Which is the way for our prayers to be answered and for us to have a relationship that flows with the Lord? Well, there is not an exact way or recipe for that but we will discuss on some of the ways to achieve that and also on what could prevent our prayers to get to the Lord and disrupt our relationship with Him.
We will have a look on a passage found in John 3:19-21
19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
We see this passage found in the gospel of John chapter 3 which is a part of the conversation Jesus was having with Nicodemus, a teacher and a ruler of the Jewish. He started telling him about the importance of being born again and in this same chapter is the famous verse of John 3:16 saying:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
There is salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and He did it for us but it looks like that as the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus goes on, Jesus starts revealing Him the condition of men and what exactly could obstruct or prevent the accepting of this sacrifice and salvation. Until then they were all good news, but at v.19 Jesus reveals the condition of man. He tells him that the light came in the world and men rejected it and loved the darkness instead. This is the natural condition of man. He always choses the darkness instead of the light. The word we find in this passage says that they (men) “loved darkness”. The man doesn’t just prefer somehow the darkness. He loves it. And until something else doesn’t occur in his life and his eyes open to the truth, he will always choose the darkness. The light is Jesus and as they rejected Him 2000 years ago, so they do now. Today His light comes to people through His word, through the church and the believers. Nevertheless, people see themselves threatened because of it. Threatened because what they do in the dark might come out and be revealed.
The word of God is having as a function to reveal what is going on in our inner being and is also inviting the believer and follower of Christ to come to the light. Meaning that who is in Christ doesn’t tend to hide himself or to have too many secrets. For the world in which we live is absolutely normal for a person to live a double life and to hide something. This is even promoted in today’s society and is normal. We all have secrets. This is accepted in today’s world view. If we are believers we will not feel so comfortable with these secrets and we will desire to place them in the light. The question is that we as humans want to represent something else to the others rather than what we really are. Most of the times this is related with weaknesses. No one wants to reveal his weaknesses and defects to the others. He wants instead to appear strong and perfect, so that can be liked and accepted.
This is also what is happening today with the social media which is today’s way of communication and letting yourself known. People many times demonstrate just a facade and let themselves to be known by the others only by what they want to. Not everyone is doing that but in our nature we are driven to do so. The matter is that when we reveal our weaknesses and imperfections and we live in the light of Jesus, He starts working in our life and we get better and not only that but we even become completely different persons, in a positive way. All this though is having a road which goes through shame and humiliation sometimes as it is needed humility for someone to reveal his defects. This is also something that we need to ask God for – humility.
The true and greatest miracle that God can perform in our life is to love Him. Then from loving the darkness, we will go to the opposite direction and “love” God. Not only to be interested in Him somehow, but to love e Him.
There is another passage that is having to do with this topic which is found in Joshua 7:1-20
1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?”
The Sin of Achan
10 So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. 13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. 15 Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”
16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 He brought the clan of Judah, and he took the family of the Zarhites; and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
19 Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
We see here a situation in which the nation of God, Israel, was found while they were headed to the promise land. They had to face different nations and various battles on the way. God was with them, accompanied them and gave them victory. We see though that on one of them while they had to face the people of Ai, which was apparently not so numerous, they stumbled. The scripture says that they fled before them and were chased instead of fighting them. There was definitely an issue and Joshua went on crying to the Lord, asking Him why did it exactly happened in this way. The Lord answered him that there was actually a sin committed amongst the nation, and this was the cause for which the blessings and the protection from God ceased. After an inquiring it was found out who was the person and that was Achan. He took some of the spoils from the previous battle they faced for which it was said not to be taken. He hid that. We see that when there is something hidden, when there is something done in the darkness, the blessings and the protection of the Lord cease. Obviously that was a curse that fell amongst the whole nation as those were the times of the Old testament but God today still treats the sin and certain arguments in the same way as He treated them in the past. He is God and His character and opinion toward the sin is still the same. If today we do something in the dark or we hide something, He is still not tolerant toward this. I am talking about matters for which the Bible talks about. Of course, God is merciful and He wants to help us, but there are things that He cannot stand in a way. Our nature is pulling us toward the darkness. When someone is a new creation and has repented, his nature is desiring now different things and he wants to go toward the light. There is still part of him that is pulling him to the darkness though.
There are actually things that could interrupt our relationship with the Lord. We see that while Achan was hiding this sin, the protection and the blessing of the Lord wasn’t there. There are things that could prevent our prayers from being answered.
"Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." 1 Peter 3:7
Here in this verse it is indicated how husbands should treat their wives, and it is also saying that if they do not do so, their prayers may be hindered. This is surely something that we haven’t heard a lot. Few people will tell you that your prayers may be hindered, but this is what the Bible is actually talking about. There is also the indication given by Jesus of when you go to the altar (this is indicating prayer) and you remember that your brother has something against you, to leave your sacrifice there, and go to reconcile with him first (Matthew 5:23, 24). These are random examples of which the Bible is talking about , but they show that there might be something that impedes our relationship with the Lord. I am not trying to condemn anyone with this and I also say that the Lord is ready to answer our prayers if we cry out sincerely to Him, but the question is that He looks at our attitude and we cannot blur His eyes. We may sin and get forgiven but He looks at our attitude while we ask for that forgiveness. He knows if we mean it.
