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Thwarted prayer Last updated November 2013

The way I understand the Bible is that it is the Word of God that primarily changes the ‘world’ on the inside of us, and it is the prayer to God that primarily changes the world on the outside of us. The Bible teaches that when we accept the seed of the Word planted in our hearts, it bears fruit through us – we change (Mark 4:14-20). It also teaches that we can pray for others so that their faith may stand – they change (Colossians 4:12). Thus, others may benefit from our prayers, particularly on godly matters. In prayer we may also ask for forgiveness, wisdom, provision, protection, healing, deliverance and even being counted worthy of His calling.

So, if it is correct that prayer plays a major part in any Christian’s life, how should we pray? In this article I will not go into this question in great depth, but I will answer another, perhaps more important question: how should I prepare for effective prayer?

First, let’s answer the question of whether or not prayer can indeed be thwarted? Emphatically, yes! Some argue that since Jesus rose from the dead, His followers have victory and that nothing can stand in their way; ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ – a general misappropriation of Philippians 4:13, I believe.

But, the Bible says we can be our own worst enemy at times. It says that we can do things to our own detriment. One such a thing is to have our prayers thwarted. More specifically, men can have their prayers thwarted by not 'dwelling with their wives in understanding':

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

It is worth a look from the Amplified Bible:

In the same way you married men should live considerately with [your wives], with an intelligent recognition [of the marriage relation], honoring the woman as [physically] the weaker, but [realizing that you] are joint heirs of the grace (God’s unmerited favor) of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered and cut off. [Otherwise you cannot pray effectively.] (1 Peter 3:7, Amplified)

So, what the Holy Spirit is saying through Peter here is that husbands’ prayers for forgiveness, wisdom, provision, protection, healing, deliverance and many other things may be totally in vain because, so it seems from the Amplified Bible, God himself will not recognise them. In fact, He will disregard them by cutting them off; that is what the Greek word translated “hindered” means.

I do not have a definitive answer as to why it is so important to God that husbands honor their wives and live with them considerately as the (physically) weaker vessel but I will offer an opinion. The answer lies in God’s divine order. What He wants for the Church (the body of believers in Christ) is to be unquestionably subject in wilful obedience to Jesus’ will and His way. Thus, Christ leads the Church as the Church subjects itself to Christ. There can be no leadership if there is no enduring submission first. With perfect leadership and perfect submission there is perfect agreement, perfect intimacy.

In the passage below we see that God wants husbands to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves the Church. He leads, she submits. He upholds the righteous standard by word and deed, she fulfills it with joy.

So, Jesus’ love for the Church is the model for husbands to love their wives. Think New Testament church and how God deals with them (Galatia, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Rome, etc.) through Paul, Peter and others.

At the very least we see kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness (Ephesian 4:32), convincing, rebuking, exhorting with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2), bringing peace and thanking (Colossians 3:15), a bearing and enduring in all things (1 Corinthians 11:7), supporting and a bearing of burdens (Galatians 6:2), a sustaining of due order (Titus 3:1), a lack of judging and condeming (Matthew 7:1-5), leading (1 Corinthians 11:3) and, yes, disciplining in the name of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5).

If you don't like the last one - disciplining - then, well, you may as well ignore all the others too.

For wives, .... submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself (Ephesians 5:22-28, NLT).

It is a tall order, no doubt. But it is the way God ordained for it to be. It takes courage because what is written above is not easy in any way whatsoever.

The thing to remember is that husbands cannot expect God to hear any of their prayers in any aspect of life unless they treat their wives in the same way that Christ treats the Church.

The way that is done, for a start, husbands, is to know first-hand what the Spirit allows and does not allow, and what He says to the Churches of the New Testament, at least. And, very importantly, to first live out what the Word says before having the same expectation of any other person.

Husbands, know the Word and live it! Then your prayers may be answered.

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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