Prayers Hindered

SOURCE: David Lemmons, North Marshall Messenger, #523, 4/9/2000


by David Lemmons

As Christians we sometimes become discouraged and do not have the kind of appreciation and expectancy that ought to characterize our prayer life. Surely we recognize such a state as this to be a problem. Recognizing a problem is one of the first steps toward solving a problem. For the faithful Christian, the source for answers to our problems is God’s word, the Bible.

I am convinced that Satan is very aware of the power of prayer and that there is nothing that he fears more than a Christian who finds much time for prayer. He will lay before us many roadblocks to hinder our approach to God in prayer. He will use his devices to create doubt in our hearts regarding the power of prayer. We must be like Paul and be aware of Satan’s devices (2 Cor 2:11).

Consider the roadblock of PRIDE. Pride is manifested in self-trusting; self-sufficiency; self-glorying; self-service; self-will; and self-righteousness. One of the best examples of this hindrance in action is the Pharisee of Luke 18:9-14. He spent his entire prayer talking about how good he was and how much better he was than anyone else. These kinds of attitudes and these kinds of prayers are not received well by our Lord. Jesus noted the contrast between the Pharisee and the publican and gave commendation to the publican, who recognized himself to be a sinner (Lk 18:14). We need to spend a little time looking into the history of God’s dealing with His people in the Old Testament. Here we will find that those times when the people became lifted up with pride and thought they could do it all on their own were the times when the judgment of God came upon them. They had the same need as we have today and that is to see that our sufficiency is OF GOD (2 Cor 3:5). Pride will keep us trying to solve our problems on our own and hinder us from turning to God in prayer.

Another huge roadblock in the way of having our prayers answered is simple DISOBEDIENCE. What was it Solomon wrote in Proverbs 28:9? “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” If we are not obedient to our God how can we expect Him to hear our prayers? Without obedience there can be no communion with God. Sins of dis-obedience place distance between us and our God (Isa 59:1-2). It will be necessary to do those things which are pleasing in His sight (1 Jn 3:22) to be blessed with the privilege of praying to our God in heaven. Seriously, can we think of any activity that is considered such a great privilege and pleasure here that we deem it worthy to deprive ourselves of this privilege of prayer to God?

In addition, the Bible teaches us that our prayers are hindered by IDOLATRY. In Ezekiel 14:1-11, there is a fine discussion of the folly and fruitlessness of having idols in the heart and seeking to petition God. The fact is that our God is a JEALOUS God (Ex 20:5) and He demands our complete loyalty (Mt 6:24). We are to keep ourselves from idols (1 Jn 5:21). When we allow our loyalty to become divided and we begin to love the world or the things it contains we are loving things that are not of God (1 Jn 2:15-17). When we love things that are not of God, most likely we won’t even try to communicate with Him, but even if we do, He won’t be listening.

Also please consider the hindrance which Satan loves to create and has such success with: DOUBT. If we study the first chapter of 1 Samuel we will see that God answered the prayers of Hannah. She prayed for a son and was granted a son. God will answer our prayers as well. But how does God answer prayer? Generally speaking, the Scriptures show us that God answers prayer in five ways…

  • 1. YES (James 5:17).
  • 2. NO (Mt 26:39; Heb 5:7).
  • 3. WAIT A WHILE (Jer 42:4, 7).
  • 4. SOMETHING DIFFERENT (2 Cor 12:7-9).
  • 5. BY GIVING MORE (1 Kgs 3:11, 13; Eph 3:20).

To create doubt regarding the power of prayer is one of Satan’s most effective tools to weaken us. We must know better and then elevate our practice to our knowledge.

A seldom considered hindrance to prayer is mentioned in 1 Peter 3:7. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” It is important to the Lord how we treat our companions in marriage. If it is the case that my prayer life seems to be suffering, perhaps I need to look into how I am treating my wife/husband. If we do not consider the will of the Lord in our homes, our homes are not going to be the kinds of places we will want them to be.

We are also warned that a spirit of UNFORGIVENESS will hurt our efforts in prayer. If we pray to God for forgiveness and we have demonstrated an unforgiving spirit, we are assured that we will not be forgiven (Mt 6:12-14).

