Prayer Barriers: Sin

Daily Devotion | Day 297

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12, ESV).

The past few days we have highlighted three barriers to prayer (unforgiveness, doubt and dishonoring one’s wife). Today, we will look at a fourth barrier: sin in general. Sin is the enemy of man and an obstacle to fellowship with the Father. Righteousness, however, is the essence of the Gospel and of Christian witness. Righteousness is the only life acceptable to our Father. This explains why Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead to justify us and empower us to live righteously (Romans 5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christianity without righteousness is a dead religion.

Answered prayer brings joy, and this is what the Father wants for us. Listen to Jesus: “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Fullness of joy is the Father’s will for us. And answered prayer promotes joy. This is why the Scriptures take pains to warn us about obstacles to our prayer. In today’s opening passage, Peter has an important message for Christians concerning this subject. He is quoting Psalm 34:15. Let’s dive into the passage.

In the passage, Peter talks about two classes of people, the righteous and the unrighteous. Righteous people are those who do what is pleasing to God. Unrighteous people are those who do what displeases God (for more on this, see 1 John 3:4-10). Peter then tells us how God deals with the two different groups. Speaking of the first group, Peter says, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” This needs little explanation. God looks upon righteous people with affection and He is fully open to answer their prayer. God’s eyes are pure (see Habakkuk 1:13). As a result, He looks upon righteous people with affectionate gaze.

The prayer of the righteous rises before God unhindered. In this context, you can understand why David prayed, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2, NKJV. See Revelation 5:8; 8:3). Likewise, you can understand what the angel told Cornelius (who wasn’t a Christian yet), “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).

Concerning the second group, Peter writes, “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Remember, Peter is writing to Christians like us about prayer. He wants us to know that committing sin or doing evil is a barrier to prayer. God’s face is against those who do evil. In other words, a person’s lifestyle can determine the outcome of his/her prayer. Put simply, behavior impacts prayer.

Prayer is worship. It is an offering. It is a sacrifice. For God to accept it, it must be offered in a righteous vessel. God has never been in the business of accepting unclean sacrifices. That is why He doesn’t answer the prayers of those who do evil. Listen to the testimony of the man born blind: “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9:31). He was correct.

God answers the prayer of sinners at the point where they repent and forsake sin  (see Luke 18:13-14; also Acts 3:19 and 2 Corinthians 7:9-10). 

If sin is an obstacle to you, there’s good news for you. Repent and turn to Jesus in righteousness.

For further study:  John 5:1-14 and Isaiah 1:1-20; 59:1-4

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