Hindrances to Prayer
by Evangelist John R. Rice
VI. A Disinclination or Indifference Toward the Bible Makes Prayer an Abomination to God!
Proverbs 28:9 is a most searching Scripture. There God says,
"He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
If your prayer is an abomination to God, then any happy fellowship, any oneness of purpose, any communion between you and God is hindered.
Note that the Scripture does not refer primarily to infidels. One does not need to say that the Bible is false, that Christ was not born of a virgin, that He did not rise from the dead, that there is no real Heaven or a literal Hell in order to come within the scope of this great hindrance to prayer. No, if only your heart is turned away from the Bible, if you have a disinclination to read it, if it is not interesting to you, if you do not meditate on it prayerfully, joyfully, then your prayer is an abomination, says God's Word.
Throughout the Bible, God stresses the fact that there is a close connection between the Word of God and spiritual prosperity. For example, Psalm 1:1-3 tells us of the blessed man who shuns evil companions,
"His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
Day-by-day blessing from God, spiritual prosperity, Christian fruit bearing all depend upon delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night. Knowing the Bible is not enough; reading the Bible is not enough; blessing depends on delighting in it and meditating on it.
In Joshua 1:8 the Lord spoke to Joshua saying,
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make they way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Good success, prosperity, depended on having the Word of God in his mouth and meditating therein day and night so Joshua might make sure to observe everything in it. And then Joshua would make his way prosperous and have good success. But if Joshua had turned his heart away from hearing the law, he would not have been prosperous, he would not have succeeded, and the blessing of God would have failed. And does not that bear out the statement of Proverbs 28:9 that even the prayer of one who turns his heart away from hearing the law, is abomination? How could one who is disinterested in the Bible, who shuns it, one who has his heart turned away from it, please God in prayer? What claim could such an unspiritual heart, such an alienated child, have on God in prayer?
Then notice that one whose heart is alienated from the Bible, disinterested in the Word of God, finding no joy in God's promises, indifferent to the duty of obeying God's commands - notice that such a Christian cannot meet any of the conditions of successful prayer. All the promises in the Bible concerning answers to prayer involve in some way a heart that is eager to find the will of God in the Word of God. In John 15:7 Jesus promised, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." One who does not love the Bible, is not eager to read it, does not gladly heed its warnings and admonitions and commands, cannot meet that promise, because Christ's Word does not abide in him, and he is not really abiding in Christ in the sense of surrender to the will of Christ. And how can such a Christian come to ask anything of the Father in the name of Christ? One who does not know the Bible does not know the will of Christ. One who is not interested in the Bible is surely not much interested in the will of Christ. How could I genuinely ask anything in Jesus' name, if I can quote no authority from Christ giving me the right to ask it in His name? Therefore the blessed promise that the Father will give you anything you ask in Christ's name, the promise of John 14:13,14, will not avail for the man whose heart is turned away from hearing the Word of God.
"If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us," says I John 5:14. But one who does not know the Bible, does not love it and does not meditate on it, will not have any assurance that what he asks is in the will of God. "All things are possible to him that believeth," said Jesus in Mark 9:23, but "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). One whose heart is turned away from the Bible is turned also from faith. He cannot call upon God in faith, since he does not use the means to grow faith, and since God's Holy Spirit will not encourage faith in such a disobedient heart. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart," says Psalm 37:4. But a real delight in the Lord involves a delight in God's Word. How eager I am for a letter from home! And that is because I love my wife and daughters and long to see them. How anxiously a young woman awaits the postman, looking for a letter from her sweetheart who has been called away to the army. So if one really delighted in God, he would delight in His letter to us. God is so revealed in the Word that those in close fellowship with God must delight in His Word. Oh, then, Christian, if your heart has been turned away from the Bible, you are out of touch with all the promises of God for answers to your prayers! "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
Even lost people wanting salvation do well to turn and read the Word of God. As you with an earnest heart seek to find God in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will reveal Him. The God Who answers prayer is the God of the Bible. He is not only the God Who wrote the Bible, but the God Who yet today reveals Himself in the Bible and gives His blessings to those who love the Bible.
A disinclination to read the Word of God, to meditate on it, to learn it, to follow it, to search it out, shows sin in the heart. When a Christian, a born-again child of God, shows indifference to the Word of God, then we may know that he is living after the carnal, fleshly mind. For I Corinthians 2:14 says, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The blessed Holy Spirit has an affinity for the Word of God, which He inspired. The conscious fullness of the Spirit and the keenest delight in the Word of God go together. People who are full of the Spirit are also full of the Word of God. The natural mind is a stranger from God and is not interested in the Bible. And the carnal or undeveloped and untaught and unspiritual Christian is likely to have no taste for the Word of God. A state of disinterestedness in the Bible is an unspiritual state, a state of backsliding and sin.
A mother wrote in the flyleaf of her son's Bible when he went away from home, "This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book." The Christian who loses interest in the Bible, cannot find time to read it, or takes exceptions to some of its teachings, may well search his heart, for in that heart are things that grieve God, that block God's blessing, and make even his prayers an abomination to God.
Every Christian, then, should long for and earnestly seek a delightful familiarity, an unceasing interest in the Word of God. Set apart a time early in the day, I beg you, when you read the Scriptures, several chapters if possible, and meditate over them prayerfully, longing to find the mind of God, willingly surrendering yourself to all that you find in God's Word. If you surrender yourself, and do not rush, but meditate on the Word of God, you will find prayer forming in your heart. It is a prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit, a prayer that God will be pleased to hear. George Muller, the great English man of prayer, founder of the Bristol orphan houses, tells of the new ease and joy in prayer he had when he began first to read the Bible before prayer every day and let his prayers begin out of what the Spirit whispered in his heart as he read the Word of God. A daily quiet time of reading the Word of God, memorizing it, subjecting oneself to the searching, probing, judging, purifying action of God's Word, will mean rich prosperity in your prayer life. But "he that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
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"I am an old-fashioned preacher of the old-time religion, that has warmed this cold world's heart for two thousand years." -Billy SUNDAY.