Some Thoughts On Prayer (2)
Prayer is the avenue through which one approaches the Almighty. It should be accepted with thanksgiving and reverence. Christians should live in the atmosphere of prayer. If we are to appreciate and properly appropriate the blessing of prayer, we must understand God's teaching on it. Who can pray acceptably and on what conditions can acceptable prayer be offered to God Almighty? Since we are taught to pray, it is the more important that we learn how to pray. Do you use the opportunity to pray? As often as you should? In harmony with God's will? Do you regard prayer as one of the great privileges afforded to God's people? Do you feel as James gives it, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16b)?
Who Is To Pray?
The Old Testament affirms that sin will separate between God and man. Isaiah 59:1-2 warns, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that is 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" (see Psa. 34:15; 66:18; Prov. 15:29; 28:9).
This was also understood during the days Christ lived upon the earth. The blind man of John 9:31 stated it thusly: "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." This statement was not challenged by even the enemies of Jesus. They accepted the truthfulness of the conclusion - even though it was reached by the man whom they were trying to entangle. It must have been true.
Jesus prayed, ". . . not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). He taught His apostles to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). Peter quotes Psalms 34:15-16):
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
John gives us confidence in prayer "because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1 John 3:22). In these texts, whom has God promised to hear? I conclude, God hears the person who believes and obeys His will. The erring child of God is told to repent and pray (Acts 8:22).
The best way I know to answer, "Does God hear (to answer) the sinner's prayer?" is to simply say, "Let the sinner turn from his unrighteousness and do God's will, become a child of His, and He will hear." There is no question about God's hearing the righteous man's prayer. There has always been and will always be a challenging question, "Will God hear the sinner's prayer?" Why not erase the question by becoming a child of God?
Prayer must be offered by faith. James said, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (Jas. 1:6-7). "Without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). Could one with faith, such as this text includes, refuse to do God's will and yet expect God to hear him? Surely not. If one did not believe strongly enough to forsake sin and do God's will, would he have sufficient faith to even expectantly and sincerely pray? Could he pray in faith while he refused to live by faith (2 Cor. 5:7)?
Prayer must be in reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28), in resignation to God (Luke 22:42), in penitence (Acts 8:22), in humility (Luke 18:9-14), in the spirit of forgiveness (Matt. 6:12-24), and in accordance with God's will. "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us" (1 Jn. 5:14).
This was certainly so in the Old Testament. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psa. 66:18). "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Prov. 28:9).
The conclusion is apparent. A child of God is granted the privilege of prayer. He can pray, "Our Father which art in heaven." But to be a child of God one must be born again (Jn. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Even an erring child of God is instructed to repent and pray (Acts 8:22). It seems clear that faith and obedience precedes acceptable prayer. After one becomes a child of God, he must approach the Mighty Throne of God with reverence and awe. But when this is done according to God's will, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Paul said, "Pray without ceasing." "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:8). Prayer is a privilege and a vital part of a Christian's life.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 7, pp. 122-123