An elderly woman who lived in the north of England hadn’t been able to truly pray for years. She needed to pray, even wanted to pray, but each time she tried it her mind went to five bottles of wine. Those were the bottles she had once stolen when she had been employed as a housekeeper for a wealthy estate in the English countryside.
Her reasoning for the theft had been, “This family has such an extensive wine cellar, they’ll never miss just a few bottles, especially bottles of an inexpensive vintage.” And she had been correct in her assessment. Years had now passed and she had long since moved on from that job, but no mention had ever been made of the missing bottles. She had enjoyed the wine in the months following the theft and was obviously long since clear from any threat of charges ever being brought against her. What she wasn’t clear from, though, was the conviction she came under every time she tried to pray.
Finally she reached a breaking point and visited a local pastor who counseled her to go back to the estate, confess her theft, and make monetary restitution. She protested by saying, “But the lord of the estate died some years ago and there is no one there now who would even remember me.” The pastor said, “Well, did he have an heir?” The woman answered, “Yes, a son.” “Then go to that son and carry out the instructions upon him.” The woman, however, recoiled at such a thought and went away sad.
After a sleepless night, she returned to the pastor and said, “I really do want to do something that will enable me to pray again, but I just can’t go back to that estate and do as you’ve asked. It would be too humiliating. What if I take the amount of money the wine was worth and use it as a contribution to the church?” A greedy pastor might have jumped at that offer, but this man was a genuine servant of the Lord, and so his answer was, “No, God doesn’t want your stolen gift.”
Several more days passed, and each one brought an even greater conviction and burden upon the woman until she couldn’t stand her situation any longer. So she got in her car, drove out to the estate, introduced herself to the son, made a full confession of her sin, and extended a satisfactory amount of repayment to him. He thanked her for her honesty and graciously refused to accept the money, but she was so insistent that he finally accepted the repayment only to satisfy her. Then the woman returned home and, for the first time in years, prayed the way she was meant to pray.
I offer one self-evident lesson from this simple little story: If some past sin is standing between you and God, you must do whatever God requires of you to make things right. Have you wronged someone? Have you sinned against them? Do you owe them a sincere apology? Do you owe them some kind of restitution? Then consider the following passages (all N.K.J.V.) as your invitation and application from this post:
- Psalm 66:18: If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
- Isaiah 1:15: When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
- Isaiah 59:1-2: Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
- Micah 3:4: 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.
- James 2:15-16: If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed, and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?