Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, we begin a two-installment series of classics from our Search the Scriptures Daily archives with the late founder of The Berean Call, Dave Hunt, and TBC executive director, Tom McMahon. This week, they address the question: Does God Hear Everyone’s Prayers? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re tuned in to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Today in our first segment of Search the Scriptures Daily, we’re continuing through Dave Hunt’s book, “Seeking and Finding God: In Search of the True Faith.” We are concluding chapter 8 titled “Concerning Prayer,” which we explained that for some people prayer is their first attempt to seek and find God, especially if they are in a crisis situation. Today, however, we’re going to discuss some conditions related to God answering prayer that are given in the Bible. Dave, let’s start with God answering the prayer of an unbeliever - one who hasn’t been reconciled to God through belief in the gospel. Does God answer such a person’s prayer?
Dave: Well, the Scripture says He doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners, especially when he brings it with a wicked mind, but if he’s crying out for salvation, certainly God will hear that and answer it and help him to understand what that really means. You can cry out in desperation - you just want to get out of a situation. We’ve mentioned that that’s one of the reasons why when you get in hell, in the Lake of Fire, you can’t get out, because…well, not as though you ever could, because this is an eternal sentence…
Tom: Right, an infinite penalty.
Dave: …but why couldn’t you get out? Because it’s not a sincere prayer. You just want to get out of this situation, that’s all. You don’t want reconciliation with God. And so that kind of a prayer will not be answered on this earth, either. Someone who…some disasters have come or are threatening his life and he cries out in desperation, he just wants God to bail him out. He’s not concerned about heaven and hell, he’s not concerned about the will of God, he’s not concerned about believing in Jesus. Now, I can’t make a hard-and-fast rule, Tom, because sometimes people who are in that situation cry out and God hears their prayer and that’s what brings them to Christ. You will find a verse in Scripture, for example, that says, “The grace of God leads to repentance.” Well, you would think, no, His discipline; you know, He’s going to spank you a little harder. No, sometimes it’s seeing the grace of God, His mercy and His love, that breaks the heart.
Tom: Dave, I have to admit, that’s the way, to a great degree, it worked in my life. I was just an arrogant, “thought he knew it all,” having growing up Roman Catholic, and so on—thought I had all the—even though I wasn’t a practicing Catholic at the time, I just thought, Nah, I don’t need this stuff, you know. I had 30 years of it. It’s good for you guys, but I don’t really need it. And people would argue with me - not argue with me, but try and give me information - and I would debate them. Not like I really knew anything, but just for the sake of keeping them at bay.
Finally, they just stopped. They said, “Well, we’re going to pray for you.” And they got everybody they knew to pray for me, and they told me so! And what was interesting about that is they expected God to drop me in the gutter. They expected that I would be down so low that I would have to cry out for help. But actually, the reverse happened - that God worked some things in my life and really increased the kind of work I was doing, opened up doors of opportunity, and so on. Everybody who was praying for me thought, Oh man, this is just going to lead him right down the primrose path and he’s going to go to hell in a handbasket, because of all these things - the doors that were now opening for me. But you know what? It kept me looking over my shoulder. And I finally said…because they told me they were praying, and I saw the answers to prayer, to their prayers - maybe not in the way they saw it, but it brought me to the fact that there is…you know, I knew there was a God; I never, you know, denied that - but the reality of a God who answers prayer and wanted to work in my life and was drawing me to Him. So, that was certainly an answer to prayer, although I wasn’t the one praying it, but it was an answer to prayer on their part, and it really had a great effect in my life, brought me to salvation.
Dave: God is merciful.
Tom: Yeah. Well, on the other hand, Dave, there are some Christians who are somewhat oblivious to the fact that there are conditions. Conditions exist on God’s part that influence whether or not He’ll answer someone’s prayer. It’s like they bought into the popular idea that God is a God of unconditional love, meaning He will do whatever we want, overlooking how we are living our lives. And I am talking about Christians - those who profess to be Christians. Well, first of all, what’s your view of unconditional love? Is that biblical?
Dave: Unconditional love…”If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Tom: Sounds like a condition.
Dave: If we pray according to His will, He hears us.
Dave: He’s not going to answer the prayer of the wicked. In other words, if I’m not living for the Lord…and we’ve given various illustrations of this before: the little boy who is disobedient and is not helpful all year, but when it comes to Mother’s Day… So, on the one hand, you would say that the mother surely loves her son, no matter what. If he gets in prison, she still loves him. On the other hand, she can’t reward him with her love when this is the way he is, and he thinks he can buy her off?
