When We Are Wrong
By Rick Ezell
"Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:1-2 NIV).
When our prayers aren't answered whom do we blame? Most often, if we are honest, we blame God. We wonder what is wrong with God for not granting our requests. When, many times, we are the problem.
Let's face it, sometimes we are wrong. We may be the wrong employee for the promotion, the wrong candidate for office, the wrong boyfriend to marry. Sometimes we are in the wrong: An error in judgment, a poor decision, a thoughtless mistake. Sometime we are wrong when it comes to our praying. And, when that happens we stand in the way of our prayers being answered.
While at times we point our forefinger at God, laying the blame on him for not answering our prayers. We need to observe the three fingers pointing back at us. We may be the reason our prayers are not being answered. God saying "No" can be our own fault. "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:1-2 NIV). Or as The Message states it: "Look! Listen! God's arm is not amputated-he can still save. God's ears are not stopped up-he can still hear. There's nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn't hear" (Isa. 59:1-2 The Message). The Psalmist echoes that thought: "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psa. 66:18 NIV). Again, The Message paraphrases, "If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened" (Psalm 66:18 The Message). Personal sin hinders prayer.
Over thirty times the Bible reveals instances where God didn't answer someone's prayer. Usually it was because of unrepentant sin. What are some of those sins?
Broken relationships. (Matthew 5:23-24). Relationships are vitally important to God. In fact, he desired a relationship with us that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins to make it possible for us to live in relationship with him. God is intensely committed to building and maintain a loving family. When our relationships are out of whack our prayers will be out of touch. When we get in right relationship with our brothers and sisters, then we are in a position for God to hear our prayers. There's no point in praying if we are engaged in ongoing conflict with a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend.
Husbands dishonoring their wives. (1 Peter 3:7). Honoring our spouse opens the door for God to hear our prayers. Actually, if we are honest, too often we pray for our spouses something like this: "God, please change that person I live with!" It's perfectly appropriate to pray that someone will change. After all, we are to pray for people's conversions, for bad habits to be broken. But too often the motive behind such a request is not authentic concern for the other person. Maybe we need to change.
Pride. (James 4:6). Pride is what got Lucifer into trouble. Pride is everyone's downfall. Pride is the exact opposite of what is needed when coming to God in prayer. In fact, the prideful person sees no reason to come to God. God loves the humble. It is the prayer of the humble that God listens to and answers.
Selfishness. (James 4:2-3). Eugene Peterson paraphrases the last sentence of James 4:3: "You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way" (James 4:3 The Message). God does not answer self-serving, "me" only prayers. He does answer prayers that glorify his name.
Uncaring attitudes. (Proverbs 21:13). God is committed to developing a people who will reflect his character in the world, and his character always expresses concern and compassion for the afflicted. When our focus and our actions are directed toward others, especially the poor and less fortunate spiritually, then our prayers will be more apt to be answered.
Make no mistake about it: Our sin can close the spigot of God's flow to answer our prayers. If you are tolerating sin and disobedience in your life, don't waste your breath praying unless it's a prayer of confession. Your sin may very well be the hindrance to answered prayer.
When Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor and author, was a boy, he found a big cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. He knew he shouldn't. His parents had told him many times about the ills of smoking. But he puffed on it nevertheless. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up, until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual.
Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus. "Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town."
His father's reply taught the future preacher a lesson he never forgot. "Son," he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience."
God answers the prayers, not of perfect people, but of repentant people.
Copyright 2011, Rick Ezell.