Proverbs 28:9 (ESV)
If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.
This is a tough proverb to hear. Can you imagine your prayers making God sick to his stomach? In the Old Testament book of Amos, God is rebuking His people for their utter disregard for justice. It’s a difficult passage to wrestle with and brings a stark reality onto clear focus:
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” Amos 5:21-23
Think about this passage the next time you are in church and the congregation is singing praise & worship songs. Imagine the God of Heaven on his throne looking down upon your gathering and commanding all of you to shut up! As you collect the tithes and offerings, He refuses to accept them! Sadly, most of us gravely underestimate the demands of God’s holiness. Thankfully, our iniquity is completely overpowered and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, but God’s abundant grace is no excuse for our lack of holiness (Rom 5:20).
When anyone – Christian or not – turns a deaf ear to the commands of God, their prayers can become offensive to Him. Think of it this way – If your teenager repeatedly disobeys you and then comes to you asking for special privileges, don’t you find that offensive? Don’t you find yourself thinking, “You have got a lot of nerve!” A teenager is old enough to know better. They have heard and understood your clear requirements but sometimes choose to turn a deaf ear to them. We can all be just like that when it comes to God’s instructions.
Jesus reserved his harshest rebukes…not for the garden-variety sinners he encountered as he traveled the roads of 1stcentury Israel…but for the big-mouthed, hypocritical religious leaders of the day. They knew the law but corrupted it. They prayed publicly, loudly, and proudly… yet it was the submissive prayer of a lowly and contrite sinner that Jesus applauded. We all must consider these truths the next time we offer up our prayers to God.