READ: Psalm 128, Zechariah 7, Matthew 10, 1 Timothy 5
Christians tend to talk to God too much and listen too little. When an Arabic conversation starts to get away from me, I stop listening (trying to understand) and start talking. When we talk, we tend to dominate the conversation. Sadly, prayer can be twisted from an expression of dependency to a means of control. We attempt to manipulate God by our whining–and call that prayer. While God is gracious to listen to our petitions, prayer delights Him only if it expresses dependence (not demands) and a willingness to listen more than chatter, and if it is accompanied by obedience. Zechariah informs the exiles (who were diligent to fast every fifth and seventh month for 70 years; that is 140 months of discipline) that all that effort was in vain because they did not carefully listen and obey (Zech. 7:11).
The problem with not listening to God is that He stops listening to us. Zechariah 7:13 explains: “’Therefore it happened that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” We have been deluded into thinking God is waiting for our prayer petitions no matter how we treat Him. We err when we suppose we can disobey and ignore the voice of the Spirit and then run to the Lord when we need help. A diminished view of God emphasizes His patience over His majestic authority. God does not loiter around waiting to serve us. We dare not thing we can continually insult Him with our disobedience and then expect Him to answer our summons–or even our pleas. Not listening to God has the tragic consequence of Him not listening to us. Yes, God is merciful and compassionate, full of grace and abounding in love. But He can also be insulted and offended. We cannot treat the Lord of Hosts disrespectfully and expect Him to listen to us.
There is a confession, however, that God listens to very attentively. When we confess Him before men, He confesses us before the Father (Matt. 10:32). When we obey and honor Jesus, He answers our prayers. Obedience becomes our most powerful prayer. When we obey Jesus and represent Him with honor before men, Jesus advocates to the Father: “I know this one. Intervene on his or her behalf!” The confession of Jesus before men is not a confession of who that man wants Jesus to be; it is a confession of who Jesus is in all His glory. When I confess before Muslims that Jesus is very God of very God, that He died on a cross, atoned for my sin, rose from the dead, is King over all peoples, and is coming back in glory, then Jesus turns to the Father and says, “Answer his prayers. He is one of ours.” But when I don’t confess who Jesus is, when I mitigate or dilute or veil or cover who Jesus is in order to not be embarrassed or offensive, then Jesus turns to the Father and sadly says, “Ignore His prayer. He neither knows me nor I him” (v. 33).