I have thought that a few plain and simple words on some of the hindrances to prayer may, with the Lord's blessing, be of some help to you. The invitations and exhortations to prayer in the word of God are so frequent that it is quite unnecessary for me to commence by showing that there is no hindrance on God's side. If therefore you fail to pray, as a young believer, you ought to allow that the fault lies entirely with yourself. You have permitted something to rob you of this privilege.
Now one of the commonest states of soul of those who go on day after day without prayer, or without anything more than a hurried word or two, is that of want of desire. They do not pray because they do not feel they have anything particular for which to pray. This is a serious condition of soul. It is so much like the degraded church in Laodicea, which said, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." And to have need of nothing is to have nothing, in a spiritual sense. For prayerlessness means powerlessness, and this ends in Christlessness.
If anyone on this earth might be thought to have had need of nothing it would have been the blessed Lord. But what an example of prayer He gives us! He rose up a great while before day and departed into a solitary place where He prayed (Mark 1:35) Not on that occasion only did He go apart to pray. Often "The midnight and the mountain air Witnessed the fervour of His prayer." And if He so prayed, how much more need we!
When, therefore, you feel you have no need to pray, you must take it that you have most need to pray; for Satan is then seeking to blind you as to your sense of dependence upon God. Confess your folly, therefore, and pray continually. Look at Christ; see how you come short of perfection, and cry to God to supply what is lacking.
Some are hindered from praying by a want of simplicity of mind. They think it too childlike to come to God about every trivial matter. They fancy they can manage some, at least, of their affairs. The power of God may be needed to destroy Jericho, but surely, so they imagine, they need not trouble God about the few huts at Ai. However, they find that there is glorious victory at Jericho, while there is utter discomfiture at Ai, as well as everywhere else where pride and self-confidence work.
Beware, young believer, of proud thoughts. They are an abomination to God: "Be clothed with humility." You want God's help in the smallest matters, and He will not withhold it from the prayer of faith. At the bench or in the counting-house, at school or in household duties, seek aid from on high in all your difficulties, and you will find what resources there are in God for the prayerful soul. This will not encourage you in idleness for you must not suppose God will do for you what you yourself are too lazy to attempt. While you ought to pray as if everything depended on Omnipotence, you must also work as if all depended on yourself.
I come now to a more serious hindrance to prayer, namely, indulgence in sinful thoughts and feelings and ways. Supposing you have allowed yourself to become very angry or peevish or sulky, do you pray in such a frame of mind? You know that, on the contrary, you often retire to rest without so much as falling on your knees. Satan whispers to you, "How can you pray in such a state as you are? You cannot expect God to hear you." And instead of straightway confessing your sins and receiving faithful and just forgiveness and being restored to happy communion, you are led further astray by listening to the subtle suggestions of the enemy.
You may be assured that your adversary will ever aim to keep you from the throne of grace. But his reasons for your staying away should be yours for hastening there. That alone is the place of power for you against yourself, the world, and the devil. "Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees."
Shame is sometimes a hindrance to prayer. I will illustrate this by a circumstance, for the accuracy of which I can vouch. A young Christian accustomed to sleep alone, had on one occasion to share his room with an unconverted friend. At night came the test. Should he go on his knees, and thus let his friend know he was a Christian? He hesitated, and was caught in the snare. That night and two or three other nights he went to bed prayerless. He was so ashamed of himself, however, that he then tried to compromise matters by quietly kneeling down after he had put out the light, hoping his friend would not discover his little artifice. He was deceived, however, for this Nicodemus was told the next day that his unconverted bedfellow knew what he had been doing, and despised him for his cowardice and want of faithfulness to his Master.
I will add nothing to this now, save a reminder of God's word to Eli, "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30.)
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes often to be there?
Prayer makes the darken'd cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian's armour bright;
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain
And fill your fellow-creature's ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be
"Hear what the Lord has done for me."