Isaiah 59:1-2 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
The Prophet Isaiah was commissioned to speak out on God’s behalf to a nation that was suffering under God’s Judgement (cf Isaiah 6:9-13). As they suffered, and cried out to the LORD for deliverance, they were getting NO relief. It was therefore easy for them to conclude that their God could not HEAR their prayers, or that, having heard, he was UNABLE to do anything to help them! (They were not unlike Modern Man who observes the misery of his world and concludes that there is NO God ‘out there’, or that if there is, he is powerless to alter the situation or just couldn’t care less!)
But God tells his people through his faithful Prophet that there is another, quite logical, explanation: THEY had lost contact with their God. The problem had its source at THEIR end of the communication line, NOT HIS. Isaiah 59 goes on to spell out in detail the many things that proved this point. Psalm 66:18 makes a similar observation: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” The Apostle Peter may have had these Scriptures in mind when he wrote: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS.” (1 Peter 3:7). Perhaps this is also true of his fellow-Apostle, James: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3).
It is certainly true that our God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17 – and testified by countless other such Scriptures), but we must never abuse his compassion and boundless love and forgiveness by brashly coming into his presence in prayer as if our sinful hearts don’t matter. YES, the LORD’s arm is NEVER too short to save, NOR his ear too dull to hear, but whenever we feel that the communication line is faulty, it is good to humble ourselves before him and reflect on whether the problem is at OUR end, NOT HIS. Or it may be that he is withholding answers to our prayers for some other reason: to teach us something important about ourselves or himself; for some higher good of which we are not aware, such as protecting us from ourselves; to encourage us just to learn to TRUST him ‘in the dark’, simply because HE is the ALL-SEEING, ALL-KNOWING Sovereign God and we have only a small, limited part of the WHOLE picture – to learn to say with Job: “though he SLAY me, yet will I hope in [trust] him” (Job 13:15b).
Let us always pray with sincere, contrite, humble, submissive hearts … and let us always end our prayers the way Jesus ended his own most desperate, importunate prayer: “… yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
– Bruce Christian