If while I am asking Him to help me and forgive me, I am totally going into the opposite direction and I don’t sincerely repent or I am not sorry at all, He cannot just forgive me. I am not promoting works here, because we know that the salvation is by faith alone, and I am not saying that for each sin we would need to sort out things first and then to pray, but I am saying just that our attitude is important. This is also what “to convert” means. It means to turn to the completely opposite direction. We “convert” to Christianity, meaning that we stop walking into the direction of the ideas of this world and we start walking into the direction of God. This starts at the moment we ask Him for repentance. Does this mean that we mustn’t pray if we see that we maybe don’t have yet the attitude of converting or changing our life? Not, of course.
We need to keep on praying and asking God to help us. We just need to ask Him to give us this attitude of repentance, so that we can really acknowledge our need, and desire to change the direction, even though we see ourselves not worthy and having done wrong. This is the miracle of conversion – to change the direction and to start loving God instead of darkness. If I for example stole something and I hide it, I can ask God for forgiveness, but if I still have the attitude of hiding that and to keep on doing it, I don’t think that God forgave me or that He can do it while I still persevere in that. If He forgave me, then I would desire to change that part of my life and will most likely not repeat it. If I see that I’ve done that or something else wrong then when I repent I need to be displeased of that and to know clearly that it is wrong. If I don’t have a clear knowledge that something is wrong, I mean to be convinced in that, I cannot just repent. When I see that I’ve sinned, and I would like to leave that sin, to stop doing it, but I realize I don’t have the strength for that (this is what in the most cases happens), I still need to ask God to help me, I still need to ask Him for forgiveness and to at least desire that. This is what the faith is for. We don’t have strength by ourselves. It comes from God.
This is what was happening in the life of Achan. While he was hiding his sin, while he was hiding what he stole and persevering in that attitude, God wasn’t pleased and His hand wasn’t over Israel for protection. Things need to come to the light in our life. If we are Christians, we will be more transparent than secretive in our life. Obviously there are certain secrets that for example we don’t share with all people and especially with someone who won’t be able to understand us or isn’t mature in the faith but this is a different situation. I mean that if we walk with God, we won’t be so secretive regarding the sin in us. Christians still sin (even though this is not their permanent condition) but they are more open to reveal that in a way. I am not promoting the confession to other man here, even though believers can confess to other believers, so that they can receive an advice, but I am saying that they are more open and transparent than ordinary people. People in the world have usually plenty of secrets and this in nowadays is something normal. Everyone is having his privacy and no one can be involved in other person’s personal issues. To have a “double life” and secrets is widely accepted. People love the dark. The Son of man came to uncover this darkness. He came to illuminate it. The scriptures say that one day everything hidden will be revealed.
"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light." Luke 8:17
Better this to happen now than then, when will be already late to change things. We need to ask God for strength, so that we can walk in this light. Persons tend to escape it because they don’t have the strength to walk in it. Obviously there will be always sin in our life and God will have to enlighten parts of our life that even we don’t know of and we still need to repent of, here we are speaking more about things that we know of and we still persevere in them without repenting and we continue in the darkness. While abiding in the darkness in this way, God cannot just work freely in our life. This statement could seem contradictory, as we know He is omnipotent and can do whatever He wants , but when it comes to man’s heart, He cannot just force things. Otherwise everyone would be just save without having the need to even feel sorry for what he had done. I don’t want to sound either condemning and to make it look like God cannot help us and will not hear us. Of course He is ready to listen to our prayers. Of course His hand is not short to save.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save;
nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” Isaiah 59:1
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-11
“But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!” Psalm 66:19, 20
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39
By these verses and many others which are not mentioned above, we see that He is ready to answer and give us the confidence that we need, but there passages are more about the people who really feel poor in spirit and even have the doubt if God will listen to them. They want it, they desire it, but maybe don’t feel worthy enough. Still through faith, which could be small in them sometimes, they reach Him. These passages are for them to counsel and comfort them. To help them reach the Father.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1
This verse tells us clearly to whom is that the kingdom belongs. All these passages listed above, about the faithfulness of God, belong to the people who feel poor in front of Him. This is also because they can acknowledge His greatness and appreciate His grace. We need to ask God to create this this kind of heart and spirit in us.
Still we need to know that everything is by His grace and not by our capability or our own faith. We cannot just apply those scriptures out of context or to any situation we live. We cannot use them just to escape from something or to comfort us without experiencing them. God gives His grace to those who feel in need and are poor. To those who cry out in this way to Him. For them there isn’t anything that could separate them from Him, even though they many times can feel far away from Him.
Going back to one of the verses we mentioned before, we see another part that confirms what we were talking about.
“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.” Isaiah 59:1, 2
This is one of the verses we mentioned before and we can notice that after saying that the Lord’s hand is not short to save, it says that there is something that could separate us, and these are our iniquities. If we keep on reading, we will see for what kind of iniquities and persons is talking about. V.4 says:
“No one calls for justice,
Nor does any plead for truth.
They trust in empty words and speak lies;
They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” Isaiah 59:4
We know that all of us have sinned without exception, but here in this passage is talking about someone hardening himself and persevering into this attitude. I am not saying that by our own justice we can convert to the Lord, but that someone could keep on going on the same way and direction after hearing the gospel. That person cannot change by his own justice and he goes into his own direction. The problem is that he doesn’t leave himself to be in the arms of the Lord and doesn’t surrender to Him to be changed. We see that the Bible is complete in and gives us a complete answer on how we should live and trust in the Lord.
Glory be to God for His infinite mercy and for the opportunity given to us. He wants us to change and does everything possible so that we can receive the His message and follow Him.