Proverbs 15:29 - How Shall We Then Pray?

Proverbs: Real Wisdom for Real Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:17
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If someone had come to me five years ago and told me that someday millionaire real-estate mogul and reality TV host Donald Trump would be calling for all Americans to pray to God for our country, I would have gently taken them by the hand and led them to a psych ward before they had a chance to hurt themselves!
We are a people accustomed to hyperbole in this country—we love to overstate things for the sake of dramatic effect. But this is one of those rare times in our national life where it really is not an overstatement to say that the coronavirus pandemic we are currently living in is one of the most critical and consequential moments in our nation’s 244-year history. And the seriousness of this outbreak was illustrated a few weeks ago by President Trump’s declaration of a National Day of Prayer.
As some historians have pointed out, the custom of calling for a day of prayer during times of national crisis has a long and distinguished history in the United States. During the tension and political turmoil with England in the days leading up to the American War for Independence, the Continental Congress recognized “the present critical, alarming, and calamitous state of these Colonies,” and declared July 20, 1775, as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer:
That we may with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbly beseeching Him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments with which we are threatened... (Bouton, Nathaniel (June 12, 1775). Provincial and State Papers. p. 545. "Proclamation for a day of Fasting and Prayer")
It’s interesting to compare that proclamation from 245 years ago to the one that the President issued on March 14th:
As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help… As one Nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.  May God bless each of you, and may God bless the United States of America.
( Retrieved 03/19/2020, 2:27pm)
Now, what’s the difference between those two calls to prayer? One is a call to ask for God’s “help” in bearing our nation’s burdens, and the other one is a desperate cry for repentance and confession. One prayer says, “Hey God, we pretty much got this, but if You could give us a hand, we’d be mighty grateful!”, and the other says, “God, we have sinned! Forgive us and rescue us!”
This is the way that the Bible instructs us to pray in times of national crisis—not merely to ask for Him to “assist” us, but pleading with Him to forgive us! In 2 Chronicles 7, we read the story of King Solomon’s dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. After he had completed all of the work and the Temple was finished, the LORD appeared to Solomon and spoke to him about the role that the Temple would play in His dealings with His people in times of calamity and national hardship
2 Chronicles 7:13–14 ESV
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
As we saw a few weeks ago in Proverbs 16, God is in complete control of everything in this world—good and evil both are under His control. And make no mistake: Just as God spoke to Solomon about “sending pestilence among His people” in 2 Chronicles 7, we are living in a time when it is God Himself who is sending this pandemic into our nation. And the answer to that calamity in Solomon’s day—and the answer to the calamity that is befalling us here in March 2020—is for us to humble ourselves in prayer—not boast about how “we are greater than the hardships we face”. What God’s Word tells us is that we must not call on God for help unless we turn away from the wickedness that we have been pursuing. What we need to understand is that
If we ignore God’s Word, He will ignore our words.
If we are to turn to God as a nation to ask for Him to deliver us from this pestilence,

