The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
–1 Peter 3:12
When James 5:17 says Elijah was an example of a righteous man, the apostle was referring to Elijah’s judicial righteousness. Elijah was in a right standing with God because of his faith in God’s forgiveness. But the term “righteousness” in the Bible sometimes refers to ethical righteousness, or practical righteousness. This is the way we act after we’re saved. Judicial righteousness refers to our right standing before God. Ethical righteousness refers to our right acting before God.
A prerequisite for answered prayer is obedience to God’s commands. Make no mistake: God hears and answers the prayers of those who obey Him, and He turns away from the prayers of those who disobey Him. In 1 Peter 3:11, God says, “Turn away from evil and do good.” Verse 12 says, “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” I love the story of the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor and author. Peale said when he was young, he experimented with smoking a cigar, something his father had forbidden. One day, young Norman was behind the house puffing away on the cigar when his father approached him from a distance. Norman hid the cigar behind his back. As his father neared him, Norman tried to distract him by pointing to a billboard advertising a circus that was coming to town. He said, “Hey, Dad! Look at that billboard! Could we go to the circus together?” The father looked at Norman and said, “Son, I’ve learned never to petition your father while holding smoldering disobedience in your hand.” That’s a good rule for all of us when we’re trying to petition our heavenly Father. Smoldering disobedience to God’s will and powerful praying don’t mix.
One reason people don’t experience answers to their prayers is because of disobedience in their life. Now, when I talk about ethical righteousness, I am not talking about perfection. That’s impossible for any of us. Ethical practical righteousness involves two things. First of all, it involves the primary desire of our life. Somebody who is truly righteous has made pleasing God the focus of his life. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 Paul said, “We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” Second, practical righteousness refers to the primary direction of our life. Are we moving toward God or away from God? God doesn’t judge us by single events in our lives, but He does judge us by the general direction of our lives. Is the trajectory of your life moving toward God or away from God? Can you honestly say your greatest desire is to please God, or are you cherishing some secret sin in your life that you think will make you happy? Are you moving closer to God or are you moving further away from God? Those who experience powerful answers to their prayers are those who are in a right relationship with God through faith and obedience.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Practice the Principles of Powerful Praying” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.