How many Christians have been kept from prayer by this intimidating word in the Psalms?…
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 (ESV)
Answer: a lot. I’ll bet many Christians have been kept from prayer because of their understanding of this warning, but consider this insight from Tim Keller in his message on Hebrews 7:
“It says, for example, in Psalm 66, ‘If I cherish iniquity in my heart, he will not hear me.’ Good night! Then why should he hear anybody? We’re all cherishing iniquity in our hearts, so that’s the end of that.”
The enemy of our souls takes Psalm 66 and twisting it, fools us into believing we need a perfect conscience – yes, even a guiltless life – in order to pray.
And our prayer life dies.
But what if when I came to pray, God wasn’t looking at what I was cherishing in my heart, but at what Jesus was cherishing in His heart? That is, what if He really represented me as my advocate before the Father, and what if He did this, not just on judgment day, but on every day, at every moment? Wouldn’t that be glorious?
Well, it’s true:
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)
Do you long to draw near to God? Here’s good news: Jesus is your advocate before the Father, and He is always interceding for you. And this is powerful – just knowing that the Father is listening because Jesus is interceding for you – well, it almost makes you want to stop cherishing sin in your heart, doesn’t it?
So let me close by paraphrasing the immortal words of Pete Townshend of The Who…
Get on your knees and pray. And don’t be fooled again.