Prayer is fellowshipping with God and a means by which God changes us. It also is a means by which God has chosen to work in changing things when we ask (Jas 1:5-6; 4:2). We can miss God’s best through not praying, praying with wrong motives, or ignoring the vital part relationships play in our prayer life. If we ignore relationships, our prayer life will suffer.
The most crucial relationship concerning our prayer life is our walk with God. We must ensure there are no barriers between God and us when we enter into prayer. This means we ask for forgiveness of our sins so that our fellowship with him is not broken. John instructs us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10). This is not agonizing or begging for forgiveness but a familial prayer of restoring intimate fellowship with the Father. In other words, a person cannot expect to fellowship with God while accepting or ignoring what is sinful and dishonoring to God in his life. Especially when we are assured God is ready to forgive “all unrighteousness.” Our confession of our sins is not to maintain our salvation but our fellowship relationship with God.
We must also seek to regard our relationship with others as God desires us to rather than from a mere human perspective. We are to relate to others as Christ relates to us. Paul says, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Col 3:13). Our lack of forgiveness of others can hinder our relational forgiveness with God. Matthew reminds us, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt 6:14-15; 7:7-12).
God has designed prayer to be an effective means of knowing him, hearing from him, and receiving from him, but always in the context of relating to others as God’s image bearers (Matt 5:23-24). This even includes our enemies. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
The most intimate of all human relationships can most definitely hinder our prayers. Husbands must see to it that they love their wives sacrificially so that their prayers are effective when they pray. Peter warns, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7). This is a sharp reminder that men are indeed one with their wives even to the point of that oneness affecting the husband’s intimate and holy walk and service to God. It also reflects God’s proper relational balance between the spiritual leader and the one he leads. It is true that a woman is not the spiritual leader of the home (Eph 5:22-24). Still, it is equally true that the husband cannot spiritually lead the home without effective prayer, and he cannot effectively pray without lovingly honoring his wife.