The Lord hears the prayer of the righteous
It is reassuring that God hears our prayers. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).
God listens to the righteous.
The Psalmist wrote: "Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!" (Psalm 66:16-20).
We read of many answered prayers in Scripture. God heard the cry of Ishmael when he and his mother were without water in the desert (Genesis 21:17). God heard Rachel's prayer for a child, and Joseph and Benjamin were born (Genesis 30:22-24). God heard the cries of the Israelites in Egyptian slavery (Exodus 2:23,24) and sent Moses to set them free. He heard when they were hungry and gave them manna (Exodus 16:12). God gave water to the thirsty, children to the childless, freedom to slaves and food to the hungry.
David's prayer for deliverance was heard: "I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. ... In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry entered His ears" (2 Samuel 22:4,7).
God heard the prayer of King Hezekiah and extended his life: "In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, 'Thus says the Lord: "Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live." ' Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, 'Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.' And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: 'I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David' " ' " (2 Kings 20:1-6).
Notice that God was influenced by Hezekiah's prayer. First He said he would not recover. But because of his fervent prayer, God changed His mind. Some people think: 'Why should I pray? God will do what He wants anyway.' This is a big mistake. We should pray fervently because God is influenced by our prayers.
God heard the prayer of King Josiah and postponed Judah's punishment until after his reign: "Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded ... , 'Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.' So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. (She dwelt in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter.) And they spoke with her. Then she said to them, 'Thus says the Lord God of Israel, "Tell the man who sent you to Me, 'Thus says the Lord: "Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants -- all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read -- because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched." ' " But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'Concerning the words which you have heard -- because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,' says the Lord. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.' " ' So they brought back word to the king" (2 Kings 22:11-20).
Many answered prayers were fervent prayers.
God listens to those who fear Him, who stand in awe of His greatness, goodness and power. "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the LORD of hosts, 'on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him' " (Malachi 3:16,17).
But maybe you are thinking: 'I prayed to God and He did not do what I asked. Does this mean He has rejected me?' No, not at all. Although God listens to our prayers and is influenced by our prayers, we must understand that a prayer is a request subject to His sovereign will. A good father always listens to his children, but a good father does not do everything his children ask.
Some people view prayer as a kind of remote control of God. He must do everything they say when they push the buttons.
God is sovereign. He has all wisdom and all knowledge. He knows the future. Although He allows Himself to be influenced by our prayers, He must do what is best for the whole world and for all time. You may be praying for sunshine while a farmer is praying for rain. We must be humble when we pray. Our prayers are imperfect. "For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26,27).
Our prayer makes a real difference. Yet by nature a prayer is always a request to our sovereign Lord in whose will we acquiesce.
The prayer of Jesus in the garden demonstrates this: "Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done'' (Luke 22:42). An angel came to strengthen Him but He had to drink the cup. His prayer was heard, however. In Psalm 22, which begins "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (verse 1), the triumphant close is introduced in verse 21 with "You have answered Me." The Father heard the prayer of His Son, "who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear" (Hebrews 5:7). God's answer was not prevention of death but resurrection from the grave, victory over death not only for Jesus but for all who believe.
Although Paul healed many by the power of God (Acts 19:11,12), his own request was denied: "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
Let us pray fervently knowing that God hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29). "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Let us also understand that prayer is a humble request, a recognition of God's sovereign power. With Christ we must pray "nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7). "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive