It is so simple to misrepresent God. It is so easy to substitute our concerns for God's concerns. It is so simple to defend our conclusion instead of learning more about God's nature and purposes.

As always on Sunday evenings, we will look at scripture and let the text speak to us. May God help us have open minds and soft hearts so we all listen to scripture instead of listening to our past conditioning. May we all let God direct our thinking instead of past sincere convictions directing our thinking.

As we study directly from the text, we will study from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. First, we will examine 1 Kings 8 by looking at Solomon's prayer of dedication for the new temple he built. Then we will look in John 9 at the healing of the man born blind.

  1. Please open your Bibles to 1 Kings 8 and note some specifics about Solomon's prayer of dedication.
    1. Context:
      1. The building of the first Jewish temple was completed and the ark of the covenant was placed in the holy of holies by the priests and Levites (1 Kings 8:4).
      2. It was a time of festival so a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was made to keep a national holy feast. The result: the men of Israel were in the city (1 Kings 8:2).
      3. Solomon assembled the nation's elders, the leaders of tribes, and the leaders of families (clans) for the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:1).
      4. When the transfer from King David's holy tent to temple was complete, a cloud filled the temple: the cloud represented the glory of God [this was God's act of acceptance of the temple] (1 Kings 8:10,11).
      5. First, Solomon faced the temple and pronounced a blessing upon the structure (1 Kings 8:12,13).
      6. Second, Solomon faced the assembly and pronounced an blessing on the Lord (1 Kings 8:14,15).
      7. Solomon's prayer of dedication began in 1 Kings 8:22.
    2. There are some specific things I ask you to notice.
      1. First, Solomon declares the primary function of the temple to be a place of prayer. [Does that increase understanding of Jesus' anger in Mark 12:15-18 when he said God's house was a house of prayer, but they made it a den of robbers?]
        1. Solomon stands before the Lord with his hands spread toward heaven.
        2. He asks God to hear Israel's prayers and forgive them when they pray toward that place (1 Kings 8:30).
      2. Second, I want you to notice the limitations of the first temple.
        1. Verse 27--it is inadequate to contain God.
        2. Verse 30--while the presence of God is in this temple, God's place to live is in heaven.
        3. However, even with its limitations, listen to the prayers that are directed toward this place.
      3. Third, I want you to notice the request to hear prayers included people who were not Israelites. Note verses 1 Kings 8:41-43:
        Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name's sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm); when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.
        1. Note the reason the person who is not Jewish has come is for the sake of God's great name.
        2. Note the reason that God is asked to answer the prayer is to cause others to understand God's name is great--it is primarily about advancing or spreading God's greatness!
      4. God not only heard the prayers of people who were not Israelites, He answered them! And Solomon asked Him to do so!

  2. Now turn with me to John 9.
    1. The situation:
      1. Jesus and the disciples passed a man born blind.
      2. The disciples asked Jesus if the man had sinned or his parents had sinned.
        1. Physical defects were often considered as evidence of sin.
        2. The defect was a punishment for the sin.
      3. Jesus said neither sinned, but this happened to display God's works.
      4. Then Jesus healed the man's blindness.
      5. A serious controversy arose among the neighbors who saw the blind man begging. The controversy: "Who is this seeing man?"
        1. Jesus healed the man on a Sabbath day.
        2. Thus the situation was reported to the Pharisees.
        3. The Pharisees asked the man to explain how he got his sight back, and he told them.
        4. They asked him, "Who do you think this man is?" ["Who" in the sense of whether he was from God or not.]
        5. He replied, "He is a prophet" [God's spokesman].
      6. The Pharisees did not believe the healed man, so they asked his parents.
        1. The Pharisees asked, "Is this your son? If so, how can he see?
        2. The parents replied, "This is our son, but we do not know how he sees."
          1. "He is old enough to answer for himself, so ask him."
          2. They were afraid.
      7. A second time they called the healed man in to be interviewed and demanded that he give God credit for what happened because his healer was a sinner.
        1. He said, "I do not know if he is a sinner or not; all I know is that I was blind and now I see."
        2. They asked, "How did he give you your sight back?"
        3. He said, "I told you once, why do you want me to tell you again? Do you want to be his disciple?"
      8. With that answer the situation became very ugly.
        1. They begin to verbally abuse the healed man and to declare he is his healer's disciple, but they are Moses' disciples.
        2. They know God spoke to Moses, but they know nothing about the man's healer.
        3. The healed man responded, "That is amazing! He healed me, and you do not know the origin of this man!"
        4. Then the healed man made this statement in verses John 9:31-33:
          We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing."
      9. Think about this statement:
        1. Who made it? The man healed from his blindness.
        2. What was he doing? Stating the obvious.
        3. What was the obvious? A person does not have the power to heal a blind person unless God gives the healer the power.
        4. Was this a commentary on God hearing prayers? No.
        5. What was it? A commentary on Jesus' identity as a person from God made by a person who did not even know who Jesus was (see verses 35-39).

  3. Look at Acts 10.
    1. Cornelius, who is not a Jew, is praying to God as he frequently does.
      1. He is a devout man who reverences God (with his household), who gave alms to Jewish people, and who prayed to God continually.
      2. He was praying at 3 in the afternoon when an angel appeared to him and made this statement:
        Acts 10:4 "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God."
      3. What did Cornelius understand that statement to mean? Scripture tells us the meaning of this statement to Cornelius.
        1. Later he told Peter what that statement meant when he explained why he, a person who was not a Jew nor a Christian, send for Peter who was both a Jew and a Christian.
          Acts 10:30,31 Cornelius said, "Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, and he *said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'"
        2. We can engage in lots of discussion, but the bottom line from scripture is this:
          1. God listened to the prayers of a person who was not a Christian.
          2. God listened to those prayers before the person became a Christian.

  4. Is there ever a time when God will not listen?
    1. Absolutely!
      1. God does not hear when the prayer asks God to serve the purposes of evil rather than the purposes of righteousness.
      2. Is the basic issue who makes the request? No.
      3. The basic issue is serving righteousness as God's purposes are sought.
    2. Listen to a very frightening statement.
      Isaiah 59:1,2 Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
      1. Note to whom this statement was made: to people who were God's chosen people.
      2. Note their position did not provide them the privilege of practicing evil.
      3. In their willing evil behavior, they separated themselves from God, and God stopped hearing their prayers.

Remember: a condition God places on hearing our prayers is this: we must be concerned about godliness, not evil, when we ask.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 July 2003

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