Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24b) – the omnipresent God asked. There is neither nook nor corner where God is not there. God’s presence fills the vast entire universe. Because of God’s omnipresence, we can be sure that He hears us when we pray. When we pray to Him in the quiet of the night at our bedside, He hears. Out in the field, when a little boy walks and whispers his silent prayer to Him, He hears. Up in the mountain, when a lone hiker cries out to God in his heart, He hears. We pray because He hears us. The psalmist in Psalm 145 expressed this confidence when he sang, “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him” (Psalm 145:18).
However, there are times when God shuts His ears towards those who pray. Regardless how loudly we shout out our prayers to God or how earnestly we pray, He does not hear. Our prayers, no matter how doctrinally sound or beautifully worded, will be uttered in vain. This is especially so when we regard iniquity in our hearts. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”. If we are unwilling to forsake any sin, having the purpose to commit transgressions again, God will not acknowledge our prayers. God will turn away from our prayers. John 9:31a says, “God heareth not sinners”. God has no regard for the prayers of habitual sinners who have no repentance for their transgressions. Even though unremorseful sinners may be in fervent prayer, their prayers matter nothing to God.
Why is it that God does not hear sinners? The Bible gives us the reasons. As Christians, the fact that God hears our prayers comforts us. We must therefore be very concerned with the reasons why He shuts His ears to prayers.
God is against sinners
1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” The omnipresent God sets His eyes upon those who do His will with favour and is ever willing to listen to their prayers. On the other hand, God is against those who do evil even though they may pray unto Him. Habitual sinners face an angry God who is determined to punish them. Not only will their prayers not be answered, the wrath of God awaits them.
People who regard iniquity in their hearts must not think that their many prayers will in any way alleviate their situation. In fact, their “prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9) to Him. An abomination is something that God utterly hates. Prayers from a sinful person furthermore incur the wrath of God. The prayers of an evildoer “add oil” to the fire of God’s anger. Proverbs 28:9 says, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” The prayers from anyone who has no regard for the commandments of God are abominable to God. God has no delight in these “sacrificial” prayers of the wicked (cf. Proverbs 15:8).
God is far from them
God does not hear the prayers of evildoers because their sins have separated them from their God. The prophet Isaiah cried out to Judah, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Judah was praying fervently to God to deliver them from national calamity while they refused to repent from steep idolatry. The prophet Isaiah warned them that it was not because God was not able to deliver but because the sins of Judah acted like a vast expanse that separated them far away from their God. God chose not to be close or favourable to them anymore. He deliberately remained remote from Judah even though they might pray to Him.
The distress of wicked Judah did not move the hand of God to help them even though they prayed. Despite the desperate situation they were in, God would be far from hearing their cries and helping them. Proverbs 15:29a says, “The LORD is far from the wicked”.
Let us therefore put away our every hidden desire to sin against God. If we do so, God has promised that He will not “turn away” from our prayer (cf. Psalm 66:20). Truly, “if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31b).