Ezekiel 20:1,2; Psalm 66:18
Certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me. Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying, Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): If you live in sin, and if you wilfully and habitually do things which you know are contrary to the will of God, then you cannot expect Him to hear you.
D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): As long as we are living in any known sin we have no power in prayer. God is not going to hear it.
ROBERT SOUTH (1633-1716): Whence is it that a man’s regarding or loving sin in his heart hinders his prayers from acceptance with God? The first reason is, because in this case he cannot pray by the Spirit. All prayers that are acceptable with God are the breathings of His own Spirit with us, Romans 8:26. As without the intercession of Christ we cannot have our prayers accepted, so without the intercession of the Spirit we cannot pray.
WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Now, when God refuseth to hear, we may be sure the Spirit refuseth to assist; for God never rejects a prayer which His Spirit indites. Hast thou defiled thyself with any known sin? Think not to have Him help thee in prayer, till He hath helped thee to repent; He will carry thee to the laver before He goes with thee to the altar.
ROBERT SOUTH: The second reason is, because as long as a man regards iniquity in his heart he cannot pray in faith; that is, he cannot build a rational confidence upon any promise that God will accept him. Now, faith always respects the promise, and the promise of acceptance is made only to the upright: so long, therefore, as men cherish a love of sin in their heart, they either understand not the promises, and so they pray without understanding, or they understand them, and yet misapply them to themselves, and so they pray in presumption: in either case, they have little cause to hope for acceptance.
ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight, Proverbs 15:8. What a motive to be upright; and what a motive to the upright to pray! But who is the upright?
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): He who prays must be a righteous man; not righteous in an absolute sense, but righteous in a Gospel sense―not loving nor approving of any iniquity.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): For God to accept our devotions, while we are delighting in sin, would be to make himself the God of hypocrites, which is a fitter name for Satan than for the Holy One of Israel…A God of truth cannot be nigh to the spirit of hypocrisy; this He knows and hates.
JOHN G. PATON (1824-1907): [On Aniwa island], the natives apparently regarded the verb “to hear” as equivalent to “to believe.” I would ask a native whether he believed a certain statement, and his reply would be, should he credit the statement, “Yes, I heard it,” but should he disbelieve it he would answer, “No, I did not hear it,” meaning, not that his ears had failed to catch the words, but that he did not regard them as true.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Prayer is nothing unless it is sincere and honest.
D. L. MOODY: It is a prayerless prayer and an abomination to God and man. What God wants is reality.
C. H. SPURGEON: Lips of deceit are detestable to men and much more to God. In intercourse so hallowed as that of prayer, hypocrisy even in the remotest degree is as fatal as it is foolish. Hypocritical piety is double iniquity. He who would feign and flatter had better try his craft with a fool like himself, for to deceive the all-seeing One is as impossible as to take the moon in a net. He who would deceive God is himself already most grossly deceived.
ROBERT SOUTH: The third reason is, because while we regard iniquity in our hearts we cannot pray with fervency; which, next to sincerity, is the great qualification of prayer, to which God has annexed a promise of acceptance Matthew 11:12: The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Those only that seek are like to find, and those that knock to have admittance; all which expressions denote vehemence and importunity.
WILLIAM JAY: God will not regard the address we ourselves do not feel.
THOMAS GOUGE (1605-1681): Whensoever, therefore, thou drawest near unto God in prayer, let it be with thine heart and soul, otherwise thou canst have no assurance of audience, and acceptance…How canst thou expect the Lord should hear thee, when thou hearest not thyself? or that He should regard thy prayers, when thou regardest not what thou prayest? Certainly that prayer reacheth not the heart of God, which reacheth not our own.
JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): When God denies our prayers it concerns us to enquire what the sin is that has provoked Him to do so. Let us see where the sin is. For God’s ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, but it is sin that separates between us and Him. If God turns away our prayer, we have reason to suspect it is for some iniquity regarding our hearts, which we are concerned to find out, that we may put it away, may mortify it, and put it to death.
D. L. MOODY: If a man doesn’t treat his wife right he needn’t pray. It is all a farce, you know.
JOSEPH CARYL (1602-1673): Those who eat too much are just as guilty of sin as those who drink too much.
C. H. SPURGEON: We must see to it that we are purged of what would effectually prevent prayer being heard.
THOMAS GOODWIN (1600-1679): Our greatest sins are those of the mind.
THOMAS FULLER (1608-1661): Our eyes, when gazing on sinful objects, are out of their calling and God’s keeping.
JOHN WITHERSPOON (1722-1749): They regard iniquity in their heart, who practise it secretly, who are under restraint from the world, but are not possessed of an habitual fear of the omniscient God, the searcher of all hearts, and from whose eyes there is no covering of thick darkness where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. They regard iniquity in the heart, who entertain and indulge the desire of sin, although in the course of providence they may be restrained from the actual commission of it. I am persuaded the instances are not rare, of men feeding upon sinful desires, even when through want of opportunity, through the fear of man, or through some partial restraint of conscience, they dare not carry them into execution.
JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Thy thoughts are vocal to God.
WILLIAM GURNALL: Walk in the company of sinful thoughts all the day, and thou wilt hardly shut the door upon them, when thou goest into thy closet [to pray]. Thou hast taught them to be bold; they will now plead acquaintance with thee, and crowd in after thee, like little children who, if you play with them, will cry after you when you would be rid of their company.
D. L. MOODY: Now if there is some sin we have hidden in our hearts that we are not willing to confess, then of course we cannot pray.
ROBERT GORDON (1786-1853): The very supposition that “if he regarded iniquity in his heart, the Lord would not hear him,” implies the possibility that such may be the state even of believers; and there is abundant reason to fear that it is in this way their prayers are so often hindered, and their supplications so frequently remain unanswered.
C. H. SPURGEON: But one other hint―Would you have the power of God to gird you, you must get rid of all malice from your heart. You must forgive your brother. All selfishness and uncharitableness must be eradicated from your breast; for else the Lord cannot trust you with power.
D. L. MOODY: As long as we have unconfessed sin in our soul we are not going to have power with God in prayer. He says if we regard iniquity in our hearts He will not hear us―much less answer.