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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Prayed; But Did We Also Repent?

Many people believe that God will simply answer their prayers because they have prayed. They believe that He never looks at condition of the heart when He considers the answer. He never denies the requests as long as the person prays.

This isn't true. God has often said that He would not listen to the prayers of people. It doesn't matter how sincere the prayer is when the heart of the individual is somehow turned against Him. He says that He will not answer if I am full of pride (Luke 18:11-14), if my prayers are selfish (James 4:3), if I fail to believe in His word (James 1:5-7), if I am being disobedient (Proverbs 28:9, if I have forgotten the poor (Proverbs 21:13), if I have meaningless worship (Isaiah 1: 15) and if I am continuing to sin (Psalm 66:18).

The answer to each of my sins is repentance if I want to have my prayers answered.

God is willing to allow me to suffer defeats, hardships and severe losses as long as I refuse to repent. In fact, God will leave me alone as long as I look anywhere except in my own heart when accusing Him of the difficult times I am facing. He allows these things in my life to conform me into the likeness of His Son who also faced extreme difficulties. He uses many of them to bring me to repentance because I realize that my prayers are not being answered.

I have heard it said, "You just can't pray too much!" That is not true. Prayer that does not address the sin harbored in the heart is of no use. It is saying many words and seeking a mantra which will evoke a response from God.

This is true even if you and I are praying for our nation. I believe that our nation continues to walk toward her own destruction because the people who are called by God's name have refused to repent. We have blamed the preachers and politicians for our moral decline while we have neglected to seek a new heart which is purified by God. We have reserved our devotion to God by keeping things which should have been sacrificed to Him. We carry the fruits of the flesh rather than the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 19-21) We fail to seek His face daily and commit ourselves to His will without reservation. We are holding back from a full commitment to God.

Thus, God says, "Straighten out the things you have stolen from Me or I will not be with you!"

This is the story in Joshua 7. Joshua sends only the men necessary to defeat the people of a little town called Ai. Joshua's army is routed and thirty-six of his men are killed because there was sin in Joshua's camp. Joshua accuses the Lord of failure in supporting him when God tells him to get up from his prayers. It was time to repent, not to pray.

It this our time to repent?

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV) 10 The Lord said to Joshua, "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

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