Preparation for Prayer
Psalm 66:16-20: 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.
The ability of the believer to pray, to talk to the very God of the Universe is probably the second greatest gift we are given, following our salvation. As mere mortals, we have open and free access to come to God, our Creator, our Saviour, our Father and our Guide, and talk to Him. We have the freedom to approach Him as our Father, our Friend, our Advocate, and one whom we love dearly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We can come boldly to the holiest of holies and talk to God. Is there any greater privilege?
The psalmist in Psalm 66:18, though, speaks of a great truth and one that I am sure that many of us would like to look over: ” If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me “. We have open and clear access to the God of the Universe, but if we have unconfessed sin in our life, the Lord will not hear us. This is stated again in Isaiah 59:1-2 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear .” Even though we are saved and have Christ’s imputed righteousness, there is still a separation between ourselves and God when we have unconfessed sin in our life. The only prayer that God is obligated to hear from a sinner is the prayer of repentance, therefore just as God only hears that first prayer of repentance from a new believer, He only hears our prayers when there is not sin between Him and us.
What does this mean for the Christian? It means that when we approach God, we must truly ask Him to “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting ” (Psalm 139:23-24). We must be vigilant in seeking out the sin in our lives, asking God to reveal our sins in us, and removing the “dust of the world” which has fallen upon us. We see a wonderful example of this in John 13:8-10. Here, Jesus is washing the feet of His disciples and He comes to Peter. ” Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all “. Peter is shocked that the Lord would wash his feet, but Christ say to him that unless He washes him, Peter can have no part with Him. We all must come to Jesus for that cleansing by His blood which saves us and makes completely righteous. Unless we let Christ wash us, we are not part of His family. When Peter hears this, however, he asks that Christ would wash all of him, not just his feet. Christ answers him, though, and tells him that since he is already a child of God, he only needs his feet washed, for he is already clean through and through. Christ just needs to remove the dust of the world from his feet.
Just as Peter needed the dust of the world washed from his feet, we all need a daily cleansing. Daily we are bombarded by the things of this world. Because we live in a fallen world, we cannot help but have a bit of it rub off on us. And daily, we transgress against our Saviour, and need His washing. We are promised, though, in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. As soon as we confess a sin, we are forgiven. Then, in God’s eyes, it is as if the sin never occurred. We need this all the more when we realize that the sin in our life impedes our prayers. Those special times throughout the day when we can sit down and fellowship with the God of the Universe cannot occur if we have sin in our life. God cannot look upon sin. When Christ bore the sins of the world on the Cross, the skies were darkened, because God could not look upon Him (Luke 24:44). If he could not look upon His own Son, neither will He look upon us, when we have sin in our lives.
So what are we to do? We must make it a habit to come to Christ daily for cleansing. Praying Psalm 139:23-24, ” Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting “, is asking Him to search you and show you any sinful ways within your life. Then, once the sin is revealed to you, you can confess it and rest assured in His complete and total forgiveness. James 5:16 shows us a marvelous pattern of preparation for prayer. It reads, ” Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much .” Our conversations with the God of the Universe are secure if we follow this pattern. First, we are told to confess our sins. If we confess our sins, we can be confident that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. Once our confession is made, we can approach God’s throne with confidence, for then James tells us that the prayers of a righteous man, one who is completely cleansed of the sins of this world and pursuing holiness, have great effect. We can confess our sins and then fervently pray to our Lord, confident that He is hearing and answering our prayers.
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.
The Psalmist knew what he was talking about when he stated that God would not hear him if he harbored iniquity in his heart. For when there was not iniquity in his heart, he was confident that God heard him, attended to his prayers, did not turn away even one of his prayers, and poured out His mercy upon him.
My friends, do not let sin in your life stick to you, but instead come to Jesus for cleansing daily. The privilege of talking and walking with the God of the Universe is one that cannot be squandered, even for a day. Make it a point to confess your sins and then talk away. Your God is waiting and wanting to spend time with you and to bless you immensely.