Okay, this week I’ve been doing some posting on the subject of prayer. Here’s one last word. Did you know there is one requirement that even the Christian must meet to ensure that God will hear his prayer? As you read the following passages, 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. I’m not talking about some unattainable sinless perfection. That isn’t possible for born sinners such as us. But I am talking about making the confession of sins and the actual repentance of them integral parts of your walk with Christ.
I’ve known some Christian singles who chose to live with members of the opposite sex rather than get married. I’ve known other Christians who frequently got drunk on alcohol or high on drugs. I’ve known others who consistently conducted themselves in other sinful ways. Concerning these Christians, 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. But if 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. The only play I have left is to separate myself from you and let you hit rock bottom. You are still my child, and I will always love you, but there comes a time when love must be tough. Don’t call me, write me, or come see me again 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 as God does, everything will hinge upon whether or not he sees true repentance in the 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. But 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.
And the thing about God is that He always renders the correct verdict in regards to whether or not He will hear His child’s prayer. He knows the child’s situation before the child ever prays. He knows if repentance is on display. He knows if there is sincerity in the heart. Therefore, when He says either, “I’ll hear your prayer and help you” or “I won’t even hear your prayer,” His choice is the appropriate one.