You knew this one was coming. Everyone knows that sin hinders our prayers. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this major roadblock to powerful prayer.
Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isa 59:1-2)
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: (Psa 66:18)
Why Doesn’t God Hear Us?
The Jews in Isaiah’s day were asking that question. The had a rich national history of God helping them in answer to prayer. Now they were in trouble and God didn’t seem to care. Why wouldn’t He listen? Why didn’t He answer. God gave Isaiah the clear, convicting answer.
They were not beyond God’s reach. He hadn’t grown deaf. The fault was not in God, but in His people. Their sins kept God from hearing their prayers. God wanted to hear and answer their prayers, but their wickedness caused Him to hide His face from them and close His ears to their crys.
God didn’t suddenly spring this idea on Israel. He had given them plenty of advanced notice. Even Israel’s hymnbook, the Psalms, reminded them that the Lord wouldn’t hear them if they regarded iniquity. So, it shouldn’t have shocked them that they couldn’t get their prayers answered.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I noticed something disturbing as I studied Psalm 66:18 again. I alway did an on-the-fly translation of the verse in my mind as I read it. My translation went something like this: “God will not answer my prayers of I commit iniquity.” It seems foolish even as I type it, but that’s how I understood it. The passage doesn’t condemn our sins, though, but our attitude toward sin. The word regard could be translated gaze on, stare or respect. We can hinder our prayers even if we’re not sinning at the moment – even if we have confessed every sin we’re conscious of.
If you’re gazing at some particular sin with longing, with respect, God knows your heart. He knows what you wish you could do. That’s what Jesus meant in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that hating your brother was murder and lusting after a woman was adultery. God knows what you would like to do if only you had the chance (Mat. 5:21-22, 27-28).
Let’s take one simple, but probably controversal, example of this idea. How many Christians do you suppose have gotten divorced contrary to God’s Word? Of that number, how many of them do you think have rationalized their behavior, have never repented, and would do the same thing again if they were in similar circumstances? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to slam divorced people. You could substitute any sin you are not currently performing, but still consider respectible: speeding, stealing company time for personal activities, speeding – any sin you wink at. In every case, God wants us to have the same attitude toward it as He does. As I said on day 3 in our study of the Model Prayer, “If you will not hear and heed His Word, don’t expect Him to listen to what you have to say.”
What About You?
- Are there unconfessed sins in your life that keep God from hearing your prayers?
- What sins do you regard, even though you may not be presently practicing them?