The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
I have heard it said that God has no pleasure in the prayer of sinners. I believe that that statement is altogether apart from the truth as it is in Jesus. It would be an ill day for us indeed if it were even partially true, that God has no ready heart for the cry of the penitent. Provided there be a desire to have the sin put away, we can come with our defilement fresh and hideous upon us, for the fountain is opened for sin and for uncleanness. What, then, is the meaning of these strong terms? It is the knell of those who make pretence of prayer, who come with blood-stained hands, and offer sacrifice with hearts that are neither cleansed nor wish for cleansing. It is the sacrifice of Cain that God abhors, a matter of self-glorifying, rather than of supplication. It is the offering of Korah lie rejects, for it is not according to His command. It is the sacrifice that Saul presents that is a stench to His nostrils, for it is not in accordance with His instructions. Is not this perfectly understandable? Who is willing to accept feigned praise, or presents from his enemies?
I. GOD DELIGHTS TO HEAR THE UPRIGHT PRAY. I think the prayer of the upright is here put in contradistinction to the sacrifice of the wicked. The wicked man may go to great pains to provide something more than a prayer. It may have even cost him something considerable. But he has not attended to the main matter; his heart goes not with the sacrifice. On the other hand, here is an upright man, who, perhaps, has no opportunity for offering special gifts. He comes with a sigh, and ere it reaches heaven it is transformed into a song. Now, why does the Lord take such pleasure in the mere prayer of the upright?
1. Because it is a sign of life. It may be a feeble token, but it is an indication that there is life to some extent in that poor, distressed one. The prayer of the upright is God's delight, for He says within Himself, "My child still lives; his spiritual pulse is beating, his lungs are working, for his prayer ascends into My holy temple."
2. Moreover, the prayer of the upright is an indication of health. It does not content us, that we merely live: we want to be lively as well as living; may I say we want to be all alive? Therefore is the prayer of the upright God's delight. He Sees that His little ones are buoyant, hearty, and healthful. This is to Him as the sparkling eye and the rosy cheek of health, and He is glad within Himself when He sees His offspring rejoicing in fulness of vigour.
3. Moreover, prayer is a proof of confidence. We all like to be trusted.
4. Again, prayer is a token of gratitude. I think I hear Him saying, "Yonder needy suppliant is glad of the blessing that I gave him yesterday, for he is at My feet again. He appreciates My delivering power m the past, for he is calling for mercy still. I will multiply to bless him." God is glad thus to treat all believing hearts.
5. I think God delights in our prayer because He sees how beneficial it is to us to pray. Apart from the joy it gives His own heart, He is well aware that it brings joy to our hearts.
6. Moreover, I must not have you suppose that I do not believe that prayer moves the arm of God. I am persuaded that it touches His heart, stirs Him to action, and causes Him to stretch forth His saving hand. If I add to the fact that prayer is a relief to my own mind the equally certain fact that it gives God pleasure to hear me pray, I am by no means positive that that would keep me praying if I had no other assurance. "The prayer of the upright is His delight," and that should be another stimulus to constant intercession.
II. DO YOU NOT THINK THAT GOD DELIGHTS IN THE PRAYER ITSELF? "The prayer of the upright is His delight." There is something about the prayer of the upright that-particularly rejoices His heart.
1. The prayer of the upright is a humble prayer. It is as the snowdrops of the spring-time, or as the violet of the early summer. There is something about it so pleasing that God looks on it with great delight. It does not hold up its head like the glaring poppy of the cornfield, or as the sunflower that seems to invite attention. It is like the prayer of the Publican rather than that of the self-admiring Pharisee.
2. The prayer of the upright is earnest. It is pointed; it does not deal with generalities, but with details. It is marked "Urgent."
3. Especially is it the faith of the prayer that pleases God. Faith brings the promises as so many cheques for God to cash. The prayer of faith seems to say, by its very tone, "Lord, do as Thou hast said; remember Thy word to Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused him to hope."
4. The prayers that God delights in are full of the spirit of resignation. Faith and submission should go hand in hand.
5. And He is particularly glad when He sees the name of Jesus upon the prayer. How gladly does He recognise the aroma of Christ's merit and the fragrance of His death! Prayers presented by you in Jesus' name and then presented by Jesus Christ Himself in your name must give our God great joy.
III. THE LORD DELIGHTS TO ANSWER PRAYER. Even with Him it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. He delights in your prayer even when He keeps you waiting, for He will send the answer just when you most require it. It would not be well to have it earlier.
Parallel VersesKJV: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.