Other matters such as not hearing the cries of the poor (Prov 21:13) and not being persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8) also hinder our prayers. These are obstacles over which we can soar, if we have the will so to do!

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What is Moicheia?

What is Moicheia?

SOURCE: Wayne Jackson, Gospel Advocate, August 1991.

Exactly what is adultery? That would seem to be about as obvious a question as a person could ask. Whether he has done extensive studies or not, virtually everyone knows that adultery is sexual activity between a married person and someone other than his (or her) lawful spouse. In recent times, though, a new theory has arisen which has as its core the re-definition of the word “adultery.”

Some are openly alleging that the lexicons, encyclopedias, and various language tools of the past several centuries are simply all wrong in their definitions of adultery and that, if we would but re-plow the linguistic field, we would discover that adultery is simply “covenant breaking.” Accordingly, whenever one decides to terminate his marriage vows and walks out on his mate, he has (by the breach of his vows) committed adultery. And he may decide to enter “marriage” with a new companion.

Well, what should this “adulterer” (covenant breaker) do if he desires to be right with God? According to the new view, he simply tells the Lord that he is sorry for having broken the covenant with his former companion, and he promises not to be a covenant breaker in the future, but he may continue to maintain the “marital” relationship that he has formed with the new spouse. This novel notion has but one design–the accommodation of unscriptural divorce and remarriage, and it is without any shred of evidence, both linguistically and in the overall context of the Bible. Please consider the following.

The Greek word for “adultery” is moicheia. Whenever the term is used literally, it unquestionably has to do with the illicit sexual conduct of a married person. The ancient classics are filled with examples of such. For instance, Lysias (c. 410 B.C.) writes of one Euphiletus, an Athenian, who killed Eratosthenes, after catching him in bed, committing adultery with his wife. In his defense he contends that the Court of the Areopagus has “expressly stated that whoever takes vengeance on an adulterer (moichon) caught in the act with his spouse shall not be convicted of murder” (Lysias, I.30). Xenophon (c. 401 B.C.) describes the adulterer who “enters the woman’s quarters, knowing that by committing adultery (moicheuonti) he is in danger of incurring the penalties threatened by the law.” He suggests that this is quite foolish since “there are many remedies to relieve him of his carnal desire without risk” (Memorabilia, II, 1,5). In the 2nd century A.D., Sextus Empiricus wrote: “Adulterers (moichous) are, of course, punished by law with us, but amongst some peoples intercourse with other men’s wives is indifferent” (Pyrrhonism, III,209). There is no question as to what the Greeks meant by “adultery.”

The evidence from the Old Testament is equally explicit. Committing adultery (moicheusetai, Septuagint) is an act that man does “with another man’s wife” (Leviticus 20:10), and note the passage that follows, “And (kai, conjunction) the man that lieth with his father’s wife.” Of ancient Jerusalem, God said, “I have seen thine abominations, even thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy fornication, on the hills in the fields” (Jeremiah 13:27). Note: though “adultery” is here used figuratively of Judah’s apostasy; nevertheless, the sexual associations of the basic term are quite clear.

In Ezekiel 16, Jehovah describes Jerusalem as “a wife that committeth adultery! that taketh strangers instead of her husband!” (v. 32). She has “Opened (her) feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied (her) fornications from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts” (Hosea 2:2). The allusion to an immoral embrace is just too plain to miss. At this point, let me also cite a passage from Josephus. He tells of one Sylleus who “debauched (moicheuonta, ‘seduced to sexual activity’) the wives of the Arabians” (Antiquities, XVI, IX, 4).

In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of those who “look upon a woman to lust after her.” he says they have committed adultery with her in the heart (Matthew 5:28). Do men lustfully fantasize about breaking covenants? Absolutely ridiculous! On one occasion the Pharisees brought a woman to Christ (attempting to ensnare Him) whom they said had been “taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). In what act had she been apprehended? Covenant breaking? Perhaps slamming the door as she abandoned her marriage in a rage? Maybe tearing up the marriage certificate? Is this the kind of reasoning that brethren expect us to accept as truth?

