How often have you heard it said, “Well, I prayed and nothing changed?” It is probably safe to say that at one time or another, we have all felt that God has turned His back on us. If we are truly honest and face the truth about ourselves, we can find the reason, the hindrance to the prayer plan. Prayer is God and man uniting purposes to accomplish results. Our asking and expecting, joined with God’s doing, bring about results that would otherwise be impossible.

Sin hinders prayer. This should come as no surprise to us, but we blame God entirely when our prayers fail to bring results. Prayer is pulling with God to shape the world. Prayer is useless and a waste of breath if we are holding something in our lives that is displeasing to God. Sin can be defined as anything that separates us from God. The second petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be thy name,” suggests beyond any doubt that our lives are to be lived to honor our heavenly Father. This in itself clears the channels of our lives so that God’s love can come in and fill our hearts, allowing us to be in constant touch with God. Read Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:1-3; and Psalm 66:18.

James 4:2, 3 says that we receive not because we ask for the wrong things. That is, we are selfish in our prayers. We say, “Change my son. He bears my name and I want to be proud of him.” Our motives are wrong.

Prayer can be offered for personal things such as healing, money, and physical strength. God loves us and wants us to enjoy our lives to the fullest, but our motive determines whether or not our prayers are proper. The purpose of our prayers should please Him. There are many reasons for perplexity in praying. The Bible talks clearly about these problems, and we are well aware of many of our own personal difficulties. “Your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2, KJV). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, KJV). “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24, KJV). Search your soul: Do you harbor a grudge, wish for another’s harm, envy someone, behave carelessly, think bad thoughts, cherish sins (great or small), and act selfishly?

Moods also influence our prayer lives. Life does not allow us to maintain constant high spirits. Mountains and valleys and emotional ups and downs are natural. Moods are the clouds of our lives; they will pass. Jesus went from transfiguration to His hour of bitterness: “And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, la-ma sabach-tha-ni? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, KJV). Pray whether or not you feel like it. Pray when you are depressed and when you feel good about yourself.

One important consideration is the individual temperament. Every person must be allowed to pray in his or her own way. We are each different and unique—God likes us that way. The Bible mentions a vast variety of prayer attitudes: kneeling (Acts 20:36); standing (Jeremiah 18:20); sitting (2 Samuel 7:18); prostrate (Matthew 26:39); silently (1 Samuel 1:13); aloud (Ezekiel 11:13); in the Temple (2 Kings 19:14); in bed (Psalm 63:6); in fields (Genesis 24:11, 12); on the hillside (Genesis 28:18-20); on a battlefield (1 Samuel 7:5); by the riverside (Acts 16:13); at the seashore (Acts 21:5); in private (Matthew 6:6); practical (Nehemiah 1:3, 5); poetic (the Psalms); melancholy (Jeremiah 14:19); and radiant-spirited (Isaiah 12:2). Prayer is not reserved for a special class of people. Each individual should cultivate in himself or herself a respect for his or her own natural type of prayer.

The presence of God can be experienced only within our own hearts. God blesses us through our own capacities to receive and appropriate. If we love one another, God abides in us (1 John 4:12). We are a temple of the living God. God said, “I will dwell in them” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “If any man . . . opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water” (John 4:14). “I cry unto God . . . I commune with mine own heart” (Psalm 77).

The only way any man can commune with God is through his own heart. No one can experience the presence of God until he or she accepts the fact that God is seeking him or her. Luke 15 cites three instances of this. Our search for God means simply to surrender to His search. We consent to be found by Him. 

This article is excerpted and adapted from the practical resource, Learning to Pray, by Carolyn Shealy Self and William L. Self. The entire book is available for purchase at <>