“Hear My Prayer”
In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the hero of the story enters a cave in search of the lost Holy Grail. This is the mythical cup from which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and possessed miraculous powers. The Nazis had forced him to enter after Nazi soldiers had been killed by one of the three booby traps in their attempts. As Indy carefully and slowly walks down the cobweb filled passageway, he finds a clue from his father’s journal on how to deal with the first dangerous trap: “Only the penitent man will pass.” Continuing to slowly make his way forward, Indy talking to himself, strives to figure out what the clue means. He says, “The penitent man is humble before God. The penitent man… The penitent man is humble. Penitent man is humble… kneels before God. Kneel!” He kneels down just in time to avoid two razor sharp blades swirling out from the walls, thus avoiding decapitation.
The penitent Psalmist often called out to God to hear his prayers:
- “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1)
- “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob!” (Psalm 84:8)
- “Hear my prayer, O Lord, And let my cry come to You” (Psalm 102:1)
- “Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness” (Psalm 143:1)
The converse of this plea is the plight of the impenitent man who tries to reach out to God in prayer. God will not hear sinners. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).
Several examples can be found in the Bible where sinners have humbled themselves with a penitent heart and God has heard their prayers.
Although God chose Samson to be a judge to rescue Israel from their enemies before Samson was even born, this man with divinely given strength did not obey God’s will. Having the Nazarite vow imposed upon him from conception, Samson would violate the rules. He was not to eat or drink anything from the vine, yet he went down to the vineyards and feasted with the Philistines. A nazarite was not to touch anything dead, but he touched a dead lion which he had previously killed. Samson even took honey from a beehive in the lion’s carcass. Finally, Samson was not to cut his hair. Instead, it was to be braided in seven locks and bound to his head. Because of Delilah’s constant nagging, Samson told her the secret to his strength, and she had his head shaved. Samson was captured by the very Philistines from whom he was to rescue Israel.
Later, while he was blind and imprisoned and being mocked by a large gathering of Philistines, “Samson called to the Lord, saying, ‘O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!’”(Judges 16:28). God heard his prayer and gave him the strength to bring down the temple upon his captors and killed some 3000 of God’s enemies.
At the time of the prophet Jonah, Nineveh was the cruelest nation on the planet. They were not only greatly feared because of the atrocities against their defeated victims but hated. When God told Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites, he headed to Joppa to board a ship at Tarshish. Tarshish was located on the southern tip of Spain. At the time it was the most remote destination. Jonah ran from God as far as he could go.
A great storm nearly destroyed the ship harboring Jonah. By lots the sailors found Jonah was the cause of their troubles. Although Jonah was cast into the sea, God prepared a sea creature to miraculously preserve his life by swallowing him whole. While curled up in a ball inside this sea beast covered in seaweed “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: ‘I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me’” (Jonah 2:1,2). After being vomited out on dry land, Jonah went and preached in Nineveh. He cried out, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed” Jonah repented and prayed in the most unusual place in the most dire of circumstances, yet God heard his prayer.
Of David God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). He was anointed king when a boy, because God saw his heart even though Samuel could see nothing of merit. By faith in God, he killed the giant, Goliath. As a result, he continued to lead Israel to victory after victory against the Philistines. He behaved himself very wisely throughout his ordeal with King Saul. King David became the very benchmark by which God would measure all the subsequent kings of Judah.
However, David was by no means perfect. He sinned against the will of God in that he transported the ark on an ox cart causing Uzzah to be killed (2 Sam. 6:1-8). He committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). In an effort to cover up an affair with Uziah’s wife, David first got the mighty men of valor drunk. When that did not work, David had him killed. Later, Satan tempted David to number the people. In this David had knowingly sinned. “And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly’” (2 Sam. 24:10).
God gave him three choices for the punishment: seven years of famine; to flee three months before his enemies; and three days of pestilence in the land. David chose pestilence and 70,000 men died. It stopped only when he offered a sacrifice at the threshing floor of Araunah. Although God had heard his prayer, there were consequences.
Going to the New Testament, one can find the example of Simon the Sorcerer in Samaria, who believed and was baptized at the preaching of Philip. When Peter and John had been sent to Samaria to lay hands on the believers to impart gifts of the Holy Spirit, Simon was tempted to return to his old habits with a new scheme. He wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from the apostles, so he could lay his hands on others to impart spiritual gifts. Perhaps this would be done in order for him to charge a fee. “But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.’ Then Simon answered and said, ‘Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me’” (Acts 8:20-24).
All the illustrations above demonstrate that many men of God will sin. A bumper sticker read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” The good news is that the same examples above show that God is willing to lend an ear to hear their prayers, if they are willing to humble themselves to repent. Jesus promised, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). No matter what your sin. God is waiting to hear from you. Remember, only the humble, penitent prayers will pass on to the ears of God.
– Daniel R. Vess