The writer of the book of Hebrews admonishes us to “let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (13:4). Exactly how does an adulterer “defile the bed?” Let the Bible answer that question. Reuben, the son of Jacob, “went up to (his) father’s bed; then defiled it,” according to Genesis 49:4. But what, specifically, was his sin, which is called defiling the bed? he “lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (Genesis 35:22). And remember, the writer of Hebrews calls such an act “adultery.” See also the connection between “bed” and “adultery” in Revelation 2:22.

Moreover, certain contexts that deal with divorce and remarriage demonstrate that “adultery” cannot be defined as mere covenant breaking. For example, according to the Lord, the man who “divorces his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress” (Matthew 5:32). Here is a woman who has not broken the covenant with her husband; she is an innocent partner who has been “put away” by her husband. If she contracts a subsequent marriage (cf., Arndt & Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 528), she commits adultery. She has broken no covenant, but she does commit adultery. How so if adultery is just covenant breaking? The truth is, she is committing adultery by having sexual relations with another man while her original marriage was not dissolved by a scripturally authorized divorce.

Again, in Matthew 19:9, Christ taught that anyone who divorces a companion, except for fornication, and remarries, is committing adultery. The force of the term “committeth adultery” (in the Greek present tense) is “keeps on committing adultery.” If “adultery” is to be defined as simply the breaking of the original marriage, and one may repent and be forgiven of that without terminating a newly-formed relationship, why did the Lord affirm that the parties of the second union “keep committing adultery?” If adultery was just the initial act of covenant breaking, and it was committed once, it makes no sense for the Lord to charge them with continually committing adultery.

The truth of the matter is, adultery is sexually activity. And when one unscripturally divorces a mate and “marries” another, each time they engage in sexual union, they are committing adultery. And only a cessation of that activity (which is a part of repentance) can put them in harmony with God’s law again. When men take it upon themselves to redefine basic Bible terms in order to accommodate the sins of society, they are deeply in error and must be censured.

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SOURCE:  Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier, October 2007, Volume XLIII, Number 6, “Notes from the Margin of My Bible.”  Visit the Christian Courier Website by clicking H-E-R-E.

In his letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul contends that even those who “know not God” will suffer the Lord’s vengeance and be eternally banished from his presence (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).  This is a passage hard to cope with for many.  How does one put it into balance with the love of God?

  • (1) The text itself does not provide the full compliment of information regarding the nature of those who “know not God.”  Many take it to apply to those who have had opportunity to know the Lord but who have simply refused that option (cf., Romans 1:28).  One may wish to underline “know not God” (v. 8), and add this reference from Romans 1:28 in your margin.
  • (2) One must remember that those who are lost are lost because they are sinners (Romans 3:23; 6:23), and that all people everywhere are amenable to Gospel obedience (Acts 17:30).  Note these passages in connection with 2 Thessalonians 1:8 as well.

In addition to these points, one should reflect upon the logical conclusion to which one is led if he attempts to argue the case that the ignorant are to be excused.  If ignorance exonerates, would it not be better to leave the lost in their ignorance rather than expose them to the message and risk their rejection?  Also there are solid principles that must be borne in mind in wrestling with the problem.

  • (1) God is totally just.  he will not destroy the good with the wicked (Genesis 18:25).  No one will be lost who does not deserve to be.  Not even the lost will argue with the Lord on the day of Judgment.  Rather, every knee will bow and every tongue confess [give praise – ASVfn] (Romans 14:11; cf., 2:5).  There will be a day when even “praise” is too late!
  • (2) Punishment will be proportional; some will deserve, and receive, a greater penalty than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 12:47-48; Hebrews 10:29; James 3:1).  The mystery of how this is achieved is beyond our present ability to perceive.
  • (3) Peter raised the rhetorical question: “What shall be the end of them who obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).  One looks in vain for any “crack” or “loophole” that accommodates the salvation of those who do not “obey” the Gospel.  Idle speculation to the contrary is not wise.  Reference this passage to “obey not the gospel” in 2 Thessalonians 1:8b.
  • (4) We must remember that God has not asked us, nor permitted us, to make his judgments for him (cf., Matthew 13:28-29).  Our responsibility is to teach the gospel with its facts and obligations–and that without compromise–and leave all final judgments to him.


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If You Were Busy

If you were busy being kind,
Before you knew it you would find
You’d soon forget to think ’twas true
That someone was unkind to you.

