"God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law."
- Proverbs 28:9 NLT
I recently heard from a dear Christian lady who confessed that she had been praying questionable prayers, and that her pastor had reproved her for it. She wanted to know if I agreed with her pastor, and if she needed to repent and change her manner of praying. As I asked her some pertinent questions, I began to understand that this woman, though well-meaning, had been routinely asking the Lord to carry out her personal vendettas against those who had mistreated her and her loved ones. The first truth I shared with this lady was from Proverbs 28:9 (NIV): "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable." She told me that though she had been praying hard and long, it was clear that God was not hearing her petitions. And no wonder--because her prayers were filled with pleas for vengeance and retribution. She had gotten her eyes off of her Savior, and onto her troubles and tormentors. When someone asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, He replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV) When we choose to ignore God's "Law of Love," our prayers become "detestable" in His sight.
Another important point that the Bible reveals is that praying for harsh judgment against others can have a boomerang effect. Jesus said: "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37 NLT) The woman who wrote me said that her troubles had gone from bad to worse, even though she was constantly praying and calling on God to intervene. I told her that by calling judgment down upon the heads of her enemies, she was opening the door for Satan and his evil forces to come in and "steal, kill, and destroy." (Ephesians 4:26-27; John 10:10) We can't fight evil with evil. As the apostle Paul wrote: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. ' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19,21 NIV) God wants to fight our battles for us. But we must cooperate with Him by leaving room for His righteous anger. When we try to take matters into our own hands, the Lord has to step away and let us make a mess out of things, so that we can learn the hard way that only His way will work.
Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons that Christ gives His followers, but it must be used properly to be effective. Jesus said, "Pray for those who hurt you." (Luke 6:28 NLT) This is what the Savior Himself did as He hung on the cross. He asked for mercy for His enemies, and He expects us to do the same. (Luke 23:34) The apostle Peter wrote: "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:21,23 NIV) We are called to imitate Christ by entrusting ourselves and our loved ones to God, who alone is a righteous judge.
We have the privilege of expecting our prayers to be answered by an all-loving and all-powerful God. But we also have the obligation to pray according to the will of God. (1 John 5:14-15) We can do that because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to help us pray. (Romans 8:26-27) In every matter, we can say: "Lord, help me to pray the prayers of Your heart in this situation." The Bible reveals the heart and mind of God. The more time we spend in the Scriptures, the more attuned we will be to God's will and desires--and the more effective our prayers will be. Every day, we should commit all of our battles to the Lord, trusting Him to fight them for us, and to lead us on to victory. (2 Chronicles 32:8 NLT) And we should earnestly pray for protection and provision for ourselves and our loved ones, knowing that He has promised to be our divine Protector and Provider. (Psalm 121:7-8; Philippians 4:19) Let's not make our prayers an invitation for the devil and his cohorts to wreak havoc in our lives. Let's pray prayers that are aligned with God's own purposes, so we can witness His miracle-working power on our behalf!
Prayer: Lord, whenever I'm tempted to pray prayers that offend You, remind me of this teaching. When my loved ones and I are treated unjustly, help us to respond in a Christlike manner, and to entrust ourselves to You. Thank You that as I cooperate with Your plans and purposes, You will fight my battles and lead me to victory every single time!
- J. M. Farro