(Adapted from a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon)

Now listen, for perhaps some of you will hear something about yourselves. What are the hindrances to the prayer-meeting?

1. There is the hindrance of unholiness
There are some hindrances before the people even come. Unholiness hinders prayer. A man or woman cannot walk contrary to God, and then expect to have their prayers heard. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (John 15:10). There is a promise made to those who keep God’s commands. They will have power with God; but, on the other hand, inconsistent Christians will not be answered.

2. There is the hindrance of discord
Discord always spoils prayer. When believers do not agree, and are picking each other apart, they do not really love one another, and then their prayers cannot succeed. Discord spoils prayer.

3. There is the hindrance of hypocrisy
Hypocrisy always spoils prayer: for hypocrites will creep in, you cannot help it, and the larger the church the more, I believe, do hypocrites get in, just as you see many a noxious creeping thing come and get into a garden after a rain shower. The very things that make the flowers glad bring out these noxious things, and likewise hypocrites get in and drain much of the Church’s sap away, and help spoil the prayer-meeting. Now, which among you belong to this? I am not reflecting upon any person in particular, but God knows why some of you don’t ever come to the prayer-meeting. Some of you, I know, have business that really prevents your coming, and others are serving Christ in other ways and that keeps them away; but surely some of our friends who have no other urgent engagement or duty, constantly stay away from the prayer-meeting. I only wish that their consciences were even half-awake, for I am sure it would convict them for neglecting this duty. I wish that they would feel ashamed that they have missed this very great privilege, for had they come with us they might have drawn near to God and been healed in their hearts and souls.

4. There is the hindrance of long prayers
There are some things which hinder the prayer-meeting when we are there praying. One is long prayers. It is dreadful to hear a brother or sister pray us into a good frame of mind and heart, and then, by their long prayer, pray us out of it again. You remember what John MacDonald once said, “When I am in a bad frame of mind I always pray short prayers, because my prayer will not be of any use, and when I am in a good frame of mind and heart, I pray short prayers, because if other people are in a good frame too, I might, if I kept on longer, pray them into a bad frame.” Long prayers, then, spoil prayer-meetings, for long prayers and true devotion in our public assemblies seem pretty much to be divorced from one another.

5. There is the hindrance of preaching little sermons in our prayers
Prayer-meetings are also hindered when those who get up to pray do not pray, but preach a little sermon, and tell the Lord all about themselves, though he knows them better than they do, instead of immediately asking for what they want.

6. There is the hindrance of a lack of being direct with our prayers
Prayer-meetings are often hindered by a lack of directness, and by beating around the bush. I did admire a prayer I heard at our last prayer-meeting, in which a brother said, “Lord, the orphanage needs money, £3,000 to be exact; please send it.” Now, that was a straightforward request, and I think he believed that God would hear him. Another way to never grow weary in prayer is to do as a good Scotsman said he did. He said, “I never go to God unless I have business to do with him, unless there is something I want to praise him for, to confess to him, or to seek at his hands.” We must not come merely with well-sounding words and polished English, but really to pray, and really to praise, and really to confess and seek cleansing; and if we do this, the prayer-meeting will not disappoint us.

7. There is the hindrance of a lack of real intensity in our prayers
Prayer-meetings are sometimes hindered by a lack of real intensity in those who pray, and in those who pray in silence. Oh! brothers and sisters, one warm, hearty prayer is worth twenty of those packed in ice. I fear that much of our prayer is lost because we don’t sufficiently throw our hearts into it. It is possible for us to attend the prayer-meeting and all the while be thinking of things at home, the infant in the nursery, or the office, the factory, and who knows what else. Is it any wonder then that prayer stops? The brother who prays may be burning with intense desire, but his prayer lags because we are not backing it with silent agreement and passionate longing for God’s blessing. Oh! brothers and sisters, we have often spoiled our prayer-meetings this way. We have each, I fear, in our turn done something towards it; let us pray that we may never again sin this way.

8. There is the hindrance of a lack of faith
The prayer-meeting may also be spoiled after we have been to it. “How?” you say. Why, by our asking a blessing, and then not expecting to receive it. God has promised that he will answer us according to our faith, but if our faith is nothing, then the answer will also be nothing.

9. There is the hindrance of inconsistency in our prayers
Inconsistency in not practically carrying out your desires will also spoil the prayer-meeting. If you ask God to convert souls, but you will not do anything for those souls; if you ask God to save your children, but you will not talk to them about their salvation; if you ask God to save your neighbours, and you do not distribute tracts among them, nor do anything else for them, are you not truly a hypocrite? You pray, but you refuse to do anything to affect an answer. You pray for fruit, but you will not put out your hand to pick it, and this spoils the prayer-meeting. Earnest prayer, however, is always to be followed by persevering efforts, and then the result will be very great.