If you were busy being glad,
And cheering people who are sad;
Altho your heart may ache a bit,
You’d soon forget to notice it.

If you were busy being good,
And doing the best that you could;
You’d not have time to blame some man
Who’s doing just the best he can.

If you were busy being true
To what you know you ought to do;
You’d be so busy you’d forget
The blunders of the folks you’ve met.

If you were busy being right,
You’d find yourself too busy, quite,
To criticize your neighbor, long,
Because he’s busy being wrong.

–Author Unknown

SOURCE: Standing in the Gap (bulletin of the Nesbit church of Christ), P.O. Box 383, Nesbit, MS 38651

East Tennessee

East Tennessee

Diane, Rachel, and I visited with a church in eastern Tennessee yesterday and were welcomed in a fine way.  I am not mentioning the name because I don’t know for sure that they would want it mentioned here.  We are thankful for the hospitality shown us.  We met some fine brothers and sisters.  Our search has only just begun and we continue to search for a good congregation with which to work for the next ten or fifteen years.  No decision has yet been made and, of course, such decisions as this are difficult to make on both sides.  I would request your prayers on our behalf as we deal with the exciting and yet stressing emotions of the task.

—David Lemmons

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Learn to Evaluate

SOURCE:  Gospel Advocate, 1/27/1972

A Lesson of Prime Importance: 
Learn to Evaluate

by Frank L. Cox

All things are not of equal value.  In the mineral kingdom, gold is more precious than brass; in the plant kingdom, a fruit tree is more important than a thistle; in the animal kingdom, man is of greater value than a sheep (Matthew 12:12); and in the spiritual kingdom, some things are superior to other things.

Because this is true, we should learn to evaluate, to place the emphasis where it belongs, especially in matters pertaining to the spiritual kingdom.  Some have not learned to evaluate; hence, the confusion and strife and shameful loss of time and energy.

Our theme is one of practical value.  In our study of it, let us go back to the Old Testament and move forward.

ONE… “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The words of the prophet Samuel here were reproduced or referred to by other Old Testament writers (Psalm 51:16-17; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6).  Jesus gave utterance to the same great truth (Matthew 9:13).  For obedience to the Divine will, there is no substitute (Matthew 7:21).

TWO… Moral uprightness before prayer.  The prayer of the impenitent is not heard, his worship is unacceptable (Isa 1:15-17).  But how powerful is the prayer of the righteous! (James 1:15-17).

THREE… It is more needful that we do justly, love kindness, and walk with God than to present any sacrificial offering (Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 5:23-24; 23:23-24).

FOUR… The kingdom is superior in value to material things (Matthew 6:31-33).  Our interest in it (the church) should be paramount.  For it Jesus died; it is His body; His bride; for it He will come.

FIVE… It is better to obey than to hear.  We are commanded to hear (Matthew 17:5b); unless we hear we cannot obey; but, without obedience hearing comes to naught (Matthew 7:24-27).

SIX… The law of love is superior to any other law (Matthew 22:24-40).  Love is greater than eloquence, or the gift of prophecy, or knowledge, or faith, or benevolence, or sacrifice (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13).

SEVEN… Inward cleanliness is more needful than outward cleanliness (Matthew 23:25-28).  The motive is more important than the deed.  What we think is more important than what we do.  This is true because what we think determines what we do (Proverbs 4:23).  God looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

EIGHT… The teaching program of the church is first and foremost (Matthew 28:18-20).  When properly taught, people fulfill the divine plan for their lives. 

  • (1) When sinners are taught, they come to Christ (John 6:44-45). 
  • (2) When taught, Christians live as they should; attend the meetings of the church; worship as they should; and do every worthy work. 
  • (3) If the teaching program should fail, all spiritual progress would cease.  There would be no more conversions, no more spiritual growth, the church would soon become extinct.  But if the program continues, as it should, the church will move forward.

Beloved, learn to evaluate.  When you learn to evaluate, pass the important lesson on to others.  By this means, the church will learn to evaluate.  Then our purpose will be single.  Then, the church will be united.  Then, no energy, no time will be wasted.  Then, the church will move forward.  Then, things of minor importance will receive minor consideration.  Then, things of major importance will receive major consideration.

