Does God hear every prayer? Yes – but that doesn’t mean he grants every request!
2 Chronicles, chapters 6-7; Psalm 135; Romans, chapter 4
So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy – a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
Most Christians are familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. In fact, that verse was the theme for the National Day of Prayer in 2022. I’ve preached on it; I’m sure I even wrote a reflection on it (before my blog was on Patheos). The typical focus is on our approach to God:
However, another part of this passage caught my attention today: My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. God promises to watch and listen as his people pray in this place.
What does that mean? It confirms what God said earlier in the passage: I have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. That means that God established the Temple as his “dwelling place,” just as Solomon had prayed (2 Chronicles 6:20): “May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place.”
But God didn’t just commit to hearing Solomon’s prayers; he promised that his ears would be attentive to every prayer made in this place. That promise established for Israel that the Temple would be a place where they could always come to pray – a place where God had promised to hear them.
As the passage continues, God warns Solomon that if he and his descendants disobeyed God, God would “reject this Temple that I have made holy” (v 20). God then said: “And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them” (1 Chronicles 7:21-22).
And as we know, that’s exactly what happened. In spite of God’s promises, they abandoned God and turned to idols. And God did what he had warned them he would do.
Two applications stand out in my mind. First, as I read the promise that God would be attentive to every prayer made in this place, I thought about the destruction of the Temple. It happened when the Babylonians conquered Jersualem and carried the Jews off into exile. It also happened when the Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70, just as Jesus had predicted (Matthew 24:1-2). So what now? Has God stopped listening to prayers?
No! But he has also not stopped allowing people to experience the consequences of disobedience and rebellion. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, in the end there are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” If people continue to reject God and worship other gods, God allows them to experience the results of those choices. But if God’s people humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven.
The second application deals with the identification of Jesus as the “new Temple” for the people of God. Solomon’s Temple (and Herod’s reconstruction of it) may still lie in ruins, but Jesus has opened a new and living way for us into God’s presence.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest, who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Hebrews 10:19-22a, NLT).
That’s why Jesus encourages us to pray in his name!
Father, thank you for reminding us that you listen to every prayer “made in this place.” That does not mean the Temple, which no longer stands, but in Jesus’ name. He has opened a new and living way for us into your presence, and he invites us to come before you to make our prayers known. What a blessing to know that you hear our prayers!
Thank you for also reminding us to never take that privilege for granted. If we humble ourselves, seek your face, and turn from our sin, you will hear us and respond. However, if we rebel against you and turn to other gods, we will reap the consequences of that rebellion. As the psalmist prayed, “You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands” (Psalm 119:73). Amen.
Written by: OchriO