Did you know there is a certain requirement that even the Christian must meet to ensure that God will hear his prayer? As you read the following passages (all from the N.K.J.V.), see if you can spot it:
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. (Psalm 66:18)
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)
Then they will cry to the Lord, But He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, Because they have been evil in their deeds. (Micah 3:4)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)
The requirement jumps right out at you, doesn’t it? Even if you are a Christian, the only way to guarantee that God will hear your prayers is to live a life of personal holiness. Obviously, I’m not talking about some unattainable sinless perfection because such perfection simply isn’t possible for born sinners such as us. But I am talking about making the confession of your sins and the actual repentance of them integral parts of your walk with Christ.
I’ve known some professing Christian singles who chose to live with members of the opposite sex rather than get married. I’ve known others who frequently got drunk on alcohol or high on drugs. I’ve known others who consistently conducted themselves in other sinful ways. Concerning these people, I’ve asked myself, “Is God even hearing their prayers?” Based upon the passages that I gave earlier, a solid case can be made to answer, “No, He’s not.”
I’m not trying to play the role of “Prayer Czar” here. God is God, and He can choose to hear any prayer that He wants to hear, regardless of how the person is living. If, however, His word means what it says, He has to draw some lines of division between the prayers of Christians who are trying to live right and the prayers of those who aren’t.
If this seems harsh, let me offer an illustration to help you better understand. Let’s say that a father has a son whose life is dominated by a lust for money and possessions. The young man wants everything the “good” life has to offer, even if it means bending a few rules or breaking a few laws to get it. Time and time again the father begs him to reprioritize his life and repent of his sins, but the son refuses.
Finally, with a broken heart, the father says, “Son, I’ve tried to help you, but I’ve grown to realize that you are dead set in your course. Therefore, the only play I have left is to separate myself from you and let you hit rock bottom. Even though you are my child and I will always love you, there comes a time when love must be tough. So, don’t call me, write me, or come see me until you have changed your ways.”
Several months later, the son gets caught embezzling from his company. Not only does he lose his job, but if he doesn’t repay the thousands of dollars he stole, he’ll be formally charged and sent to jail. He goes to see his father and says, “Dad, I’m in trouble. I owe my former company a lot of money that I don’t have. If I can’t pay it, I’ll end up in jail. Will you help me?”
How do you think that father will respond? If he responds the way the Bible says that God does, everything will hinge upon whether or not that father sees true repentance in that son. If the young man is obviously broken and ready to live a different kind of life, the father will do whatever it takes (empty his savings, take out a loan, mortgage his house) to pay the son’s debt and keep him out of jail. Conversely, if it’s clear that the young man is just a somewhat less cocky version of his same old self, complete with the same priorities, attitude, and immoral streak, the father will remain staunch in his tough love and refuse to hear the son.
Of course, when it comes to God, He has a full knowledge of His child’s situation even before the child prays, which means that He knows if sincere repentance is on display. Consequently, whatever decision He makes regarding hearing the prayer and getting involved or refusing to hear it altogether, that decision will be the correct one. You see, Christian, if God doesn’t hear your prayer, YOU are the problem, not Him. Like any loving father, God longs to bless His children and help them when they are in trouble, but like any discerning father, He knows that blessing and helping a rebel will only lead to more rebellion. And helping a child not only continue his or her rebellion but even increase it is just not something that God is going to do.