Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Faith Gets Heard

One who turns away his ear from hearing the law,
Even his prayer is an abomination.
(Proverbs 28:9)
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who delight in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2) and those who turn away from even hearing it. Those who delight in God’s Word, who meditate on it and obey it, are blessed. Those who refuse to hear will themselves not be heard by the Lord.

A word about God’s law. People often think of it as nothing more than a series of do’s and don’ts, a system of “Thou shalt not’s” and “I’m gonna get ya’s,” designed to control and manipulate and smother the joy of living.

Not so. The Hebrew word for “law” is torah, and can just as well be translated as “instruction,” which sets a much different tone. Instruction helps us, enables us, frees us. The Word of God, which is the law of the Lord, presents us with the precepts, the beginning principles, of living successful, fulfilling lives.

That is all well and good — but why is it that the one who turns away from hearing the law does not get his prayers heard by God?

The answer is that God specifically tunes in on faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). And how do we get faith? By hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is believing what God has said. Those who have never heard the promises of God’s Word are not in any kind of position to believe them. Those who refuse to hear have cut themselves off from relationship with God.

There are three things: faith, doubt, unbelief.

Faith is hearing and believing the Word of God. God always listens to faith when it prays, and is very pleased by it. John said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). Faith gets heard — and receives the answer.

Doubt is lack of knowledge about what God has said. When you don’t know what God has promised and provided on your behalf, you are uncertain about what He will do for you. Your prayers will be tentative and feel like a “crap shoot.” James said, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he shall receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-7). Doubt has no guarantee of ever getting heard. The solution to doubt is simple — start getting into the Word of God, listening to His promises and following His instructions. Faith will come.

Unbelief is the deliberate turning away from the Word of God. This is what Proverbs 28:9 is talking about, a man who is not simply ignorant of what the Word says, but has turned away and refuses to hear what it says. Faith is far from him, for he has despised the very source of faith. Consequently, when he prays, his prayers do not get heard. God is in no way pleased by them because they have nothing of faith to them.

It might seem odd that there would be someone who turns away from the Word of God and still prays. But that is where the spirit of religion, which is prevalent in the churches, leads people. Listen to the story Jesus tells of two very different men who went to pray:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.”

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
(Luke 18:9-14)
The Pharisee observed the outward form of the law, but his heart was turned away from hearing the heart of God in the torah. He had plenty of pride, and tons of faith in his good works, but he did not have the Bible kind of faith, which comes only by hearing the Word of God. Jesus says that the Pharisee prayed “with himself.” His prayer got all tangled up with his pride and never reached the ear of God.

The tax-collector heard enough of the Word of God to know that he was a sinner, but more than that, he heard the promise of God’s mercy. He was full of faith about both those things and he believed the mercy with everything that was in him.

Result: The Lord despised the haughty prayer of the Pharisee, who turned from hearing the law of God, but was greatly pleased by the humble prayer of the tax-collector, who fully believe the Word of God’s mercy.

God always listens to faith, and His passions are aroused by it. Faith comes by hearing what God has said. If you will hear Him, He will hear you.