Thursday, May 03, 2007

National Day of Prayer 2007

As I was thinking this morning of this day of “National Prayer”, I remembered a scrap of paper that I’ve carried in my Bible some 30+ years. On it are scripture references from a sermon with the title of “6 Reasons Prayers Aren’t Answered.”

These are:
Psalms 66:18
James 1:6-7
1 John 3:21-22
James 4:3
Matthew 6:14
Proverbs 21:13

Of course we know there are many others, such as Proverbs 15:18 and 28:9, as well as Isaiah 1:15 and John 9:31, to name a few.

But the one that struck me was the first on the list - Psalms 66:18. Those of us who’ve grown up in the church may remember it from the King James Version, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear me.”

And The New American Standard translates it, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”

The word “regard” can mean “to see, or to experience, or to enjoy”, which are each progressions of the other. Of course if we are honest, we will all “see” iniquity or wickedness in our hearts, for we are all fallen; we are all sinners saved by Grace. And so there will be iniquity in our hearts. And if we but look, we will see…

And if we see it, we will have experienced it - for “iniquity” or “wickedness” doesn’t just sit there and behave… it manifests itself.

Ah, but perhaps the next word is the telling factor… If I “enjoy” iniquity in my heart; if I allow it to take root and grow; if I let it become a part of me… then yes, I can understand how God would not give a second thought to my prayer.

And then, there’s that word “iniquity” or “wickedness” - what’s that all about? “Iniquity!” It just sounds so… dark and evil.

And “wickedness”… Am I really a “wicked” person?

The Hebrew word is “Av-en” and literally means “to pant or to exert oneself in vain.” It reminds me of the word “aught” or “naught” which means “nothingness.” And isn’t that really what “life” is, without God?

And then, how can I really expect Him to hear my prayers, if I see Him as nothing to me?

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, puts it this way: “The Jewish writers, some of them that have the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy, put a very corrupt gloss upon these words: If I regard iniquity in my heart, that is (say they), If I allow myself only in heart-sins, and iniquity does not break out in my words and actions, God will not hear me, that is, he will not be offended with me, will take no notice of it, so as to lay it to my charge; as if heart-sins were no sins in God's account.

The falsehood of this our Saviour has shown in his spiritual exposition of the law, Matthew 5. But the sense of this place is plain: If I regard iniquity in my heart, that is, “If I have favourable thoughts of it, if I love it, indulge it, and allow myself in it, if I treat it as a friend and bid it welcome, make provision for it and am loath to part with it, if I roll it under my tongue as a sweet morsel, though it be but a heart sin that is thus countenanced and made much of, if I delight in it after the inward man, God will not hear my prayer, will not accept it, nor be pleased with it, nor can I expect an answer of peace to it.”

I like that… “…if I love it, indulge it, and allow myself in it. If I treat it as a friend and bid it welcome… if I roll it under my tongue as a sweet morsel…” That, I think is the true meaning of “regard it in my heart.”

However, in reading the verse in context; in reading David’s whole Psalm, one gets an entirely different sense of the statement. The New Living Translation puts it this way (beginning with verse 16) “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out for help, praising Him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer and did not withdraw His unfailing love from me!”

May God bless the study of His WHOLE Word on this National Day of Prayer, May 3, 2007.

My Father and my God, as I come to this “National” day of prayer, my heart is filled with images of people all over this country coming to You in prayer. But God, is it the cynic or the realist in me that has to wonder about a “national” day of prayer?

Oh God, I do believe in such a day! I do relish in such a thought of men and women and children everywhere bowing the knee to You - of taking a special time to thank, and remember, and especially to call upon Your Mighty and Holy Name with cries of petitions and tears of repentance! God! What a wonderful thought…

But a national “day”, Lord? Why not a national week, or national month, or national year? Oh my God! Why not a national lifestyle?!

I think of the cry of David as he said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, You will not hear…” And I have to wonder Lord, how many prayers will You not hear today? And it is for these, I pray…

Oh my Lord, my God and my Saviour… Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord my Rock and my Redeemer… Amen.

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