I. We must not rely on our own spirituality (Prov. 15:29)

Look at Proverbs 15:29 again:
Proverbs 15:29 ESV
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Even though earlier in Chapter 15 Solomon writes
Proverbs 15:3 ESV
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
—even though God sees and knows and is present everywhere, He is far away from the wicked. He will not come near to hear what they have to say, He will not tolerate their presence for a moment. Look down at verse 8 of Proverbs 15:
Proverbs 15:8 ESV
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
The word “abomination” there carries the idea of something so disgusting, so revolting, that you reflexively shy away from it. That’s what God thinks of your sacrifices, your attempts to “be a good person”.
Our sacrifices only disgust God (Prov. 15:8)
Isaiah 64:6 says that all our righteous deeds are like a “polluted garment”—the literal translation of that phrase would be to say that our righteous deeds are like a used feminine hygiene product—so revolting and disgusting that it stretches the bounds of polite conversation to say it out loud.
We cannot come to God in prayer as a nation on the basis of our own spirituality. Proverbs 28:9 says
Proverbs 28:9 ESV
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
We have been turning our ears as a nation away from hearing God’s Word for decades—we have turned a deaf ear to His commands about marriage and sexuality, insisting that “In the beginning He created them male and female” is a silly myth that is beneath our notice, we have scoffed at His warnings, turned the phrase “sinful” into a description of a sugary dessert and turned the word “Hell” into a way to spice up our vocabulary. If we will not listen to God’s Word as a nation, why should He listen to us?
Isaiah 1:15 says
Isaiah 1:15 ESV
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Our nation has soaked itself in the blood of 50 million unborn babies—if we raise those blood-soaked hands to Him in prayer for relief from this pestilence, why should He not hide His eyes from us? A statement has been making the rounds on social media that captures the situation perfectly: If the coronavirus forces Planned Parenthood to close down for just two weeks, then the virus will have saved more lives than it has taken! How can the same people who only months ago went wild with jubilation over legalizing abortion up to the moment of birth now come and ask God to deliver them from this virus? Our nation’s sacrifices and prayers and religious expressions of devotion while we continue filling our hands with the blood of innocent children disgusts and enrages Almighty God. And not just during this crisis, but every day.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1 about people who ignore God’s Word:
Romans 1:28–32 ESV
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Our sacrifices only disgust God—He is far from our wickedness. We do not deserve for Him to hear us, we do not deserve for Him to deliver us. The only thing we deserve from God is death.
The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. There is only one way to be righteous before God—only one way to have the mountain of our nation’s rebellion removed, only one way to drain the ocean of innocent blood we have shed—and that is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Because
Only Christ’s sacrifice satisfies God (1 John 4:10)
The Scripture tells us in 1 John 4:
1 John 4:10 ESV
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, make no mistake right now—the only thing that is shielding the United States of America from total annihilation by the wrath of God is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The word “propitiation” means “a sacrifice that takes away wrath”—Jesus death on the Cross satisfied the wrath of God against our sin. And in Romans chapter 2 Paul warns that unrepentant people are storing up wrath for themselves by continuing to ignore the forgiveness of sins purchased by Jesus on the Cross:
Romans 2:3–5 ESV
Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The only escape we have from the suffering that we are in as a nation right now—the only hope that God will hear from heaven and heal our land is for us to repent of our sins and call on the Name of Jesus Christ for salvation! There is no salvation without a Savior, and there is no Savior apart from Jesus Christ! As long as we raise up in prayer hands stained with the blood of the innocent, as long as we insist on God attending to our words in prayer while we scoff at His Word, as long as we think that we can blithely call on Him to “give us a hand until this thing blows over”, we are damning ourselves as a nation—we are “storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
If we are to come before God as a nation and call on Him to deliver us from this pandemic, we must not rely on our own spirituality—The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. It is only as we come to Him in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ that He will hear our prayers. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved! (Acts 4:12). If we want God to hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land,

