HINDRANCES TO PRAYER
Oswald J. Smith
There are three hindrances to the prayer life, three enemies with which we have to cope. Of course, if you merely fall down at your bedside in the morning and mumble off a few words of prayer, and then get up and hurry to work, you will not know what I mean. I am talking about real prayer, intercessory prayer, prayer that achieves its objective. I say there are three hindrances.
Have you ever had the telephone ring when you have been at prayer? Or has the baby cried? Have friends called upon you? Have you been interrupted in one way or another? Satan knows exactly when to send the interruptions. If he can interrupt you when you are at prayer he will have wrecked the efficiency of your prayer ministry.
Now how did I get rid of interruptions? I discovered that I had to have a time for prayer and a place for prayer. When I am at home I make my study the place for prayer, and I make the first hour of the morning directly after breakfast the time for prayer. Everyone knows when I am at prayer – therefore interruptions are avoided.
When I am crossing the ocean, I find the most secluded part of the deck I can find, and that becomes my place for prayer. When I am at a summer conference, I go out into the woods, and there, under the trees, I find a place for prayer.
May I say that your place for prayer will become so sacred that you will think of it as holy ground. I have stained the walls of my study with the breath of my prayers. I always go back to the same place when I pray, and there God meets me.
You, too, will have to have a place of prayer and a time for prayer. Only then can you avoid interruptions.
Have you ever become drowsy when you have been at prayer? You know what I mean. You kneel down and place your head on your arms, close your eyes and attempt to pray. Before very long you become drowsy, and at times you fall asleep. Thus drowsiness hinders your prayer life. Your body is tired and weary. You have become exhausted and you just cannot keep awake.
When I am praying alone I never kneel. I never stand or sit. What do I do, then? I always walk when I pray. I clear the furniture from the center of the room and then I pace back and forth as I talk to God.
I have walked hundreds of miles down through the years as I have prayed. I started doing it at the very beginning of my Christian life and I received so much blessing from it that I have continued it ever since.
Some ministers have to play golf for exercise. I have never had time for such exercise. There has been too much to do. I find that the very best exercise that one can take is that of walking. Hence, as I walk and pray, I get all the exercise I need.
If I were to fall asleep for a single moment I would crash to the floor and would be wide awake instantly. But that has never happened. As I walk back and forth I am always wide awake. I am on the alert. I am able to pray intelligently, and I never fall asleep. You, too, can overcome drowsiness if you will walk.
You know what I mean. Just when you are concentrating on prayer, you find yourself thinking, planning, arranging about the future. Thus Satan fills your mind with wandering thoughts, and instead of praying – you are thinking. Well now, how are you going to get rid of wandering thoughts?
As I walk back and forth, I put my petitions into words, and by praying out loud I avoid wandering thoughts. You see, I have to concentrate upon what I am saying to God just as I concentrate when I am preaching. If you will pray out loud, you will also find that there will be no wandering thoughts.
When you kneel to pray, and pray quietly to yourself and to God, the time seems long. Perhaps when you open your eyes you will discover that you have only been praying for five or ten minutes. That has been my experience.
But, when you walk and pray out loud, you will discover that the time will go by so fast that you will be amazed. You will open your eyes and look at the clock, and you will discover that you have been praying for half an hour, three quarters of an hour, or perhaps an entire hour.
These, then, are the three hindrances to prayer – interruptions, drowsiness, wandering thoughts. Have you overcome them and are you a prayer warrior for God? If not, you can be – if you will follow these suggestions. Will you do it?
"Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).