Due to the possible “shock affect” of this post, this post is a bit longer than usual, lest (I love that word) it is taken out of context and I’m misunderstood. It’s also possible that a few people may be tempted to kick the dust up and call me out into the street for a high noon show-down. For this reason, I will set down the Scripture, use essential doctrine as the mortar, and then build one step at a time.
Back to the title, it’s “a grabber,” right? I thought the title might stop traffic for a few minutes. There is a dark side of prayer … from man’s perspective–not God’s. Many people don’t like to mention or even dwell on the side of prayer that I’ll discuss. They’ll ignore it or deny it. Why? Because it offends; to some it’s repulsive. Some would crunch their face up and say, “This isn’t the God of the Bible! This is not the God of love!”
Au contraire, we will see that this is from the His Word, this is from the God of love, and that what God says in these scriptures is in perfect harmony with His nature. We’ll also see that there is a reason for this side of prayer. But before we open this lid and pour out the contents onto your computer screen it is absolutely necessary to stay grounded in what the Scripture has established. Here is a quick reminder; hold on to the following or you may tend to go off into “Extreme-ville” as we travel through this post.
- Psalm 34:15 (NKJV) — 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.
- Our God delights in the prayers of His children, those made JUST by the work of Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) — 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- We have been made JUST / RIGHTEOUS in God’s heart.
- 1 John 2:1–2 (NKJV) — 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
- We have a living Savior who is our Mercy Seat before the Throne of God.
- Romans 5:1 (NKJV) — 1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- We are made “just” before God through Jesus Christ.
- Colossians 1:21–22 (NKJV) — 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—
- Jesus Christ has made us holy, and blameless, and above reproach in the His [God’s] sight.
If your acceptance and peace with God is relying on ANYTHING other than Christ, including adding your spiritual piousness and/or good efforts to the redemptive work of Christ, then the next part of this post will offend you, to say the least. But if your relationship with God is completely because of and by Jesus Christ, then you are living in the truth of the scriptures above. If that be the case, you are His and He is yours and nothing can change that.
Since our standing with God is eternally settled on earth and in heaven by and through Jesus Christ, let’s take the next step in the scriptures. When you’ve read Psalm 34:15 in your Bible did you ever notice verse 16? The truth in verse 16 is just as absolute as the positive truth of verse 15. Or when you’ve read I Peter 3:12, did you pay attention to the last part of that verse? Here they are:
Psalm 34:16 (NKJV) — 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
1 Peter 3:12b (NKJV) — … But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Not too warm and fuzzy, right? As God’s ear (His attention) is inclined towards the prayers of those whom He has made just and righteous through Christ, He turns away from those that are not. This is as important to our theology as the warm and fuzzy side of our main texts. With most of society, and sadly within some churches, there is a belief that God hears everyone’s prayers; after all “God is Love,” we quote. But the Bible doesn’t teach that view of prayer. Read the following scriptures to make sure that your theology of prayer is biblical.
Proverbs 15:29 (NKJV) — 29 The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
Proverbs 28:9 (NKJV) — 9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.
“The Lord is far from the wicked” in the context of prayer. … even the attempt at prayer by a person outside of Christ is an abomination.
One of the obvious questions that may come to mind is: “How is a sinner’s prayer of repentance and salvation heard?” The answer is in the Word of God, and we’ll get to that in another post. But an error would be to dismiss or negate what God has clearly said so we can have a theology or belief that makes sense to our minds or makes us feel comfortable about the kind of God we want to believe in. This is idolatry, and a reason why many people ignore and/or reject these verses of Scripture. But the Word of Lord stands. It is pure and refined (Psalm 119:140), and instead of rejecting this, we should pray with the Psalmist,
The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; Give me understanding, and I shall live (Psalm 119:144).
A few other scriptures on this “Other side” of prayer:
Someone may reply:
“But we are all wicked; no one is good, as the scriptures say. No one is guiltless before the perfect, holy God. If we are all still sinning, then how can He listen to some prayers and not others?”
Jesus Christ. The Father listens to the prayers of those who rely on Jesus Christ as their mediator before the righteous God. These individuals are looked upon by God as clean; cleansed thoroughly by the blood of Jesus Christ. God the Father does not see these people, who are in Christ, as sinners, but as saints. To Him we are justified, acquitted, and born of His Spirit. Those who are in Christ are before the throne of heaven arrayed in the righteous robe of the Savior. It is true that these people are imperfect, messed-up, screwed-up, and no more deserving of the love of God than the next person. But the difference is the robe. Are you wearing your own filthy, wretched robe of self-righteousness and condemnation, or the robe of Christ’s righteousness? Am I “in Christ” or “alienated from God” by relying on and trusting in myself? I know that I am a wretched sinner. I know that if I approached the throne of heaven based on who I am that I would be condemned to eternal wrath. That is why I dare not rely on who I am. My faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ to make me accepted as a child of the living God (I John 3:1-3). Christ has made me holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:22). So, am I guilty before God? Am I seen by God as wicked; as His enemy; as a vessel deserving wrath and condemnation? NOT if I am covered in the righteousness of my Savior (Romans 8:29-35). For He who knew no sin, became sin that I may be made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). And by faith I stand and live in Christ alone (Romans 5:1-2; Romans 2:21). By faith I trust in Him who made me and keeps me acceptable as one of the beloved.
Jesus said that there are those who are not His sheep because they do not believe in Him. He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand (John 10:25-29).” There are others who are not of His fold—He referred to them in one illustration as “goats” to contrast that they are excluded as of a completely different nature and kind. They are not His.
Sheep rely on Christ; goats rely on themselves (their religion or goodness). That means that there are prayers made from man’s righteousness—believing that he is good enough on his own to have God’s favor and acceptance. And there are those prayers that ascend to the Father in Christ’s righteousness—in the sweet aroma of Christ. That is the clear distinction and division between the two types of prayers that are being discussed here. A prayer is rejected by the Father not because one person is less sinful or good enough—or good’r than another person. Prayer is ONLY accepted because it comes in or through the perfect mediator—Christ Jesus.
We’ll pick this up and continue on another post. There are important reasons to have this clear view of the Character of God and how person has access/acceptance to the heart of God. As we consider this “other side” of prayer, it should humble us and remind us that we are wholly dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Each prayer, whether it be verbal, a cry, or mediation, is sanctified and accepted through Him. Oh how we need Him to be our God, Savior, and High Priest. It’s all because of Jesus.