III. We must repent of our own sinfulness (Prov. 28:13)

And it is important to note, when we talk about repentance, that we make it plain that we are repenting of our own sins. C. S. Lewis makes a very good point in his essay, “Dangers of National Repentance” that
The first and fatal charm of national repentance is… the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.” (Lewis, C. S. (2014b). God In the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics [Kindle]. Loc. 3104)
In other words, if we spend all our time “repenting” of other people’s sins, we are only indulging in our own sense of spiritual superiority—like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable that we read earlier: “I thank you, God, that I am not like that abortionist over there!” Lewis warns us that when we say ‘Let us repent of our national sins’ that we don’t really mean “Let us attribute to our neighbor… whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.” (ibid., Loc. 3112). When it comes to the besetting sins of our neighbors, we must plead with God to grant them repentance—but we cannot (and must not pretend) to “repent” in their place.
We are called to a much stricter (and as Lewis says, much more bitter task) of repenting for our own sins during this time. To do what the Continental Congress besought the Colonies to do in 1775, “to unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events”.
If we want to obtain mercy for ourselves and our nation during this pestilence, we must hear the words that Solomon writes in Proverbs 28:13:
Proverbs 28:13 ESV
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
What does repentance look like in this verse? First, we are warned that “whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper.” So
Don’t try to conceal your sin
Don’t try to justify your behavior, don’t try to explain it away or shift the blame to someone else; don’t try to “spin” your bitterness or make room for your lust, don’t try to insist that lying to your wife or refusing to discipline your children or joining in with the blasphemous jokes at work are harmless lapses in judgment. God already sees all of it, and He already sees the heart that your behavior came out of. Do you really think you can convince Him that He didn’t see what He saw?
Don’t conceal your sin—instead
Confess the truth about your sin
The word confess in English (and in Biblical language) includes the idea of saying the same thing as someone else. When you confess your sins to God, you are to agree with God as to the nature of your sin. And as we have seen, what is God’s opinion of your sin? He is revolted by it—He hates it, He is disgusted by your sin! Confessing sin means learning to be as disgusted by it as your Heavenly Father is—He doesn’t sweep it under the rug, He doesn’t look the other way, He doesn’t shrug His shoulders and say, “Nobody’s perfect!” He hates your sin as only a loving Father can hate the cancer that threatens to destroy His child. He hates your sin far more than you can understand, because your sin is what sent His Son to the most brutal death ever devised by evil men.
So agree with God about the nature of your sin—ask Him to help you see your sin through His eyes so that you will not be tempted to cherish it or protect it or toy with it. Learn to say the same thing about your sin that God says—that it is an abomination that you want to get as far away from as possible!
Repentance for sin means not trying to conceal it, but confessing the truth about it—learning to hate it the way God does. And third, repentance means that you
Forsake your sin
“Whoever confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy”
The next time you see that temptation coming—the next time that lie you’ve told a thousand times gets ready to roll off your tongue, the next time you feel like scrolling through the wrong neighborhood on the internet, the next time your stomach begins to churn with the bitterness of a grudge that you’ve cherished against your fellow church member for years, the next time you allow your anxieties and fears to convince you that God is a liar and He is abandoning you—stop in your tracks and say (out loud if you have to) “No!” “No—I will not let that same old sin back into my heart!” Admit before God that you have no strength to withstand that temptation on your own, pray to Him to help you and trust that He will answer—pray in the words of His promise in Psalm 50:15
Psalm 50:15 ESV
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Trust His promise, forsake that sin, and then praise Him for breaking your bondage to that sin through the power of the New Birth in Jesus Christ!
Because when you cry out in repentance for your own sinfulness, when you don’t try to conceal your sin but confess it and forsake it, you will
Find mercy from God through Jesus Christ
When you come in repentance and cry out to God to confess your sins, you find in Jesus Christ the deepest oceans of mercy to wash away every last stain of guilt and shame! God the Son in human flesh, the only truly Righteous Man ever to live on this earth was Himself ignored by His Father as He suffered on the Cross, crying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) The righteous One’s cries were ignored so that your cry of repentance could be heard! 1 Peter 2:24 tells us
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
And Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus’ righteous prayers did not go unanswered forever:
Hebrews 5:7 ESV
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
The righteous prayers and supplications of God the Son were heard so that you would be saved from the wrath of God stored up against you for your sin! And when you come to Him and cry out in repentance and faith, confessing your sin and forsaking it and clinging to Jesus for your forgiveness—that is the way to “humble yourself, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from your wicked ways”!
What our nation needs in this hour is not a coronavirus vaccine, it is not a government stimulus check, it is not social distancing or more ventilators or additional testing or quantitative easing or mortgage rebates or two weeks of hot weather! We cannot pretend that we have this all under control—we cannot continue the fiction that says that all we need is just a few more weeks of voluntary quarantine and this will all blow over! Make no mistake, this pestilence has come from God Himself, and the only way it will relent is if He puts a stop to it!
Our nation is struggling in the grip of fear—the kind of fear that only a guilty people can experience. And the only way to be free of that fear is to be free of that guilt. And the only way to be free of that guilt is to forsake our sin and turn to the One who paid the penalty for our transgressions by absorbing the wrath of Almighty God on the Cross. So pray, Christian—pray that God will grant us and our nation the gift of repentance in this desolate hour! Pray that as a people we will call on the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved—that we will cry out to God in the name of our only Savior, Jesus Christ!
1 Peter 5:10–11 ESV
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.


What answers do most people think God gives to everyone’s prayers? Who does Proverbs say that God listens to?
What do you think about the statement, “God does not hear everyone’s prayers”? How does Proverbs help you understand why this is true?
What does it mean to be careful when we try to confess the sins of our nation? In what ways can we identify with our nation’s sinfulness? In what ways is it wrong to try to “confess” someone else’s sin?
Think about the sins in your life that you tend to try to justify to yourself. How does considering the price Jesus paid for your sin on the Cross help you “agree with” God about the nature of your sin?
Luke 8:17 says, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light”. How does this verse help you understand why it is impossible to conceal your sinful attitudes from God?
Take some time this week to examine your heart in light of Proverbs 15:29 and Proverbs 28:13. Spend time asking God to help you see your sin through His eyes, and pray that He would grant our nation repentance to call for salvation in the Name of Jesus Christ!
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