28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
It seems like everyone is praying these days. You have probably seen this yourself: a tragedy occurs that makes the headlines. It is posted about on social media, and instantly people respond with encouraging words that they are sending “thoughts and prayers,” “positive thoughts,” and “good vibes.”
It does not stop there. Politicians bite their lower lips and bow their heads for the cameras during solemn moments. Celebrities make public comments about praying, and that their hearts go out for victims, or to “stand with the people” of an affected group. “Hashtags” are promoted, and profile pictures are with the meaningful colors that commemorate those affected.
Deseret News, sharing recent National Day of Prayer statistics, reports that more than 6 in 10 Americans claim that they pray, and 85% claim some sort of “spiritual practice” which involves some form of prayer, meditation, or other ritual communication.
In more recent news, there is even an “A.I. Jesus” online from which over 35,000 people “have sought divine intervention.” Some things simply defy words.
But does God hear all of these prayers? Does God hear your prayers? The answer can be found in a couplet of proverbs near the end of chapter 15:
28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.–Proverbs 15:28
Verses 28 and 29 are connected in their contrast between “the wicked” and “the righteous.” The righteous person “studies” before he answers, or speaks. This does not mean, of course, that all who study or think before they answer are righteous. However, all who are righteous, will pause, think, and sometimes pray before giving an answer–especially when wisdom is needed.
Commentator Bruce Waltke describes the tone of this proverb:
The proverb assumes that the righteous have the self-control not to react emotionally but to think before they answer, unlike the wicked, who only want to vent their malice.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
The hot-headedness of a wicked fool will drive them to speak before thinking through their answer–or the consequences of what their rash words will do to the hearer.
Which is the better witness for Christ? The man who gathers his thoughts and perhaps says a silent prayer before venting to offer advice to a hurting brother, or someone who harshly tells him to “get over it,” or that he “deserves the trouble he is getting?”
Even worse, the wicked man that Solomon is describing doubtless enjoys the pain he is causing with his mocking words, or evil advice.
It never fails that when one of the aforementioned tragedies hits the headlines and makes the rounds of social media, there is no shortage of evil that flows in the form of terrible comments and laughter–even some who should know better.
The combination of isolation, self-indulgence, and anonymity can make the internet a wasteland of wicked words. There is much good to be found online, but man’s sinful nature has quickly polluted another God-given gift to humanity in his corruption of the most prolific form of communication ever devised.
Solomon has now set the stage for the next proverb:
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.–Proverbs 15:29
The wicked, by nature, are far from God. God, by His nature, cannot even abide the presence of sin, and hates the wicked:
4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood;
The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.–Psalm 5:4-6
For those who rebel against God, love the darkness, and do not walk in Him, there will be only destruction. God, throughout scripture, calls on His people to turn from their sins and be restored unto Him:
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.–II Chronicles 7:14-15
Jesus, who comes to die for the sins of the world, proclaims this throughout His earthly ministry:
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.–John 15:2
This restoration and pruning, then is the hope of the believer. For as James writes:
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.–James 5:15b
God works His wonders through the efforts of His righteous servants. Elijah was often a reluctant, and even fearful prophet, but he remained faithful to the Lord, and by his prayers, God showed His mighty works:
36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”–I Kings 18:36-37
Are you now beginning to see? Those in this world who live in open rebellion to the One who has created them, established His law, and provided a Redeemer in His only begotten Son, will not have their prayers heard by Him.
So many in this world walk in darkness, taking nervous comfort in believing that they are “spiritual but not religious,” or even sitting in pews daydreaming about their own self-importance–and their prayers do not go as far as the ceiling of the church.
The thing is, God would not hear ANY of the prayers that you or I whisper or wail if it were not for the awesome, completed work of the Son. Jesus’s life of humiliation here on earth, and obedience to death–even death on a cross–has paid for the bandwidth that carries our prayers to the Father.
Fiery, 19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote rousing volumes on the sheer wonder of prayer by the blood-purchased believer:
And if the Church be determined to-day to lift up her heart in prayer for the conversion of men, it is because God determined from before all worlds that men should be converted; your feeble prayer to-day, believer, can fly to heaven, and awake the echoes of the slumbering decrees of God. Every time you speak to God, your voice resounds beyond the limits of time…
Do you know that your prayers “resound beyond the limits of time?” Spurgeon goes on in his jolly zeal:
Prayer is a decree escaped out of the prison of obscurity, and come to life and liberty among men. Pray, brother, pray, for when God inspires you, your prayer is as potent as the decrees of God. As his decrees bind the universe with spell and make the suns obedient to him – as every letter of his decree is as a nail, pinning together the pillars of the universe, so are your prayers, they are pivots on which earth rests; they are the wheels on which providence resolves; your prayer are like God’s decrees, struggling to be born, and to become incarnate like their Lord.
God hears the prayers of his children, bought by the blood of His only begotten Son, and He must act - for Jesus’ sake! You pray, and pray, and finally when they have reached their maximum and the Lord has waited, He acts in His glory at His appointed time:
God will, God must answer the prayers of his Church. Methinks I can see in vision in the clouds, God’s register, on which he puts the prayers of his Church. One after another they have been deposited; he has cast none of them away, and consumed none of them in the fire but he has put them on his file, and smiled as the heap accumulated; and when it shall reach a certain mark which he has set and appointed in his good pleasure, and the last number of the prayer shall be completed, and the blood of Christ shall have bedewed the whole, then will Eternal speak, and it shall be done; he shall command and it shall stand fast.
Does the knowledge of this not set your soul on fire to pray? It kindled the prayers of the great reformer, John Knox. The Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, is reputed to have said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.”
Knox was a man who “feared no one” and it was only because he was a man of prayer. He is famous for crying out in his passion for the lost souls of his people: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”
The great Irish saint Columbanus, in similar confidence, stood against the darkness of this world without fear because of the assurance he had through the prayers that he laid before his Heavenly Father:
Alone with none but you, my God I journey on my way; what need I fear when you are near, O Lord of night and day? More secure am I within your hand than if a multitude did round me stand.–St. Columba
Jesus makes possible God hearing your prayers, for He intercedes for you each and every day before the Father. You may be far from perfect, and struggle in your righteousness, but when you rely on the righteousness of the true High Priest, your prayers are mingled with His as they meet the ears of your beloved Father.
With knowledge such as this, how can you and I not pray? Lift your voice to your Father in Heaven, for He longs to hear you. We are thankful that His perfect blessed Son is the Great High Priest, and the Father has heard His prayers. Christian artist Michael Card captures this so well in his song, “He Was Heard:”
So let us fix our eyes upon
The priest whom God did hear
For the joy that was before Him
He overcame the fear
Oh, once and all He paid the cost
Enduring all the shame
Taking up the cruel cross
Ignoring all the pain
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.