Now, you know that there are people out there who think there’s a little formula, or positive—if you’re just positive, if you make this confession, God will have to answer. That’s not what the Bible says. So, there are conditions for God answering prayer, as there would be for any parent. Here comes little Johnny and he wants a favor from daddy. “Yeah, but you’ve been disobeying me all week, why should I do this for you now? That would only reward you in your disobedience.”
So there are a number of conditions for prayer. God is love. That doesn’t mean that love is God - you can’t turn it around that way. So, this is part of His character. He will never stop loving, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t discipline. That doesn’t mean that He won’t send someone to hell. He doesn’t want them to go there. He loves them, in spite of everything, but you have purchased your own ticket to hell. God doesn’t want you to go there. Now that’s the difference we have with Calvinists. They would say that He has predestined some for hell and some for heaven. Not true! So, just because God sends someone to hell doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love them. He doesn’t want them to go there. The father spanks a child (well, they don’t do that anymore, that’s “child abuse”), it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love. And that’s…one of the parents out there who might be listening, you must be very careful that when you discipline a child, particularly if you still use what the Bible says you should, the rod, you don’t do it in anger; you don’t do it like you hate this child now. No, it’s in love. “Whom He loves, He chastens…” the Scripture says.
Tom: It also says He scourges.
Dave: Right, “…and scourges every son whom He receives;” that’s right.
Tom: It’s for our good.
Tom: Dave, I think one of the reasons that Christians get lost in this is that there’s such an emphasis today on God’s love, and as you said, He is love - that’s what the Scriptures tell us. On the other hand, He’s also a just God. Justice has to prevail. He’s perfect in all His attributes. And when we, as we see today, we push an attribute beyond not only what the Scripture says but something that we feel good about or more comfortable with, and so on, we get a distorted image of God, we get the wrong idea about loving.
Dave: Tom, an illustration I often give from the pulpit, but I don’t think I have given it on radio: If my son - I’m the judge - and my son, my only son, is standing before me, and he has been found guilty of multiple murders and so forth, and somebody sitting in the back of the courtroom says, “Yeah, but Dave - he really loves him. I know. I can see it in his eyes. He really loves him. He’s not going to sentence him to whatever…” No, I would become a partner of his crime! My heart is tearing in me! I love him, but I can’t go against the law and he is going to have to suffer the consequences of what he has done.
Tom: Now, for those people who are thinking, Well, yeah, they talk about conditions, but what are the conditions? What I would like to do now, Dave, is take you through some of the Scriptures and you comment on each one as you feel the Lord leads you. Let’s begin with Psalm:80:4: O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?
Tom: Ai is a good example, I believe, of this, because the Israelites had such great victory over Jericho, they thought, Well, the same will happen with this small town. And they got beaten pretty badly, the Israelites did.
Dave: They fled.
Tom: Right, and of course that threw Joshua off. They repented in dust and ashes and got down on their knees and face before God, and so on. And what does God say to them? He doesn’t want to hear their prayers! He says, “Get up! There is sin in the camp.” So this would be God being angry against the “prayer of thy people” because they weren’t doing what He told them to do.
Dave: Yeah, in other words it was not the time to pray, it was the time to repent.
Dave: And I have things in my life that I know I’m in disobedience to the Lord, and I still think He is going to answer my prayer? Now, it’s not going to help if I grovel on the floor and cry out. It’s not going to help, no matter how loud I plead. That’s not the problem! The problem is that there is sin in my life that must be confessed. Otherwise, God would be rewarding me for my disobedience.
Tom: Dave, these next two verses, this, again, is what the Word of God says; it just reinforces what you’re getting at. Proverbs:15:29: “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” And then, Psalm:66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
Tom: We’ve got to come to grips with that. We are deluding ourselves if we think that, Oh well, there’s an open door. There’s always an open door for repentance.
Dave: Well, I can’t make God a partner in my sin. That’s what I’m asking Him to be - I’m asking Him to bless me even when I am in rebellion against Him. So, there are conditions to prayer. It’s not just anytime: “Oh. come on! Ask me anything you want, I’ll give it to you.” Absolutely not!
