Who are those whose prayers are heard by God?
Who are those whose prayers are heard by God? God listens to prayers because He is gracious and merciful. Although man neither perfect nor sinless, God is always forgiving. He listens to the prayers of those who call upon Him with sincerity. Let us explore from the Bible regarding prayers answered by God.
Those Whose Prayers are Heard by God
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Simon Chin)
Who are those whose prayers are heard by God? God listens to prayers because He is gracious and merciful. Although man neither perfect nor sinless, God is always forgiving. He listens to the prayers of those who call upon Him with sincerity. Let us explore from the Bible regarding prayers answered by God
In Psalms 145:17-18 – The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.
This was written by King David. He was a man after the heart of God. Even though he had sinned against God, God still heard his prayers and was merciful towards him. So in these two verses, he says the Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth.
Many people feel that their prayers are not heard by God. For example, someone might have been praying for the Holy Spirit for years but is still unsuccessful. The bible clearly tells us that God is near to those who call upon Him in truth. Hence, our prayers will be heard by God if we are sincere in our prayers.
When does God grant our petition? It is all according to His will.
Many people experienced their prayers being answered immediately. There was a sister who had frequent body aches. Whenever it happened, she prayed to God. Very wonderfully after a few prayers, all her body ache disappeared. Once, she was also required to go for a cataract operation and she prayed to the Lord, asking that she need not go through the operation. On the day of her surgery the doctors checked her eyes and told her that she need not go for the surgery. She was able to see very clearly. This was how God answered her prayers. There are others whose prayers are not immediately answered, but we still believe that God would answer our prayers if we pray to Him in truth.
However if we still commit sins in our life and are not ready to obey Him, or we still want to walk in our own ways and refuse to heed His teachings, then our prayers will probably not be heard by God. Isaiah 59:1-3 – Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. Here Isaiah rebukes the Israelite nation – though they have made sacrifices and prayed to God, their prayers were not heard by God. From these verses we can know that even if we call upon the Lord in truth but still persist in a life of sins, our prayers will not be heard. We have to depart from sins and live a life of righteousness according to the word of God.
The bible clearly tells us there are few categories of people whom God will hear. Who are these people? Psalms 145:19 tells us that God will fulfil the desires of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cries and save them. So let us be a man who fear the Lord.
What is a man who fears the Lord? There is a reverence for God in his heart.
The word fear encompasses a feeling of terror, and being afraid. At the same time, it is to have a reverence for God. Why do we have this fear of God? This is because God is so mighty. He is the Creator and we are His creation. Everything that He has done is so wonderful and His love is so abundant. Therefore we should respond to Him with fear and love Him with all our heart. We should have reverence for Him such that we will not sin against God and will always walk in the way pleasing to Him.
We need to be mindful of God’s judgment. God is a righteous God who judges the people and rewards the righteous. So if we know how to fear Him, we will always be mindful of His judgement and what we do now in our lives. If we want the blessings of God, we must do what pleases Him.
In the bible there were people who feared God and God answered their prayers. For example, in Acts 10:1-4, there was a man in Caesarea, a Gentile by the name of Cornelius. The Bible says that he was a centurion and a devout man. He and his household feared God. Even though he did not know that Jesus is God, he in His existence and that He is the Creator. Therefore he worshipped this God and in verse 2, we see that he prayed to God always. He taught his family and servants to know how to revere God. He would pray for everything. Verse 3 tells us that God heard his prayers and an angel of God appeared to him while he was praying, about the ninth hour of the day (around 3pm), telling him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.” God heard his prayers because he feared God.
Cornelius was also mentioned in the book of Luke, describing him as a man who feared God and those who served in his household described him as a just man. Acts 10:22 – And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” These were the servants whom Cornelius sent to fetch Peter from Joppa. When these servants met Peter, they testified that Cornelius was a just man who feared God, and had a good reputation among all the nations of the Jews. He was just towards his servants in his household and also among the people in the society. This was because he feared God. So in our lives today, if we want our prayers to be heard by God, we too must be one who feared Him and be just in our deeds.
