While reading Ezekiel 14.1-11 this morning, my eyes were opened to some subtle reasons for which our prayers would never be heard.
The elders of Israel approach Ezekiel for a word from Yahweh (Hebrew for “the Lord”). Presumably, a state of crisis or deep concern for Israel’s fate prompted this uncharacteristic act. Instead of welcoming the advance however, Yahweh sends them packing with words of judgement and rejection.
At first glance, the scenario is at odds with Matthew 7.7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” The issue at hand is subtle to naked eye, but of greatest concern to God.
God doesn’t answer people that do not seek from a pure heart. These guys were inquiring of many sources, amongst which Yahweh was just another option. At the core, they preferred their idols over Yahweh.
The subtle problem, of greatest concern and application to us, is that the elders did not realize their insincerity. In their mind, they were still Yahweh’s people. They thought rather piously of themselves for inquiring of Yahweh. So what if they inquired elsewhere as well? So what if their preferences lie elsewhere? In their minds, you could have God without excluding anything else in the world.
The greatest hindrance to spiritual formation in our context is adding without subtracting. Until we embrace Jesus’ path of losing before gaining, and dying before living, we’re kidding ourselves if we think God is listening to our prayers.