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Be Ready to Answer

SOURCE: The Spiritual Sword, 10/2007

Be Ready to Answer

by Alan E. Highers

We are all familiar with the admonition of the apostle Peter: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).  There are three expressions in particular that we wish to emphasize from this verse: “ready,” “answer,” and “reason.”

First, one is to be “ready always,” i.e., prepared “invariably, at any and every time” (Vine, 43).

Second, one must be ready always “to give an answer.”  Answer is from apologia, the same word from which we get our English word apologetics, meaning a defense.  It is defined as “ready to make a defense to anyone” (Arndt-Gingrich, 96).  The same word is used in Acts 22:1, “hear ye my defense,” and Philippians 1:17, “I am set for the defense of the gospel.

Third, the manner in which we make a defense of the hope that is within us is by providing a “reason” to those who ask.  We do not merely make wild, belligerent claims, unsupported by evidence.  Neither do we rely on emotion, feeling, or passion.  The term, reason, in this text is from the Greek logos, indicating a word.  A word is a means of communication.  Jesus was “the Word” in the sense that He communicated Deity to the world (John 1:1-3).  Inspired men communicated “by the word of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15).  We are to give a “reason” for the hope within us, suggesting that we should be able to communicate to others why we believe what we believe.  “This obligation implies sufficient acquaintance with the word of God to substantiate one’s hope therewith, and godliness of life consistent with its teaching” (Woods, 98).

Things Implied by this Obligation

1.  That a Christian’s hope is defensible.  The very admonition to be ready always to give a defense manifests that the faith can be defended.  We live in what is sometimes called a post-modern society.  Post-modernism disdains the idea that one can be “right” about anything and others be “wrong.”  The influence of this philosophy can be seen everywhere around us.  Unless the Christian is careful in this age of false toleration, we will begin to absorb the prevailing consensus of the world which says “everyone is right,” “whatever one believes is the truth for him,” “it does not make any difference what one believes.”  Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).  He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

2.  That there is such a thing as absolute truth.  We have a “reason” for what we believe.  We are able to appeal to the word of God as a ground for our hope.  “Hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13), “holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9).  God did not leave us without a standard, adrift on a sea of uncertainty.  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy … but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19021).

3.  That we can understand the revelation God has given to us.  In order to “give an answer to every man that asketh,” we must be able to comprehend the message God has given to us.  “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).  God’s will is understandable.  Paul spoke of the revelation which was given unto him and said, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).  It is necessary for us to study that we may grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  We begin with the milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2), and we advance in knowledge so that we can digest the meat of the word (Hebrews 5:14).  The apostle Peter spoke of some things “hard to be understood,” but he did not say “impossible to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16).  With study, diligence, and a pure heart, we can grow in understanding and knowledge of the will of the Lord, so that we may give an “answer” to those who ask a “reason” for the hope that is in us.

4.  That a Christian should be able to defend what he believes.  To be able to “give an answer” is to be able to defend our convictions.  Paul said, “We also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).  Faith is not blind; it is based upon evidence.  “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).  Every child of God should endeavor to know the basis of what he believes and to be able to communicate that to others.  This does not mean that one must be a public speaker or a professional scholar, but each one of us should feel comfortable to open the word of God and to point to the “book, chapter, and verse” that sustains our faith.  Elders in the church should “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).  Even a Christian couple such as Aquila and Priscilla could instruct Apollos, teaching him “the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26).  Jude exhorted us to “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

5.  That there is a duty to teach others.  People will constantly ask a reason for the hope within us.  We should be ready always to give an answer.  Peter says we are to do this “with meekness and fear,” i.e., not in arrogance or pride, but out of genuine respect toward God and His word.  The apostle Paul stated that he taught publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).  In writing to Christians at Rome, where there was much persecution, he nevertheless stated: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  In Acts 20:26-27, the apostle proclaimed: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”  May every member of the body of Christ be pure from the blood of all men in that we deliver the counsel of God to all who come within our sphere of influence.

Arndt, William F. and Gringrich, F. Wilbur (2nd Ed., 1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Vine, W.E., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Iowa City: Riverside Book and Bible House).

Woods, Guy N. (1956), A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).

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