Those who pray with a contrite heart will be heard by God
Secondly, those who prayed with a contrite of heart are those whose prayers are heard by God. Luke 18 records of a famous Parable. In verse 11 to verse 14 mentions the parable of two people going to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other one, a Tax collector. In the eyes of man, a Pharisee is a godly person and is one who knows the scriptures. This Pharisee thought that he was righteous and so when he prayed to God, he said, “I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” He thought that since he was righteous, his prayers must be heard by God. The tax collector stood afar off and did not dare even to raise his eyes to heaven but beat his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The tax collector acknowledged that he was a great sinner reckoned that if God were to hear his prayers, it would be totally out of the mercy of God. He thinks that his prayers do not deserve to be heard by God because he was a sinner. However, the Lord concluded in verse 14 saying, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” In conclusion, the Pharisee thinking that he was righteous, did not realise his imperfection, and thought that his prayers deserved to be heard. On the other hand, the tax collector acknowledged his sins and he prayed with a contrite of heart.
Psalms 34:18 – The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. This is also the psalm of David. David himself experienced the mercies of God, because he himself has committed a great sin with Beersheba, Uriah’s wife and later on plotted the death of Uriah, the Hittite. When Nathan the prophet rebuked him, David realised that he had committed a great sin against God. He truly repented with great remorse from his heart. The child conceived by Beersheba died in the infancy. But when the child was sick, David laid prostrate before the Lord, he would not eat or drink, but begged for the mercy of God. When the child died, David did not blame God. He knew that sword will not depart from his house because that was the judgment of God upon him for his great sin. He could only beg for mercy from the Lord, and really beseech the Lord not to depart from him, and not to take the Holy Spirit away from him. David was a man really after the heart of the Lord, so when he sinned, he confessed his sins. When he prayed and made sacrifices to God, he always considered it a privilege from God to be able to do the good things and offer great sacrifices to the Lord. He always says, “Who am I to be able to do these things before You? Might and power all come from you, even the wealth that I am offering is what you gave to me.” Therefore he thanked the Lord for the grace to be able to make sacrifices to God. This type of humility and contrite spirit to confess his sins to Him was pleasing to God. That was why his prayers were heard by the Lord. Likewise, we must have this type of humility. Elder Peter says, “God opposes the proud, grants grace to the humble.” If we want our prayers to be heard, the grace of God to be granted upon us, then we must always pray with this humility and contrite heart.
Those who keep God’s commandments and love one another will be heard by God
Next, who are those whose prayers are heard? It is those who keep the commandments and love one another. 1 John 3:22 tell us whatever we ask we receive from God if we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. Elder John went on to say in verse 23, that this is the commandment that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
Christian faith in the Lord is to believe in the Salvation of Christ. This comes from the love of God for us. When we receive the grace of Salvation through our faith in Him, we must know how to keep His commandments. His commandments can be summarised in two. One is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, which was what we discussed just now, to fear God. The second is to love one another as God loves us. This is an emblem of Christianity as Christians are known for their love. Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the selfless sacrifice on the cross. Such love was also imitated by all His disciples.
Earlier we mentioned Cornelius who loved others as much as himself and he gave alms generously to the people. Even though he was a powerful Gentile, a centurion in the Italian Regiment, he did not oppress the ordinary people especially the Jews. His servants testified that he was good to the Jewish nation whom he could and should oppress as a Roman soldier. Instead he loved them. This is what the Lord wants us to do. Peter was specially sent to Cornelius and his household, because salvation grace was to be given to them. When Peter went there to preach, as he was still listening to the word of God, the Holy Spirit came upon them. They spoke in tongues. Peter immediately says, “Who can forbid water from baptizing these people.” As a Jew, Peter had never eaten together with the Gentiles but on the command of God, he went to Cornelius as he knew this was a special choosing of the Lord.
Acts 15:7-9 – And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”
This was the conference of the elders and the apostles in Jerusalem to discuss whether the Gentiles who had believed in Jesus, were required to be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas had gone on the first missionary journey to preach to the Gentiles and baptise them when they believed. Then they came back and brought the good news to the people in Antioch.
