Why are there times when we pray, yet our prayers don't seem to go any higher than the ceiling? What can stop our prayers from being answered in the affirmative? There are several reasons our prayers may be hindered.
The first is selfishness—having the wrong motive. We can pray the most beautiful prayers conceivable, but if our hearts are in the wrong place, and if we are motivated by selfishness, then God will not hear us. The Bible tells us, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). What is your motive? It can have everything to do with how your prayers are answered.
Another hindrance to prayer is having idols in our lives. God said, "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?" (Ezekiel 14:3). God is telling us that when we have idols in our lives, He will not hear our prayers.
A third hindrance is unforgiveness. Jesus said that when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him or her so that your Heavenly Father will forgive you of your sin (see Mark 11:25). Are you nursing a grudge against someone in your life right now? If so, you need to deal with it so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Selfishness, idolatry, and unforgiveness—they can mean the difference between answered and unanswered prayer.