Disobedience and Prayer
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer shall be abomination.
1. This proverb speaks about the relationship between obedience and answered prayer.
2. There is a direct connection.
3. Over all, the point of the proverb is that if we don’t listen to God, why should He listen to us?
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law…
1. The first half of this proverb describes the person in view: a disobedient man (or woman or child).
2. In Solomon’s day in the age of Law, obedience was marked by whether one obeyed God’s Law or not.
3. This man turned his ear away from hearing the Law.
4. He not only did not DO what it said, he wouldn’t even listen to what it said!
5. This is not a man struggling to obey, as Paul did in Romans seven.
a. In Romans 7, Paul wanted to obey the Law but found himself unable to do so.
• Vs. 22 – Paul had a high regard for God’s law.
• Vs. 18 – He had a strong desire to obey the Law—but HOW to perform it he found not.
b. The man Solomon describes is not at all like Paul in Romans 7.
c. The man Solomon describes isn’t desiring to obey and struggling in his performance of obedience.
d. Rather, this man doesn’t even want to hear what the Law says.
e. He has no interest in the Law, in God, or spiritual things.
f. Solomon is describing a self-willed man who CHOSE to turn his ear away from hearing the Law.
g. When the priest would seek to teach the law to the people, this man would not pay attention… he would purposely ignore the words spoken.
h. This is rebellious refusal to obey.
6. Disobedience to the Law was mentioned earlier in Prov. 28:4: “They that forsake the law praise the wicked.”
a. This is not a man who in a moment of weakness slipped into sin, confessed his sin, offered a sacrifice and sought to be restored to the Lord.
b. This is a man who abandoned the Law… rebelliously rejected it.
c. This man is a criminal. Keep in mind that the Law of Moses was also the law of the land for the Jews.
7. This was an ongoing problem in Israel and in the church.
a. Zech. 7:11 – “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear…”
b. Acts 7:57 – “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord…”
c. The Jews stopped their ears so that they could not hear what Stephen said about Messiah. They refused to hear.
d. This has been the perpetual history of Israel—but not of Israel only. The church has fared no better!
e. II Tim. 4:3-4 – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
f. It is human nature – the flesh does not want to hear what God has to say. It wants to have its ears scratched… it wants to hear that all is well.
g. And God’s message to the sinner is that all is NOT well! God’s message to the sinning believer is the same – for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth!
h. Darkness hates the light because light exposes their evil deeds and makes them feel uncomfortable and accountable!
i. Ezek. 33:31-32 – “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”
j. This was true of many in Israel; this is true of many more in the church age: nominal, cultural Christians. They know the language. They like a good sermon. They know the Bible. They say Amen. They give money. But they won’t obey. They refuse to change their ways.
k. I’m afraid that this problem is much more prevalent than we would like to imagine.
8. The obvious application to the believer today is disobeying the Word of God.
a. Solomon spoke of a Jew disobeying the Law of Moses.
b. Our disobedience is measured by our obedience to God’s Word or to the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
c. God speaks to us through His Word, and when God speaks, we are expected to LISTEN and respond in faith and obedience.
Even his prayer shall be abomination.
1. The second part of the proverb states that the prayer of this rebel is an abomination to God.
2. Note first of all, that Solomon implies that even rebels pray.
a. They mock those who pray. They mock those who obey.
b. But when they are in trouble, they pray.
c. When they are drowning in a lake and unable to swim—they pray.
d. When they are in a foxhole and the bullets are flying overhead—they pray.
e. When they hear that they or their son has level four cancer, they pray… or ask someone to pray for them.
f. Unbelievers are not quite as unbelieving as they lead you to believe.
3. Religion is full of rebels who have no intention of obeying, but they do want the benefits of religion.
a. They want their guilty conscience to subside so they can sleep at night—so they go to synagogue or church.
b. They want God’s blessings in their lives—so they give to charity.
c. They want good health and somehow sense that God is in control of that, so they follow some religious rules… and pray.
d. They might recite a rote prayer or say the rosaries.
e. Unbelieving rebels against God’s Law can be very religious.
f. They really couldn’t care less what the Bible actually says, they are determined to do what they want to do no matter what… but they still might shoot up a prayer once in a while—to keep on God’s good side… so they think.
g. This proverb exposes that kind of thinking… which is quite prevalent in the religious world.
4. The prayer of the rebel is an abomination to God.
a. This rebel can pray all day long if he wants to—and shed tears as well; but his prayer is an abomination.
b. God is not impressed with the religion of the rebel who refuses to obey His Word.
c. Abomination: that which is especially detestable, repulsive, an object, act or practice which is loathsome and abhorrent.
d. No doubt the religious rebel who disobeys God and yet prays THINKS that his prayer will show God how religious and pious he is. But God knows better. God knows the heart.
e. His prayer does not mitigate his rebellion and disobedience—it is actually an expression of it! It is just another form of rebellion.
f. The rebel prays, either assuming that God is ignorant of his disobedience, that God doesn’t care, or is hoping that God will forget about justice and truth and bless him in spite of his sin.
g. But his prayers do not fool the Lord. His prayer is not only not accepted; it is an abomination to a holy God.
h. Prov. 15:8 – This is true of sacrifices for God too: “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”
i. Religious offerings of any sort (sacrifices; money; prayers; etc.) are an abomination when offered from a disobedient heart.
j. It is worse than disobedience. It would be like telling your child to pick up his room and then he can have dessert.
• The child refuses to pick up his room and comes downstairs asking for his dessert—knowing full well that he is living in disobedience.
• Does he think his parents are foolish? His parents would love to give him dessert—but not under those circumstances.
• The child has gone beyond disobedience to making a mockery of his parents—thinking they are ignorant fools!
k. Such is the prayer of the disobedient rebel. He can pray all he wants; but he isn’t getting any dessert. God is not mocked.
l. If he won’t listen to God; God won’t listen to him as he prays.
5. This truth is found elsewhere in the Scriptures too.
a. Prov. 15:29 – We saw this principle earlier in Proverbs: “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” (The opposite of being “far from” is hearing their prayers.)
b. Isa. 1:15 – “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
c. Isa. 59:1-2 – Sin separates between us and God. God chooses not to hear the prayer of the one who is living in sin. God hasn’t changed either. That is true for today also. It is not that God cannot hear; He chooses not to.
d. Psalm 66:18 – If we regard iniquity in our heart, God will not hear our prayers.
e. John 9:31 – “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
f. Jas. 4:3 – “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
g. The Word is God speaking to us. Prayer is God listening to us.
h. But if we don’t listen when God speaks; if we turn away our ears from hearing what the Spirit says to us through the Word, then why should God listen to our prayers?
i. If God speaks to us and we don’t listen (Word), then when we speak to God, He won’t listen (prayer).
j. Matthew Henry: If His Word is not regarded, then our prayers are not accepted.