interest in prayer and we shall even reach the point where we do not feel the need to pray. A badly ordered life will hinder prayer. To be very late to bed doesn’t help us to get up early and this can be a very real hindrance to the morning Quiet Time. Now let us think about some of the things that prevent prayer from being effective.
2. THINGS THAT HINDER US FROM PREVAILING IN PRAYER.
We often pray, but prayer doesn’t appear to be answered - yet God is waiting to give; there is no hindrance on God’s side – the hindrances are with us! In 1 Peter, chapter 3, Peter mentions seven hindrances to prayer. These are not the only things that hinder prayer, but it is significant that around the key-phrase (verse 7: “so that nothing will hinder your prayers”) seven hindrances are mentioned. We will look carefully at these to see if there is anything that would hinder us from prevailing in prayer. When we fail to gain the answer to our prayers it may be due to one or other of the following reasons:-
- A wrong relationship with God. This is mentioned in verse 12, and the word to notice is the word ‘their’ - that is, the reference to the prayers of “the righteous”, or those who are right with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ - look up and compare Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; James 5:16. We must know the Lord Jesus as our Saviour and God as our Father before we can be sure that our prayers will be heard and answered.
- A wrong relationship with others. This is brought before us in verses 1-7, and in particular we notice that the relationship between husband and wife must honour God. Prayers can be hindered by the failure of the woman to recognise her God-ordained place (verse 1); and husbands also can hinder prayer, as 1 Peter 3:7 points out. How searching these verses are, and how important it is that our relationships with others are pleasing God! One thing in particular that hinders prayer is an unforgiving spirit, a grudge, a “bitter root” - look up Matthew 6:9-15; Hebrews 12:15.
- Worldly dress can hinder prayer. How up-to-date are verses 3 and 4 in their application! - compare 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 51:6; Isaiah 3:16-26. The Lord does not want Christians to look dowdy or conspicuous in the way they dress, but He does want them to be modest, attractive and disciplined in this. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and what we put on them must glorify Him - look up 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
- A proud spirit can hinder prayer. Verse 4 tells us this. It is a very beautiful thing to have “a gentle and quiet spirit” - look up and ponder Luke 18:9-14. When we pray and realise God’s greatness and that we are nothing, then we are in the place where prayer will be effective - look up Isaiah 66:2; James 4:10.
- Lack of Christian love will hinder prayer. Consider carefully what we read in verses 8 and 9. There is a great need for God’s people to be sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble, and these conditions must be met before we can prevail in prayer - look up Ephesians 4:32.
- Unclean lips will surely hinder prayer.Verses 10 and 11 are very searching. They tell us that the lips that utter prayer must be clean and that God will, in fact, never hear and answer prayers that are uttered by tale-bearing, lying or unkind lips - look up Isaiah 6:5; 59:1-2.
- A bad conscience will hinder prayer.Verses 16 and 21 tell us this. What a great thing it is to be able to look into the face of our loving Heavenly Father and to know that we have a clear conscience - look up Acts 24:16! How can we have a clear conscience? Matthew 5:23 will help us here: if, when we pray, we remember something that is displeasing or grieving to the Lord, that is the thing that is hindering prayer, and that is the thing that must be dealt with.
How can we get those hindrances removed? We must be disciplined in the practice of prayer, and we must remove the hindrances that God reveals. This we can do by confessing and forsaking that which is wrong - look up Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9.