Here again there is a division into three. There are three things directly spoken of in the book of God that hinder prayer. One of these is a familiar thing. What a pity that repugnant things may become so familiar as no longer to repel. It is this:—sin hinders prayer. In Isaiah’s first chapter God Himself speaking says, “When you stretch out your hands”—the way they prayed, standing with outstretched hands—“I will shut My eyes; when you make many prayers, I will shut My ears." Why? What’s the difficulty? These outstretched hands are soiled! They are actually holding their sin-soiled hands up into God’s face; and He is compelled to look at the thing most hateful to Him. In the fifty-ninth chapter of this same book, God Himself is talking again. Listen “Behold! the Lord’s hand is not shortened: His ear is not heavy.” There is no trouble on the up side. God is all right. “But”—listen with both your ears—“your iniquities ... your sins ... your hands ... your fingers ... your lips ... your tongue ...” the slime of sin is oozing over everything! Turn back to that sixty-sixth Psalm—“if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” How much more if the sin of the heart get into the hands or the life! And the fact to put down plainly in blackest ink once for all is this—sin hinders prayer. There is nothing surprising about this. That we can think the reverse is the surprising thing. Prayer is transacting business with God. Sin is breaking with God.
Suppose I had a private wire from my apartments here to my home in Cleveland, and some one should go outside and drag the wire down until it touches the ground—a good square touch with the ground—the electricians would call it grounded, could I telegraph over that wire? Almost any child knows I could not. Suppose some one cuts the wire, a good clean cut; the two ends are apart: not a mile; not a yard; but distinctly apart. Could I telegraph on that wire? Of course not. Yet I might sit in my room and tick away by the hour wholly absorbed, and use most beautiful persuasive language—what is the good? The wire’s cut. All my fine pleading goes into the ground, or the air. Now sin cuts the wire; it runs the message into the ground.
“Well,” some one will object, “now you’re cutting us all out, are you not? Are we not all conscious of a sinful something inside here that has to be fought, and held under all the while?” It certainly seems to be true that the nearer a man gets to God the more keenly conscious he is of a sinful tendency within even while having continual victory. But plainly enough what the Book means here is this:—if I am holding something in my life that the Master does not like, if I am failing to obey when His voice has spoken, that to me is sin. It may be wrong in itself. It may not be wrong in itself. It may