Torrey - Man -14.1- Who can pray so that God will hear?

I. WHO CAN PRAY SO THAT GOD WILL HEAR? Psalm 66:18 — "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

First Proposition: The one who regards iniquity in his heart cannot pray so that God will hear.

The word translated "regard" means primarily to see or to look. Then it comes to mean to look at with favor, to respect, approve, regard. God will not hear the man who in his heart looks upon sin with any favor or allowance; God looks at sin with abhorrence. He is of "purer eyes than to behold evil." ( Habakkuk 1:13 — "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.'') The Hebrew verb here is the same as the one translated "regard" above. If we want to be heard by God, we must have the same attitude toward sin that He has. If we regard sin, He will not regard us when we pray. Herein lies the very simple explanation why many of us pray and are not heard. Proverbs 28:9 — "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."

Second Proposition: He who turns away from hearing the law, his prayer is an abomination; he cannot pray so that God will hear.

If we turn our ears away from what God says to us in His law, He will turn His ears away from what we say to Him in our prayers. We have an illustration of this in scripture: Zechariah 7:11-13 — "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it came to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts."

Many are saying, "The promises of God are not true. God does not hear my prayers." Has God ever promised to hear your prayers? God plainly describes whose prayers He hears. Do you belong to that class? Are you listening to His words? If not, He has distinctly said He will not listen to your prayers, and in not listening to you, He is simply keeping His word. (Compare to Proverbs 1:24-25,28 RV — "Because I have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.... Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; They shall seek me diligently, but they shall not find me." Proverbs 21:13 — "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry, but shall not be heard."

Third Proposition: Whoever disregards the cry of the poor cannot pray so that God will hear.

If we will not listen to the poor when they cry to us in their need, God will not listen unto us when we cry to Him in our need. The world's maxim is, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." The truth is, the Lord helps those who help others. Luke 18:13-14 "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.'' Fourth Proposition: The great sinner, who is sorry for and humbled by his sin, and who desires pardon, can pray so that God will hear.

The question is often asked, "Shall we get unconverted people to pray?"

What do you mean by unconverted people? If a man is sorry for his sin, and wishes to forsake it and find mercy and is willing to humble himself before God and ask for pardon, he is taking the very steps by which a man turns around, or is converted. To tell a man he must not pray under such circumstances is to tell him that he must not be converted until he is converted, that he must not turn until he is turned around. To get him to pray is just the thing to do: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" ( Romans 10:13).

But how, someone may ask, can he pray until he has faith? The answer is very simple. This prayer itself is the first act of faith. The first and most natural and proper thing to do for one who honestly wishes to turn from sin and to believe in Christ, is to pray. The Lord Jesus looked on with delight when he could say to Ananias of the stubborn rebel, Saul of Tarsus, "Behold, he prayeth." ( Acts 9:11 — "And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.") We should be sure, however, that the sinner really is sorry for sin and really wishes to forsake it before we tell him to pray for pardon. You can get him on his knees even before this, and so get him to realize that he is in God's presence, so that his rebellious heart may be humbled, but do not have him pray until he really does wish to turn from sin. 1 John 5:13-15 RV — "These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him."

Fifth Proposition: Those who believe in the name of the Son of God can pray so that God will hear.

The promises of the New Testament cannot be applied indiscriminately to all men. A great mistake is often made by taking promises made to the believer and applying them as if they referred to all classes of men; or, by taking promises made to those that have surrendered absolutely to the will of God, and applying them as if they referred to all professed believers.

When we find promises with "we" and "ye" in them, we should study the context and find out who the "we"s and "ye"s are, and whether we belong to that class. Psalm 34:15,17 — "The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry... The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." Proverbs 15:29 — "The LORD is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." Proverbs 15:8 — "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight."

Sixth Proposition: The righteous and the upright can pray so that God will hear.

The words translated righteous and upright have nearly the same significance. They both mean primarily "right" or "straight." (The latter may also mean "level" or "even.") Psalm 32:6 — "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him."

Seventh Proposition: The godly (or merciful) can pray so that God will hear.

The word translated "godly" in this passage is so translated three times in the Authorized Version (four times in RV). But its primary significance is "kind" or "merciful." It could be so translated in at least almost every passage where used. It is frequently translated "saints." <19E519> Psalm 145:19 — "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them."

Eighth Proposition: Those who fear God can pray so that God will hear.

To tear God means to have the reverent regard for God that is due him and that manifests itself in glad obedience to His will ( Hebrews 12:28-29; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 14:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Samuel 23:3; Proverbs 8:13; 16:6; Isaiah 11:2-3; Psalm 2:11; 25:14; 33:18; 34:7, 9; Revelation 19:5; <19B511> Psalm 115:11; 118:4). 1 John 3:22 — "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing to his sight."

Ninth Proposition: Those who keep God's commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight can pray so that God will hear.

Here we find one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer. If we listen to God's commandments, God will listen to our prayers. If we do as He bids us in His word, He will do as we ask him in our prayers. If we do what pleases Him, He will do what pleases us. The one who turns away his ear from hearing God's law cannot pray so that God will hear; the one who turns his ear to listen attentively to God's word can pray so that God will hear. This explains why some people's prayers are heard and some people's are not. To keep His commandments means more than merely yielding obedience to them; it means to guard them as a precious possession, to treasure them. John 15:7 RV — "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you."