But some Jews came to Jerusalem and told the people that unless those Gentiles who believed in Christ were circumcised, they could not be saved. Paul and Barnabas disputed these teachings and brought the issue to the conference of the elders and the apostles in Jerusalem. There was much argument in the conference. Peter testified about how the Holy Spirit had told him to go to the house of Cornelius and in his vision, he had seen that he should not differentiate clean from unclean animals, for the grace of God will be given to all who believe. The Jews will only eat clean food. They will not eat with the Gentiles who will eat all types of food. So when Peter went to the house of Cornelius to preach, the Holy Spirit came upon them. Peter testified in this conference in verse 8, “If God who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Peter testified that these Gentiles were faithful. They received the word of God, feared Him, and loved one another. These are people pleasing and acceptable to God. They had been baptised so there is no need to add a yoke upon them to have them circumcised. After Peter testified, all the people began to be quiet and they listened to Barnabas and Paul’s testimonies.
From this we can see that Cornelius’ prayer was heard by God because he was a man who has love for other people. If we pray with love and according to the teachings in the bible for other people, be it for their sickness, forgiveness of sins, mercy of God, or the grace of the gospel to be granted to them, our prayers will be heard by God. The bible specially mentioned a few people who had this type of love, and their prayers were heard by God. In Psalms 99:6-7, Moses, Aaron were priests and Samuel was among those who called upon His name. Here says they called upon the Lord, and He answered them. God spoke to them in the cloudy pillar. These were people who kept His testimonies and the ordinance God gave them. If we examined their lives, they prayed for the people with Love.
1 Samuel 12:17-23 – “Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the Lord, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking a king for yourselves.” So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”
This was the time when the Israelites nation asks Samuel to choose a king for them. God had been their King in the past. The high priest and the prophets led the people to fear God and the priests are responsible for making sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. But now the people wanted a king just like the nations of the world. This was rejecting God and a great sin. Hence, Samuel warned them that if they chose for themselves a king, they would be oppressed by this king and the king will take away their possessions and their children to serve him as slaves. But still the people were hardened so Samuel asked the Lord and He said, “Allow them to choose for them a king.” The first king that they chose was Saul. When the people sinned greatly against God, Samuel prayed to the Lord. It is the wheat harvest, which should be a dry season, but God answered Samuel’s prayer and sent thunder and rain. Samuel did this so that the Israelites could see that their sins was great. So when Samuel prayed to the Lord, the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. All the people greatly feared the LORD and go to Samuel for help.
This was a prayer of love. Samuel wanted the people to realise what they did was something very wicked and sinful before God. They must repent and turn back to the Lord. So the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.” He said in verse 23, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” Samuel was a priest, a judge and a prophet. He loved the people of Israel. When they committed sin, much against his advice, it caused the anger of the Lord to be kindled. Samuel says, “I will not cease to pray for you. If I were to cease praying for you, that would be my sin.” That was how great his love was for the people of Israel. No wonder the psalmist listed Samuel as one who calls upon the Lord and the Lord answered him.
It was also true of Moses. We know much about the teachings concerning how Moses prayed for the people when they made and worshipped a molten calf. He prayed that God would not destroy them. If God were to destroy them, then He will blot his name out of the book. How exactly did he pray? Deuteronomy 9:18 recorded how Moses prayed for the people when they acted wickedly and sinned against God: “And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.” God in His anger wanted to destroy all Israelites and made Moses a great nation but Moses would not want this kind of thing to happen. He chose not to be a great nation if God were to destroy the people. So he really prayed with love. Here says he felt down laying prostate for forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking. How many of us would fast and pray for other people in this manner with love?
Especially for those who would not listen to us when we advise them and those who act against God? We would fast for our own children, spouse and own parents who are sick. We will fast that they would receive the word of God and be saved. But how many of us would fast and pray for those who sinned against God and for those who sinned against us? This is a prayer of love. This is a command which God has given to us – Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the teaching of the Lord.
So if we want our prayers to be heard, there is more that needs to be done in our spiritual nurture. We pray that God will guide us in our lives of prayer that we will always be pleasing to Him in prayers.