When we talk about prayer we are very pleased when we have our prayers answered the way we wanted and in a timely fashion. We are very happy with God when we see our prayers being answered. But when we do not see our prayers readily answered, then many times we like to play the blame game. Sometimes we want to blame God for what seems to be unanswered prayer. I would like for us to see that when our prayers do not seem to answered, that instead of blaming God, we ought to look at ourselves first. The scriptures tell us that many times we are the ones to blame. Now this runs contrary to popular belief. Some would have us to believe that it does not matter what we do that God will always answer prayer. However, God has told us that there are things we can do that will hinder our prayers so that they will not be answered.
A Rebellious Heart
Proverbs 28:9 says, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Here we have a description of someone who is choosing to no longer hear the words of God. The person who has the rebellious heart toward God, that is a heart that says I will not listen to what God has to say to me, that persons prayers are not answered. Isaiah also called such a person rebellious. Isaiah 30:9 says, “That this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the Lord.” I think that most people would agree that someone who has turned their face against God certainly will not have his or her prayers answered.
But what we should notice is that God does not say that the prayers are hindered or not heard. God says that the prayer is an abomination. God uses the word abomination for something that is outright abhorrent, detestable, and despicable. Consider some of the other things God calls an abomination. In Leviticus 18:22 homosexuality is called an abomination. In Deuteronomy 7:25 we see that the worship of graven images of false gods is an abomination. In 2 Chronicles 28:3 the sacrificing of children in the valley of Hinnom was an abomination. Abomination is one of the strongest words that the Lord uses to describe his hatred for an action. In Proverbs 28:9 we find out that someone who would turn his heart away from God and would choose not to learn of Gods law, but then would have the audacity to offer prayer, is an abomination to the Lord.
A Stubborn Heart
But I think there are more of us that may fall into this category. It is not only the rebellious that turn their ear from hearing the law. We can turn our ear from hearing the law in very simple ways. Ignoring Gods word is a refusal to hear the law of the Lord. When we refuse to read the scriptures, we must beware that we may be in the process of turning our ear from the hearing of law. When we would rather not find out what God has to say, as much as we do not want to admit it, we are cultivating a rebellious heart.
Further, when we hear the law and do not allow Gods words to change our lives, then we are shutting our ears to the hearing of the law. When we hear that we need to make changes and do not, we have shut our ears to the hearing of the law. We cannot hear that we must stop sinful lusts, but close our ears and keep living as we want. We cannot hear about ceasing gossip, backbiting, and whisperings and continue to do these things and not think that we have not shut our ears to the hearing of the law. When God says that we need to spread the gospel and shut our ears and our mouths and do not change, what do we think we are doing?
I want us to see that we can shut our ears to the hearing of the law of God in many ways. Some ways are more overt than other ways of shutting our ears. But we find out that our prayers are an abomination to the Lord. A stubborn heart is a rebellious heart. Jesus continual called the people stubborn and rebellious. We must allow the words of God to change our lives.
A Hypocritical Heart
In Isaiah 1:10-17 we read that the people were bringing multitudes of sacrifices (vs. 11), keeping the feasts and festivals (vs. 13), and were making many prayers (vs. 15). However, the Lord says that these things were worthless and an abomination in verse 13. What was the problem that God called these things worthless and an abomination? In verse 15 we read that their hands were full of blood. How were their hands full of blood? Read verses 16-17. They were committing evil deeds, ignoring justice, defending the oppressor, and shamefully treating the fatherless and the widows.
You see that the people had all of the external acts of worship looking good to God. They were offering their sacrifices, keeping the feasts, and even making prayers. But the people were hypocrites. God does not listen when there is blood on our hands. Notice verse 15 carefully, “even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.” We have deceitful lips when we offer prayers with our mouth but our hands are full of willful sin.
Jeremiah makes note of their hypocrisy in Jeremiah 42:19-22. In this passage we see that the people went to Jeremiah to have him pray on their behalf that they would obey the word of the Lord. So the Lord told them what to do and they did not obey the voice of the Lord. The peoples lips were saying the right things and their actions in the temple looked right, but they were full of wickedness. Therefore their prayers were not heard.
Friends, we are not going to be able to deceive the Lord. We may be able to deceive one another because you may say the right things. You may be able to deceive others because you come to this building to worship God. You may say and do all the right things around each other so that everyone thinks you are the perfect Christian. Every sees you as a worker for God. Except God Himself. He can see right through us if all of it is just a show or for the glory of our friends. What are doing when no one is looking? What are we doing when there is no glory to be obtained and no one will ever know? The Lord will not accept an ounce of hypocrisy in our lives.
I believe this is the point Jesus was making in Matthew 5:23-24. “If you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” All of our external acts can look just right to one another. But it is up to us to examine ourselves. If there is something amiss, we must correct it to make our worship have value and meaning to God.
The people of Israel were putting on a show and living a double life. One life for themselves and one life for God. Isaiah said that their sacrifices were worthless and futile and their prayers were not heard. You may have everything looking right to everyone else, but we must wash ourselves, make ourselves clean, and put away evil doings (Isaiah 1:16) for the Lord to hear our prayers.