Tenth Proposition: Those who abide in Christ, and Christ's words abide in them, can pray so that God will hear. They can ask whatever they wish and it will be done to them.

This is the other great secret of prevailing prayer. It is closely related to the preceding.

QUESTION: What is it to abide in Christ?

ANSWER: It is to continue in living union with Him. To bear the same relation to Him that the living healthy branch, the continuously fruitbearing branch, does to the vine. This branch has no independent life of its own. Is sap and vigor all come from the vine. So we abide in Christ in so far as we have no independent life of our own. In so far as we do not seek to have any thoughts, plans, feelings, purposes, works, fruit of our own, but let Christ think his thoughts, feel His feelings, purpose His purposes, work His works, bear His fruit in us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, we may ask whatever we wish and it shall be done.

QUESTION: But what if we ask something contrary to God's will?

ANSWER: We cannot in so far as we abide in Christ; our prayers themselves will be the outcome of the Christ-life in us. The Father hears him always and will hear Him when He prays through us. Note that He says also, "And my words abide in you." It is through His words, and only through His words, that Christ imparts His life to us and lives His life in us.

The words of Christ are the vehicle of the life of Christ. It is vain, then, to talk or think of abiding in Christ if we neglect His words. We must let His words sink deep into our souls and form us, mould our thoughts, our feelings, our purposes, our plans, our actions. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you" is the way the promise reads. Psalm 91:1, 14-15 — "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty .... Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him."

Eleventh Proposition: The one who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, who sets his love upon God and knows His name, can pray so that God will hear.

QUESTION: What is it to dwell in the secret place of the Most High?

ANSWER: The word translated "secret place," means primarily a covering, then hiding-place, protection. It is translated "protection" once, and "hiding-place" a number of times. To dwell in the secret place of the Most High, means, then, to put oneself and keep oneself under the protection of the Most High, to be covered and hid from all harm by Him.

It means to leave all our welfare absolutely to Him, and to look to Him and to trust Him to take care of it.

To know His name means to know Him as he has revealed Himself to us.

That is only possible through the study of the word. Psalm 37:4 "Delight thyself also in the LORD and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

Twelfth Proposition: He who delights himself in the Lord can pray so that the Lord will hear.

If our delight is in Him, our great prayer will be for Himself, and He is always willing to give Himself. With Himself He will grant every other desire of our hearts. If our delight is in Him, it will be His delight to give us what we ask. Do you delight in the Lord? Remember that "delight" is a strong word. Psalm 37:5 — "Commit thy way unto the LORD trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."

Thirteenth Proposition: He that commits his way to the Lord and trusts in Him can pray so that God will hear.

The word here translated "commit" means literally "roll." To commit our way to the Lord is to roll it upon Him, leave its direction and protection entirely to Him. Have you done this?. Psalm 9:12 — "When he maketh inquisition for blood he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble." Psalm 10:17 — "LORD thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear."

Fourteenth Proposition: The humble can pray so that God will hear.

The Revised Version translates the word "humble" differently in these two passages. In Psalm 9:12, it translates it "poor." In Psalm 10:17, it translates it "meek."

The two words so translated are closely related, almost identical, and are from the same root (according to one reading they are precisely the same).

The thought of the word is "the afflicted" who bear their affliction with meekness and humility. This latter thought is especially true of the word used in Psalm 10:17. (See also Zephaniah 2:3 — "Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger.") Psalm 69:33 RV — "For the LORD heareth the needy; and despiseth not his prisoners." <19A217> Psalm 102:17 — "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

Fifteenth Proposition: The needy and the destitute can pray so God will hear.

The word translated "destitute" is a very strong word, primarily meaning "naked." Those to whom man does not listen are just the ones to whom God does listen. "The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away" ( Luke 1:53 RV). The poor cannot get a hearing down here, but they can up there. The more a man has, the more attentively the world listens to him; the more a man needs, the more attentively God listens to him. James 5:13 RV — "Is any among you suffering; let him pray."

Sixteenth Proposition: The suffering ones among God's people can pray so that God will hear.

People often hesitate to pray to God because their afflictions are so many.

These afflictions are a warrant for praying and a guarantee that God will hear. (Compare to Matthew 11:28.) Many are saying, "My troubles and sorrows are so many, what shall I do?" The answer is, pray. "Is any among you suffering; let him pray." Isaiah 19:20 — "And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them." James 5:4 "Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."

Seventeenth Proposition: The oppressed can pray so that God will hear.

The oppressed cry for justice down here, but only get greater oppression; but God will hear if they cry to Him, and He will deliver and avenge them.

Israel cried to Pharaoh and was only sent to more bitter bondage, to make bricks without straw. Israel cried to Jehovah, and He brought them forth with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. So will He do again when the oppressed cry to Him and not to human governments. Exodus 22:22-23 — "Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry."

Eighteenth Proposition: Widows and fatherless children can pray to God in their oppression so that God will hear. James 1:5 — "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Nineteenth Proposition: The child of God who lacks wisdom can pray so that God will hear.

If we lack human wisdom, we can have God's wisdom. If we are full of our own wisdom, we cannot have His. Acts 10:24, 31-32 — "And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsman and near friends .... And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee."

Twentieth Proposition: The man who sincerely seeks the truth, and obeys the truth as fast as he finds it, can pray so that God will hear — even though he does not yet know the truth as it is in Jesus, and so is not yet saved. (Compare to Acts 11:14 "Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.")