Psalm 80:4 (ESV)
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!
Psalm 80 – A Psalm asking God to restore Israel in the face of punishment from God for her sins.
People in hard straits will, quite often, agree to anything. People being tortured will confess to things they never did, for the sake of alleviating their suffering.
The nation of Israel is under the hard hand of God’s anger and Asaph pleads for her to God. And He asks God in verse 4 – “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?” They call out to God but God refuses to hear them. Their motives are wrong, their hearts are wrong. They do not pray with a desire for the glory of God. Their prayers are selfish.
Is God ever angry with your prayers? Is He ever refusing to answer because of our motivations in our prayers, our selfishness in why we ask Him to intercede in our lives, our self centeredness? Are we like the torture victim who will admit to things that are not true for the sake of escaping his suffering? Will we make promises to God that do not reflect the truth of our hearts? Will we admit to sins that we have no real intention of turning from once the crisis is over? Do we use prayer simply as a tool to get what we want, make ourselves appear holy, give ourselves comfort? Do we ask things of God while hiding sins that we have no intention of giving up? God sees through it all and He will neither honour such prayers nor answer them.
And we should be glad that He won’t. God wants better for us than the temporal requests we sometimes make of Him . He works for our eternal welfare and becoming the go boy for unrepentant sinners simply because they treat God like some kind of sugar daddy will hardy prove Him to be the glorious God that He is.
Later on in this Psalm Asaph writes “But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we will not turn back from you; give us life and we will call upon your name.” This is a clear reference to Christ. Without Jesus and the life that comes through Him, we will not be able to turn away from sin. It is the sins of Israel that have gotten them into the situation of judgement that they are in and no amount of law keeping will fix the problem. They need a permanent solution.
That those of us who have Christ can come to God in prayer with less than godly motives, just as the people of the Old Covenant did is a shameful thing. We have the Holy Spirit in us because of the work of Jesus for us. God will lose none of all that He gives the Son. The mark of being in the Son is that we do not turn away from God. No more selfish, hidden agenda, hypocritical, insincere praying. We have Christ. The proof of it will be lives that do not turn away from God. He will see to it by the power of His grace. To live in sin is to declare that we do not have the grace that keeps us from turning away from God.