“The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29)
This verse in Proverbs, as well as many other passages in God’s Word, make it clear to the unrighteous or the wicked that his prayer will not be heard (i.e. accepted) by God. The unrighteous does not have a right relationship with God; he is spiritually separated from God (i.e. spiritually dead) because of his sins, and God does not accept his prayers: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2). The only prayers accepted from an ungodly are the prayers made in the context of seeking God’s Righteousness, i.e. when the ungodly seeks justification by God’s Grace and asks for things in that context (i.e. he repents). The prayers of repentance are the only prayers accepted by God from the ungodly, with all what is related to repentance. Note that in this latter case, the prayers of the wicked are not accepted for any merit in him, i.e. not because he is good in himself, but because of the Righteousness of Christ which he seeks.
And the promise of God is that He will always hear and answer the prayer of the righteous, i.e. the prayer of those who have the Righteousness of Christ by faith and do not rely on their own righteousness. Christ is the only righteous by Nature, and He is the only one whose prayer can be accepted for His own merits. We are righteous in Christ, and our prayer is accepted in Him, in His Name, for His merit, because of His Righteousness. That’s why the Lord said that we are to pray or ask in His Name, and the Apostle Paul said that the Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray according to God’s Will: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14); “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
So the only prayers accepted by God are those that are made on the basis of Christ’s Righteousness, either the prayers of the ungodly who seek God’s Righteousness, or the prayers of the godly who also rely on God’s Righteousness alone. Of course, God is Sovereign, and He may even use the prayer of an unrighteous man (which is an abomination to Him per Proverbs 15:8) in order to accomplish His eternal Purpose, but this doesn’t mean that He accepts the prayer of the wicked. The wicked or the self-righteous may think in this case that his prayer was answered, and he may even use this seeming answer to his prayer as a “proof” that God is with him and/or with his beliefs, but in fact God is just accomplishing His Purpose and/or answering the prayer of a righteous concerning the same matter, and He is using the abomination of the wicked to His Glory and to do something good at the end, yet without being responsible of that abomination, as He clearly says that He does not accept that abomination.
Before I close this article, I want to make a short comment about what it means to pray in the Name of Christ. God is Omnipotent, and He is able to answer our prayers sovereignly, and not according to the personal limited wishes of the person who prays. Actually, prayer doesn’t change the mind or the Will of God, but it makes the person who prays willingly participate in the accomplishment of God’s Will, something which the wicked or the unbeliever cannot do, and therefore his prayers are not heard (i.e. not accepted) by God. When you come to God with selfish ambitions and desires, you do not really come to Him. As I said, this is why the Bible says that God accepts ONLY the prayer of the righteous and He is far from the wicked (cf. Proverbs 15:29). The contents of our prayers are not a surprise for God, but He had those prayers already in His Purpose. In other words, God already had in His plan that such and such righteous will pray, and that He (God) will answer those prayers. It pleased God to make the righteous participate in this way in His eternal Purpose. And this is why we pray, although God knows what we will ask for, because a righteous man in Christ fulfills the Will of God by the Spirit, not because he resolves in the flesh to do so, but because that is the natural thing the Spirit makes us do. Like breathing is natural in biological life, prayer is natural in spiritual life. Note that even the believer, when he resolves by the flesh to pray and makes plans to do so, without following the principles about prayer explained in the Bible (i.e. without doing it by the Spirit), he will experience a regression in his prayer practice; we have seen(*) that even the believer cannot do the Will of God by the flesh. God has given us His Spirit so that we may fulfill His Will by the Spirit. The righteous in Christ does the Will of God not as a heavy duty, but as his greatest desire, his only purpose in life! So doing the Will of God concerning prayer flows like a natural river from the well of the Spirit which is in him (see John 4:14). God uses those prayers which He Himself causes in the believers to fulfill His eternal purpose: “for it is God who works in you both the willing and the working according to [his] good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) So when a righteous man in Christ prays, he is fulfilling the eternal Purpose of God; by our prayers God does what He will do; He uses our prayers to His Glory like everything in the life of the righteous. We know that all humans are sinners, and only Jesus is Righteous, so God only hears the prayer of the one who seeks or has Christ’s Righteousness. That’s why the Lord Jesus said that we should pray in His Name. The Name of Jesus means all who He is. In other terms, when you say “in the Name of Jesus”, you are not using a magical expression that would make God listen to you whatever you “command” Him, but you are representing that you want only what the Will of God is in a particular matter, and that you are ready to submit to His Will even if it doesn’t please your flesh. When you come to God in prayer in the Name of Jesus, you are declaring that you ask only what Jesus would ask; you come as Jesus. That’s why the condition of an answered prayer is expressed by two expressions that mean the same thing: “in My name” (John 16:24; John 14:13, etc.) and “according to His will” (1 John 5:14). All true prayers should be done in Christ’s Name, i.e. according to God’s Will and Plan of Salvation. In other terms, prayer and the answer of prayer are included in God’s Plan of Salvation. If God were not Omnipotent or the God who SAVES, then no prayer would be answered, because an impotent god who cannot save and who is not Sovereign cannot answer prayers. Thus the Bible makes it clear that prayer should be addressed ONLY to God who can SAVE: “Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations. They have no knowledge that carry the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Declare and bring [them] near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath caused this to be heard from ancient time? [who] hath declared it long ago? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour, there is none besides me.” (Isaiah 45:20-21); “And with the remainder thereof he maketh a god, his graven image; he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god.” (Isaiah 44:17).
It is very dangerous to use the Name of Jesus as a magical formula. That’s a disrespect to the Glorious Name. And because the judgment of God does not fall today on blasphemers immediately, many false prophets today use that blessed Name and claim to do miracles in that Name… Their condemnation is just.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