|near my parents home in caledonia, mi|
"If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but surely God has listened
and heard my voice in prayer."
If you read my post yesterday, you know that we had a huge prayer answered this week when Jonathan accepted a really great job in his hometown. It was prayer alone, and God's intercession that we can thank for that. I have been trying to be really intentional about getting on track with my prayer life and thus have been doing lots of studying and reading. Creating a great relationship with Jesus, (one that lasts), is hard work. At least for me it is. Prayer doesn't come easily, but as I have been intentionally setting aside time for it I can say that it has come a lot more naturally. And I want to pray now more than I ever have because prayer really works. God really listens and comes through for us. This week my study was on the necessity of having a clean heart in prayer.
In the Psalms (above scripture), David understood that if he cherished sin in his heart that the Lord would not hear him. Sin hinders prayer. A person may pray and pray without receiving an answer, then conclude that the problem is God. In reality, it may be our hearts that need to be checked.
One of the worst things about sin is that it obstructs prayer. We are shut out from God when we cherish sin because God is holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence. Looking back, I think this was the entire problem for me. The more careless we are about sin, the less we pray. When I look back I never would have said I was cherishing sin. I don't think this word cherish is referring to committing a sin like lying or cheating and then doing a happy dance about it. Cherished sin is that unconfessed, untouched baggage that we sometimes just don't want to talk about or deal with so we tuck it away in our hearts so far back that sometimes even WE forget it is there. I thought that I had confessed all my sin before the Lord but when I took an inventory I found that there was more than one thing I needed to work out in prayer. A good place to start to take that "heart inventory" is in Romans 12:9-21:
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope,patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
When sin blocks prayer, the real problem is not that we have sinned but that, having sinned, we have not repented. It is only that unconfessed sin (not sin that has been forgiven) hindering prayer. In the bible John says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (John 1:19). When its forgiven, its gone. I love that. And after reading Romans I realized that I had a handful of things that needed to be brought before God and worked out between us. It was this small act of obedience that has now unlocked my prayer life.
I have found a new freedom in prayer. And I have realized we cannot have this freedom without purity of our hearts. Prayer is such a huge thing to get right because it hinders sin, just like sin hinders prayer. The two are opposed. Like I said above, the more careless we are about sin, the less we pray. The more we pray, the less careless we are about sin. They are both powerful forces. I had to ask the hard question of which force is driving me in my life, right at this very moment? Once I dealt with the not so pretty answer, I had to remedy my heart situation.
As I head out to lead worship at church I am praying for the congregation because sin not only hinders prayer, it hinders worship too. I am praying to stay zealous in my faith, joyful in hope and patient in affliction. I am praying that I do was it right in the eyes of everyone and that I overcome evil with good on a daily basis.
And you know what? For one of the first times in my life I can confidently say like David, that God has surely heard my voice in prayer.