Will God Hear My Prayers If I Have Unconfessed Sin?
There are a number of reasons that our motives or actions may hinder our prayers. While I believe it is a mistake to categorically state when God does or does not hear our prayers, the Bible does give us a number of reasons why God may choose not to regard them.
Let’s look at a few (this is by no means an exhaustive list).
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”(Psalms 66:18 KJV)
The word “hear” in the Hebrew is shama (shaw-mah’) and can mean “hear”, “give ear” or “regard”. And that’s the understanding that we should have. Obviously God “hears” our prayers. After all, He knows everything at all times including our thoughts, words, actions, motives, etc. But this verse in Psalm 66 indicates that should we regard iniquity (sin) in our heart, He may choose not to give ear or regard them.
Remember, it is God’s prerogative as to when (if ever) He responds to our prayers and whenever He decides answer them and however He dispenses with them, it is always a good, loving, and perfect response.
Im not a theologian, but it’s clear to me that either way, it is not good to harbor sin in our heart; it should be confessed.
In our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, it was God and God alone who takes complete responsibility by providing us with the faith – solely through His grace – to believe on His Son and the work He did on the Cross. He deservedly receives all the praise and thanksgiving for breaking us from the bondage of sin and taking (dragging maybe!) us to Calvary. He alone is fully responsible for this ‘union’ between Himself and the believer.
However, there is also a ‘communion’ between God and the believer, and that is our responsibility. How we commune with God falls on our shoulders. He leaves the choice up to each believer. Proper communing with God takes place as we obey Him, trust Him, grow in Him, follow Him, worship Him, adore Him, glorify Him, and a part of all those things is the confession of our sin to Him.
We do the latter to remain in the light of His precious Son. If we choose to keep our sin unconfessed, we walk away from the light and into darkness. No, we don’t lose our salvation; that remains a free gift form God that He never takes away! “[B]ut the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b KJV). How can eternal life be anything else but eternal? It cannot be lost, forfeited, or sinned away, for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance“[or irrevocable] (Romans 11:29 KJV). Eternal life once given is an everlasting gift.
But when we ignore His commandments, we do at our own peril. (John 8:12 (KJV) “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Confessing sin is also a great expression of humility and to be humble before God is EXACTLY where we should want to be. James 4:6 (KJV) says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” However, many Christians gloss over sin. We are either too busy to acknowledge it, think we are too good to do so (too prideful), or we blame our circumstances, environment, or the people around us. John MacArthur says, “We are extremely prone to avoid confessing sin, and thus we fail to glorify God.”
That should never be our position before our God and Savior; we should figuratively dress ourselves in sackcloth and ashes when we find ourselves in this position. So then, is it so hard to believe that while we are in the position of having known unconfessed sin, that He may choose to turn a deaf ear as His word says?
Then there are times when we are simply asking for the wrong things, or for the wrong reasons:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3, KJV)
Sometimes we ask sincerely, and in faith, but it is simply not God’s will: “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, KJV)
Think about this: If God were only to answer the prayers of those who were perfectly clean, and without any unconfessed sin, there would probably be no prayers answered.
Paul indicates in 1 corinthians 4:1-5 that we are not capable of judging ourselves, and that this will only be done by our Lord, when He returns.
But if we persist in willfully practicing sins which we know to be wrong, or have known unconfessed sin in our lives, then we certainly have no right to expect our prayers to be answered.
But remember this as well: If the answers to our prayers were dependent on our worthiness, then we would never have any prayer answered. Prayer should be our way of communicating to God that we are sinful, needy, people, in desperate need of divine intervention and blessed forgiveness. Prayer must never be based on our righteousness, but on His mercy and grace alone.
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. “ (Luke 18:9-14, KJV)
Finally, there is a message to all born-again husbands:
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, KJV)
For those of us men who are not honoring our wives as Scripture indicates we should (Ephesians 5:22-33 for just one example), if we find our prayers not being answered, this may be exactly the reason why. If this is you, then confess that sin before the Lord and before your wife. He will be honored, He will be glorified, your wife will be honored and blessed, and you will be forgiven; slate cleaned and once again, waking in the light of Christ.
And as always, to God alone be the glory!