I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called “Teaching the Psalms” by Christopher Ash. His main idea is that before we apply the Psalms to us, we must hear them as the prayers of Jesus.
But as he began to explain this I came across a statement that may take many people by surprise. Because our prayers arise out of sinful hearts, “God cannot and must not hear them”.
Most people believe that God will always hear them no matter what. But in our natural state God cannot hear our prayers.
James describes our prayers as spiritual adultery (James 4:3). Our natural prayers to God are something along the lines of this: “God, is it OK if I commit idolatry?”
That’s because our natural prayers do not arise out of single-hearted love and devotion to God. Even our best prayers will have a mixture of pure and impure motives.
Our hearts are filled with sin, and it is a presumption to think that God would hear our prayers.
However there is one that God will always listen to.
When Jesus heals a man born blind, some of the pharisees are outraged at Jesus. The man defends Jesus, saying “We know that God does not listen to sinners, he listen to the godly person who does his will” John 9:31.
When Jesus heals Lazarus, he does so by praying to the Father: “Thank you that you always hear me”(John 11:41). Lazarus comes back to life, because Jesus is godly person whom the Father always hears.
There is only one that this is true of. It is only through Christ that prayer becomes a possibility.
The Spirit brings Christ to dwell with us so that our prayers are united with his: “For through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Eph 2:18
It’s humbling to remember our natural state before God. But when we do, we can appreciate the gift of prayer in Jesus through the Spirit all the more!