Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. Psalm 66:16-20
Many people wonder why the Lord doesn't answer prayer. Well, one reason might be sin.
In this psalm, David wants to tell the world what the Lord has done for him. He can't wait. Like a new convert, David is panting to tell people about the wonders of the living God. Yet, he also adds a short note of what would have happened had he regarded iniquity in his heart. Iniquity is more than a fleeting thought.
Strongs concordance uses an interesting interpretation of the word iniquity. H205 - 'āven. to pant (hence, to exert oneself, usually in vain.) Panting is more than a casual slip up. It seems to mean we are overcome by the temptation and committed to carrying it out—to exert ourselves, which is what we do when we follow temptation. Yet, it is all in vain. It produces nothing for Christ.
The first commandment states, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."(Exodus 20:3) How can we expect the living God to listen to our prayers when we pant after other gods in secret? When we pray to our real God whilst lusting after a false one? If that's not in vain, I wonder what is? If you were God, and someone was two-timing you, would you listen? Would you hang around to be used up for the complex tasks? Where is the relationship in that?
Proverbs 4:23 calls believers to "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
When considering David's comment, we can see why his son Solomon wrote this proverb. They both knew the importance of the heart to God, prayer, singleness of desire, and presence of mind. Jesus called us to follow him. Like His Father God, He expects us to follow faithfully, not with a lust sitting in the wings or a bit of iniquity on the side. Ananias and Sapphira tried that and failed. (Acts 5).
When we attempt to get away with hiding iniquity in our hearts, that iniquity closes heaven's door to prayer. The Lord will not hear us. Yet, we sit there thinking He doesn't answer prayer. It's just our prayer He doesn't answer, and those like us who try the conceal the same.
Our hearts are not for hating people, hiding secret sexual thoughts or deceit, or any sort of covetousness, but are for the express purpose of honouring our Saviour.
Isaiah 1:18 makes interesting reading and is prophetic about the cleansing manner of the blood of Christ. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
We see it also references the purity and whiteness of wool. I did some consulting work in the wool industry many years ago. The process of wool cleansing stood out to me.
Scouring or washing was the first mechanical process used to remove grease and dirt from the fleece. Carbonising followed, which is unique, breaking down any remaining impurities after scouring, such as seeds, burs and grass. The wool then gets immersed in a strong sulphuric acid solution followed by being baked in a dryer. It passes through a series of rollers that crush the carbonised burs into dust, then goes through a rotary shaker to separate the dust. The second last process is to neutralise the Sulphuric Acid with an alkali solution. Finally, it's taken through a Hydrogen Peroxide bleach bath to improve the colour before it's dried. Then wool classers check samples to examine the various characteristics of the wool, and grade it.
We see a long and necessary process is undertaken to produce great wool. How would you feel if, after that process, the wool was still full of impurities?
God heard David's prayers. David regarded no iniquity in his heart nor held secret sins. We can see that in the psalm. We also want God to hear our prayers, all of them. But more than that, we want to stand before God with transparency, with a heart that's only for Him. After all, our heart is the residence of the Holy Spirit. Panting after sin was part of our old nature before we came to Christ, not in our newness of life with Christ as our King.
If we find ourselves in this situation, repentance and giving our full hearts back to our Saviour is the only way forward. That way, all our prayers will be heard.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the reminder of hiding things in my heart. I don't want anything to come between us, especially secret stuff which I can't hide from you anyhow. Help me always keep a clean and contrite heart before you always.
Photo by Mahdi-bafande-rimkv