Prayer: Answered or Unanswered
The LORD is far from the wicked:
1. God is FAR from the wicked.
a. Defined: remote; far; distant.
b. An amount of separation between two points.
c. Obviously, this does not refer to PHYSICAL distance. God is omnipresent.
d. Acts 17:27-28 – God is in fact NEAR to every one of His creatures.
e. FAR is used in a figurative sense in Proverbs 15:29… in language finite creatures can better relate to.
2. God is far from them BECAUSE of their wickedness.
a. Isa. 59:1-2 – sin SEPARATES men from God.
• Separate = divide; separate; sever; withdraw.
• Sin always separates man from God.
• It is a permanent wall between God and the unsaved. He is NEVER near to them until they are willing to call upon Him.
• Sin is a temporary wall between God and the believer. It separates us from His fellowship but not from His presence.
• Sin does not cause us to LOSE the presence of the Holy Spirit, but it does GRIEVE Him. (Eph. 4:30)
3. Related passages.
a. 15:8 – their sacrifices are abominations to Him.
b. 15:9 – their ways are abominations to Him.
c. 15:26 – their thoughts are abominations to Him.
d. It is not that God in His essence as DEITY is physically distant from the wicked. It is that His FAVOR is distant from them.
e. God is REPULSED by their sinful behavior and attitudes and… like a man who gets a whiff of rotting flesh… he turns His face away from it… (Ps. 34:15-16)
4. In particular, this distance has to do with PRAYER.
a. Nothing in the first part of the proverb tells us that.
b. If the first half was all we had, we would have to conclude that Solomon meant this distance to be a general distance.
c. But Proverbs are to be understood in light of the counterpart… namely, the second part of the verse.
d. Consider the contrasts in this proverb:
• The wicked vs. the righteous
• Far from vs. He hears their prayers
e. The distance is thus understood in a figurative sense… of someone who is too far away to hear.
• Obviously, God HEARS what the wicked say in their prayers. God is omniscient. He knows even before they pray!
• Isa. 59:1-2 – It is not that He CANNOT hear, (a hearing problem—or too far away), but that He WILL not hear… He chooses NOT to hear. It is a matter of His WILL… not His hearing.
f. God chooses NOT to hear the prayers of the unbeliever.
• Their sin separates God from them…
• Figuratively speaking, it puts God at a distance from them so He is out of range.
• God knows what they are praying for in His omniscience… but He chooses to ignore them all.
• Someone might reply, “That’s awful! Why won’t He hear their prayers?!”
• Well, He TELLS us what it is that separates Him from our prayers: sin!
• If men choose to cling to their sins, they are choosing to distance themselves from God… regardless of how religious they are.
• The NUMBER of prayers is irrelevant. (Matt. 6:7-8)
• The sincerity and zeal with which they pray is irrelevant.
• If there is sin in the way… God is DISTANT.
g. Whether God hears a prayer or not is a matter of HIS CHOICE.
• We cannot LIMIT God.
• God does NOT hear the prayers of sinners. Sin separates us from God’s ears.
• God knows what they are saying, but He CHOOSES to ignore the prayers of the unsaved.
• However, there are exceptions to that rule.
• God has the right to hear ANY prayer He wants to. The choice is up to Him.
• When God sees that the heart of an unbeliever is WILLING to know the Lord… willing to come to Him… willing but ignorant… God makes a distinction.
• Acts 10:1-4
» Cornelius was NOT saved. (Cf. Acts 11:14)
» Yet he feared God and was devout (10:2)
» He gave alms to the people and prayed continually.
» It does not say God heard… but it says his prayers went up as a memorial before God. (10:4)
» 10:31 says that at some point God CHOSE to hear those prayers.
» God knows the hearts of the unsaved. He knows when they are ready to receive Him.
» Perhaps Cornelius was praying, “Lord God of Israel. I know you are the true and living God. I have read your Word and have been stirred by it. I want to know MORE about you.”
» God will answer prayers like that… even from an unbeliever! This is the exception.
h. God chooses not to hear the prayer of the BELIEVER if sin is in his heart.
• Psalm 66:18 – if I (as a believer) regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord WILL not hear me.
• He CAN, but He WILL not. It is His choice.
• Sin in our lives will HINDER God from answering prayer!
• I Pet. 3:7 – Not treating your wife properly will hinder prayers of the believer. That is a sin that separates us from God’s fellowship and from answered prayer.
• Prov. 21:13 – Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
• John 9:31 – We know that God heareth not sinners… The fact that God does NOT hear sinners was common knowledge.
• Wrong behavior and the wrong heart attitude of a believer can hinder God from hearing our prayers.
• Prov. 28:9 – Not only will God not hear, He is DISGUSTED by the believer’s prayers when he walks in disobedience to God’s Word.
But he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
1. God DOES HEAR the prayer of the righteous.
2. Prov. 15:8 – but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
3. God hears the prayers of the righteous because their prayers are pleasing to the Lord.
4. God listens not only to the words prayed, but He also observes the heart from which that prayer flows.
a. He can tell if we are praying to consume it on our own lusts… He can tell if we are praying to please God!
b. He can tell if we are praying because we desire to see OUR will done… or HIS will done.
c. He can tell if we are praying for our own glory or for the glory of God.
d. He can tell if we are praying out of a sense of duty and religious obligation… or if we are praying from the heart.
5. When a righteous man prays… praying the RIGHT way… with the RIGHT heart attitude… God is delighted… and He answers that prayer.
a. God is NOT distant but near… near enough to hear their cries.
b. When a man prays righteously, God CHOOSES to hear that prayer… and answer accordingly.
c. God is listening to the burdens on the hearts of His children with great interest.
d. Ps. 38:9 – God even hears the groanings of our hearts without words!
e. John 15:7 – the righteous man is further defined by Christ… one in whom God’s Word ABIDES.
• Hence, these are not IGNORANT prayers that will be answered… but Biblically educated prayers that God answers.
• Answered prayers occur IN LIGHT OF Bible truth… understood… loved… submitted to… obeyed.
• When the word DWELLS in our hearts… and Christ DWELLS in our hearts by faith… childish, frivolous prayers will die out… and serious, intelligent prayers will replace them.