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Will there ever come a time in a person’s or nation’s life when God refuses to help? Is there anything that will cause God to not hear the prayers of his people?
Isaiah wrote about the circumstances where God would turn a deaf ear to the prayers of his people.
When God Doesn’t Hear Prayer
In the previous chapter, the people asked why God wasn’t answering their prayers.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” (Isaiah 58.3)
When we wonder why God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, we need to evaluate our lives in the light of Isaiah’s message.
See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
Rather, your iniquities have been barriers
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59.1-2)
If God seems to be deaf or unable to help your cause, Isaiah wants you to know two things.
(1) God hears every prayer. He is not uninvolved in our lives and he is not deaf to our cries.
In addition, God is all-powerful and can save us from the troubles facing us.
(2) The problem is not with God, but with humans and their behavior.
The inner thought life of the person that rebels against God is called iniquity. When we have wrong inner intentions and thoughts, we erect a barrier within our hearts against God.
The Inner Self
Jesus placed an important emphasis on the life of the inner self. A quick summary of his teaching reveals why a rebellious inner self will construct a barrier between God and humans.
— Matthew 5.8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
When a person’s inside condition is focused on God alone, the relationship with God is rich and vital.
— Matthew 15.8 – “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.“
We can go through the motions of prayer and have our inner self set on self-centered desires.
If God seems to be distant in our lives, we do well to evaluate our inside condition. We should ask ourselves if there is a self-centered attitude within us.
It is quite possible to say the right words but be filled with the wrong motives.
— Matthew 15.18-19 – “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.
“For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”
The inner life can be focused with a single mind upon God. That is what “pure in heart” means.
The inner life can be “far from” God and filled with seeds of thought that grow into all sorts of wrongdoing.
Both Isaiah and Jesus make the case for a serious evaluation of our inside condition, especially if we feel God is distant from us. When our inner self is aligned with God’s will, we can expect answered prayer.
Jesus promised this to his followers: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15.7).
Inward rebellion results in outward sin. Once again, this presents a barrier to answered prayer.
Your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59.2)
Peter wrote that a husband’s lack of care for his wife would hinder his prayer.
“Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3.7).
Please don’t let the phrase, “weaker sex,” cause you to miss the point of Peter’s counsel. He wrote in the first century and contended for the rights of women in a society that gave women few rights.
Peter summarized the theme of Isaiah that actions toward those who are vulnerable are extremely important. If we oppress or care little for the vulnerable, we can expect God to be hidden from us when we call out to him.
Examples of Oppression
Isaiah gave examples of behavior that begins in the inner self and extends to behavior. This will cause God to refuse to hear our prayers.
For your hands are defiled with blood,
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies,
your tongue mutters wickedness.
No one brings suit justly,
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity. (Isaiah 59.3-4)
Let’s examine three issues that Isaiah uses as examples of attitudes and actions that build barriers between humans and God.
(1) Shedding Innocent Blood – God’s law states: “The blood of an innocent person may not be shed in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, thereby bringing bloodguilt upon you” (Deuteronomy 19.10).
When we lift holy hands in prayer, they should not be covered with innocent blood.
There were 182 homicides in Kansas City in 2020.
Finding the number of causalities in the War on Terror that began after the 9/11 attacks is difficult to obtain. The figures range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dead in Iraq and Afghanistan on both sides of the conflict.
The innocent blood of humans throughout the earth cries out to God for justice. Please consider taking time each day to ask God for mercy and forgiveness for this tragic reality in the world.
(2) Lying Words – Proverbs makes this point.
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
A lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family. (Proverbs 6.16-19)
How can individuals and nations expect to receive the favor of God when they are characterized by lying words, the shedding of innocent blood, sowing discord, and the like?
Once again, please join me, and let’s ask God for mercy for ourselves and for nations who identify with these words.
(3) Injustice – Isaiah 59.4 identifies the third behavior that will distance us from God.
Within the halls of justice are found injustice and dishonesty. The pleadings are filled with lies and the result is mischief.
We can be grateful for the American judicial system. At the same time, we can ask God to have mercy on a nation where inequity toward the vulnerable seems to be an accepted reality.
Prayer – Not Suggestions
I don’t have suggestions about how to fix American society, much less nations such as Iran or Afghanistan. I do believe in prayer. The Bible is emphatic that prayer is powerful when we are aligned with God and his purposes.
Please join me and let’s ask God for mercy concerning the issues of today’s article.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage in today’s YouTube video on the Bob Spradling channel. Rudy focuses on iniquity and God’s sacrifice that transforms the inner life of the person. I hope you will view the video and join me in learning from Rudy.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.