Last summer my kids and I planted a small garden for the very first time. We planted small lettuce and tomato plants, and were very excited when a couple of weeks later the lettuce plants began flourishing. The lettuce grew so quickly that we were eating salads from our new home-grown lettuce in a few short weeks. But after about a month or so, we noticed something strange.
The lettuce began to taste bitter. Really bitter. So bitter, that no one in our family wanted to eat the lettuce anymore. All of the salad dressing in the world could not mask the awful taste! After a bit of research, I discovered that lettuce is more of a spring plant, and grows better in cooler temperatures. Since it was the middle of July, the blazing sun of the summer heat began to cause our lettuce to have a distinct bitter taste.
As I pondered the problem with our bitter lettuce, I couldn’t help but think about how often we produce bitter-tasting fruit in our own lives. We seem to do all the “right” things. We go to church. We attend Bible studies. We join small groups. We read the Bible and pray. But something still is not quite right. The “garden” of our lives may look healthy and vibrant on the outside, but on the inside, our fruit is far from sweet. What is the disconnect?
I have discovered that there are at least three hindrances to our prayer lives. Like eating bitter fruit (or lettuce in our case!) these hindrances stifle our spiritual growth and stunt our prayers.
Three Hindrances to our Prayer lives
1. Unconfessed sin— In Psalm 66:18, the psalmist says, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…
How often do we want God to bless us and come to our aid in a powerful way, but if we are harboring sin in our hearts that we have not confessed to Him, our prayers are not effective. But praise God that He forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness when we come to Him! (1 John 1:9).
2. Grumbling and Complaining— “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.” Numbers 14:27
Nothing can stifle our lives more quickly than a bitter, complaining heart and ungrateful attitude. Have you been guilty of harboring negative attitudes about an unpleasant situation? When we complain or grumble in our hearts, we choose to ignore the goodness of God. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us these three commands: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Sandwiched between God’s call for us to pray continually, He invites us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This combination is a powerful antidote to grumbling and complaining–and it is God’s will for His people! God invites us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Click To Tweet
3. Bitterness— See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15
Are you holding onto anger, resentment or unforgiveness towards someone who has wounded you? Jesus invites us to lay down those heavy burdens and give them to Him. We are called to uproot any bitterness that grows within us. It not only poisons our souls, but contaminates those around us.
Are you ready to remove these hindering barriers from your life and experience the transforming power of God? I sure am. I don’t want to miss a single blessing. I refuse to forfeit a single ounce of God’s grace in my life due to my own bitterness, sin, and ungrateful attitude. So instead of producing bitter fruit, let’s commit to living out the following practices to enhance our prayer lives and propel us forward into the arms of our Savior.
- Confess your sins to the Lord.
- Rejoice and give thanks to Him in all circumstances.
- Lay down your burdens of bitterness.
When we cultivate these habits and daily remain connected to the lifeline of God’s power and grace, we will produce fruit that is sweet, refreshing and life-giving!
Check out the mountain-moving prayer series here!