What Prayers Will God Not Hear?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
~ James 2:14-17
The concept of God’s responsiveness to the faithful, and lack of response to those who scorn Him, at the foundation of today’s Scripture, is found throughout the Bible. Psalm 34, particularly verse 15, for example: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” Psalm 66:18 provides the same message from the other direction: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” And The Message, in its inimitable style, translates Proverbs 28:9, “God has no use for the prayers of the people who won’t listen to him.”
I always wonder what people think they are doing when I hear prayers from agnostics (usually in the movies) who get into a tight situation, or want something desperately, and pray something like, “God, if you are there, I pray that you will . . . .”
There are a lot of more specific statements in the Bible about what might cause God not to hear our prayers. They often reflect the more general rule of our current memory verse; for although we are justified by faith, “faith without works is dead.” And so we have Scripture that tells us, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. ” (Proverbs 21:13, KJV; see James 2:14-17) James tells us that God will not listen to prayers for things that are not godly: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3, ESV)
We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, but we must always balance our confidence in forgiveness with our constant determination to live God’s will, to show our love for him in our words and actions. If we truly love God, it is no burden!
Lord, guide my prayers with your Word and Spirit. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer