The God Who Hears His People
“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”- Proverbs 15:29
In this era of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it is quite common to find friends and acquaintances using these tools to ask for prayer, to offer prayer, or to share posts that say something like “I believe prayer works; click if you agree.” Often, those who use social media for such purposes are well-intentioned, and we do not want to deny that the Lord can use such avenues to rally His people to come before His throne. However, the fact that such things are such a common sight online can indicate a significant misunderstanding of prayer and God’s willingness to hear it. When even non-Christians or people of no religious affiliation whatsoever start promising to offer prayers in our behalf, we know that they are operating under false assumptions about our Creator and those to whom He listens.
Proverbs 15:29 disabuses us of any notion that the prayers offered by those who do not know the Lord are effectual. In this wise saying, we learn that God hears only the prayers “of the righteous.” This does not mean that the Lord is unaware of the petitions offered up to Him by unrighteous people; rather, “hear” in this context means something like “pays attention to” or “answers.” God only answers the prayers of righteous people, who in the book of Proverbs are those in a right covenant relationship to the Lord. The author is not saying that our Creator only answers the prayers of perfect people—although in light of the new covenant, we know that the Holy Spirit perfects our prayers even as “Jesus Christ the righteous” intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26–27; Heb. 7:25; 1 John 2:1). Instead, the author is speaking of those who have been set apart unto the Lord and are being conformed to His image.
On the other hand, “the Lord is far from the wicked” (Prov. 15:29). Here, the wicked are those who are not in a right covenant relationship to God. Wicked people reject the Lord revealed in Scripture as the only true God, though often such individuals appear to be upstanding citizens. The Lord is far from such people, not in a spatial sense but in the sense of blessing and fellowship. God does not hear—answer—the prayers of such people because they are not His children, for they have rejected the adoption that can be theirs only in Christ (John 1:12–13). Matthew Henry comments regarding the wicked that God “does not manifest himself to them, has no communion with them, will not hear them, will not help them, no, not in the time of their need.” The Lord hates the worship—including the prayers—of all those who are outside of Christ (Prov. 15:8).
God answers the prayer of salvation, when sinners who are not yet part of His family trust in Christ. He does not answer this prayer based on the merits of those who pray it; rather, He answers it because He regenerates those who call on Him before they call on Him. He initiates the prayer and then responds to it. He answers the prayer based on His own righteousness, for that is the only way human beings, who are wicked by nature since the fall of Adam, can be saved.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 7:14
1 Peter 3:8–12