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The Scripture Blog

The Righteous, the Wicked, and Prayer

Bill Bauman, friend and cousin-in-law, commented on my post titled “Lamentations For Our Times.” His point was that God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous. James 5:16 (NIV) and many other verses or passages of scripture in the Old and New Testaments provide support for this belief.

Scripture also makes it clear that God does not hear or answer the prayers of people who practice, as a way of life, sinfulness, wickedness, or evil. See, for example: Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:2-3, Micah 3:2-4.

Proverbs 21 (NIV) goes into some detail in contrasting the righteous (whom God hears) with the wicked (whom He doesn’t). And by the way, says Proverbs 21, just because we think we are righteous doesn’t mean that we are, for “the Lord weighs the heart.” A bump in the road for those of us who are pretty sure we are righteous.

And the wicked? Proverbs 21 delineates the kinds of wickedness that will separate us from God: haughty eyes, a proud heart, a lying tongue, violence, deviousness, craving evil, bribes, loving pleasure, gluttony, arrogance, laziness, bearing false witness. Whew! At least, we’re not wicked. But wait.

In Proverbs 21:13, there is a verse that can stop you in your tracks. At least, it stopped me. “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” Doesn’t the “cry of the poor” surround us in one way or another every day? Do we hear the cry? Have we become immune to the cry? If so, are among those whom God will not hear or answer? Are we among the wicked? Perhaps those questions are worthy of deep thought and humble prayer.

Scripture can be a source of faith, joy, and strength. It can also cause considerable discomfort.

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