READING: Isaiah 1-4
For many believers, prayer is a continual struggle. Sure, we know we should pray daily and regularly, but too many of us still fight the tendency to pray less than we should. Our independence gets in the way of our obedience.
On the other hand, some believers seem to pray well — but do not see results of their praying. Without guidance, those believers allow frustration to set in. Faith weakens. Prayer is often then neglected because it seems fruitless.
Isaiah, though, reminds us of a primary reason that our prayers are not answered: sin. The people of God were going through the motions of worship — offering sacrifices and giving offerings — but God did not want their gifts. They may have been doing what was expected, but their hearts were simply not in touch with God. They were praying and “worshiping” even as they were called “Sodom” and “Gomorrah” (Isa 1:10).
One result of their hypocrisy was that their prayers were ineffective; indeed, God would not listen to them in their sin: “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my face from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening” (Isa 1:15). I can only wonder how often our American churches find this same result. We have members who are faithful in attendance, but far from a deep commitment to God. They look good on the outside, but follow false gods on the inside. They weary God with their useless worship that’s disconnected from the condition of their heart. And, when they pray, God simply isn’t listening to them. Sometimes, we, too, are in that same state.
Here’s the bottom line: God came to redeem us, and He fills us with His Spirit when we follow Him. When we walk in disobedience, we deny by our actions our Redeemer — and our prayers then become nothing more than words expressed into the air. If we want to pray effectively, disobedient living is not an option.
- Evaluate whether you are going through the motions of worship each Sunday, with no real life change. If you are, turn quickly to God. Allow Him to turn your sins from scarlet to white like snow.
- Upon your repentance, turn your attention fully to God. Serve Him with your whole heart, knowing He is a God of restoration.
PRAYER: “God, clean up my heart so my prayers make a difference. I want nothing to block my communication channel with You.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Isaiah 5-8