Tom: Proverbs:28:9 – again, we’re talking about conditions. God has His conditions related to whether He will answer your prayer or not. Proverbs:28:9 again, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.”
Dave: Right, so I would say the law includes all of Scripture. If you read Psalm 119, it’s talking about the statutes, the Word, and so forth. The law is not just Ten Commandments - this is what it is often called. The law was given by Moses, the Law of Moses, and so forth. Well, that includes all five books of Moses.
Tom: And from a New Testament standpoint, you quoted it earlier, Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He wasn’t talking about the Ten Commandments; He was talking about everything that He said, everything that He taught.
Tom: Isaiah:1:15: “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
Dave: Yeah, and then He tells them to repent: “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” There is a remedy, God says, “but I’m not going to hear your prayers until you get right with Me—you come back into a right relationship with Me.” I mean, Tom, nobody can argue with that. Why should God reward our wickedness? Why should He give us the wrong impression? Well, it doesn’t matter, you know, you can just do anything you want because “I’m so loving and gracious, I’ll just pat you on the head: okay, sonny boy, that’s all right.” No, it doesn’t work that way! It doesn’t work that way in life, and - well, for some people it does, unfortunately - and it doesn’t work…
Tom: Not in the long haul.
Dave: No, not in the long haul, right. It will catch up with you.
Tom: Yeah, and I hope in our audience they’re not thinking, Well, these guys are being very negative; they keep giving these Scriptures about how God will not answer prayer under these conditions, and so on. Hey folks, if you’re thinking that, if you recognize what God is saying here, and rectify the problem, you will have access to God for Him to answer your prayers.
Dave: In other words, Tom, it’s not some kind of a formula. I mean, a witchdoctor can get a lot of things to happen. There’s a power out there, satanic power, but what does it depend upon? Well, the formula - you say the right formula - well, Satan wants a little obedience also, but it works by…it’s like automatic….People like Copeland and others, it’s by the “law” - there’s the law of faith. Pat Robertson says, “You follow the law,” but it doesn’t mean a righteous law; it doesn’t mean someone - a pilot in a plane doesn’t have to be a Christian; he doesn’t have to be living a righteous life; he must follow the laws of aerodynamics, and if he does that he’s okay. So, you don’t get God to answer your prayers by following some formula.
Tom: And, Dave, that’s a good point, because all of these verses that we have just gone over, they point to a personal God.
Tom: And the relationship of the living God to us as believers is really important, and certain conditions apply here, which we have covered.
Tom: Isaiah:59:2: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” That should be a very sobering verse for people. Oh yeah, it’s okay. I can walk in sin. God loves me and, you know, He’s still going to cover me this way or that way. No, God may be merciful, but grace is not going to follow disobedience – it can’t happen!
Dave: Furthermore, I don’t know what the relationship of this person - they could not even be a Christian at all, but they are thinking that God will be merciful and gracious. There comes a time when it’s too late. God will not plead forever. He will not be patient forever. He will not overlook sin forever. There comes a day when He’s going to…that’s it! And the Bible tells us about that often.
Tom: Dave, I have a couple of other verses from the New Testament. These are very practical things that maybe we don’t think about, but we need to. Again, conditions with regard to God answering our prayer or not.
First Peter 3:7: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge (that is, our wives), giving honour unto your wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” It tells me very simply, there again there are conditions, and maybe as a husband to my wife, maybe I have to check that situation out and see if I’m doing, in terms of my relationship with her, doing what the Scriptures say.
Dave: Well, if I’m…look, if I’m not gracious with others - it’s talking about the husband and wife there, but it means others as well. You get into the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts [or our trespasses] as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s like the illustration Jesus gave, you remember?...of the man who owed, let’s say, $10 million to his creditor, and his creditor just forgave him. And then he turned around and he found a fellow servant who owed him $5, and he took him by he throat and said, “Pay me what you owe me, or I’ll throw you in jail!” Now, God came back at that guy, and that was it.
So, I cannot expect - like in the so-called Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And then if you went to Mark:11:25: “And when ye stand praying, if you have ought against anyone, forgive.” Otherwise, your heavenly Father isn’t going to answer your prayer. Why should He answer your prayer when you are holding resentment and anger in your heart against someone - an unforgiving spirit. It’s not going to work.
Tom: Dave, one last verse, and we probably don’t even have to comment on that - just let our listeners, our viewers, think about it. James:4:3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 with Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we we hope you can join us again next week! Until then, we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.