Meditation on Psalm 66

Kevin J Youngblood

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened.

19 But truly God has listened;

he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

20 Blessed be God,

because he has not rejected my prayer

or removed his steadfast love from me!

Psalm 66:18-20 alerts us to a serious impediment to our prayers – cherishing iniquity in our hearts. When we hold on to secret sins, allowing them to compete with God for our affections, we drive a wedge between ourselves and God that makes prayer difficult. This verse reminds me of an old debate I remembered hearing growing up in church. It centered on the question of whether God hears a sinner’s prayers. Some insisted that he does not, others argued just as forcefully that he does. Various biblical texts were marshalled in defense of each position.
Having debated the issue back and forth in my own mind for some time now, I have come to the conclusion that whether God hears a sinner’s prayers depends primarily on what the sinner requests. If we begin every prayer by offering our hearts to God for inspection, if we bring ourselves under divine scrutiny, we show that we take sin seriously and wish to remove every trace of it from our hearts and minds. I need to begin all of my prayers by requesting that God perform the spiritual equivalent of an MRI or a CT scan. I want to be made aware of those sins I have been ignoring, hiding, or covering up. I am certain that such a prayer God always hears and responds to by shining the light of his holiness into the dark recesses of my mind, disclosing old resentments, grudges, lusts, and envies that have been retarding my spiritual growth and interfering with true intimacy with God.
Once these are identified, I must name them and own them (i.e. confess them). This means I must come of out of the denial that has blinded me to these faults and accept God’s assessment of my spiritual condition as true. I then must commit myself to repentance. This does not mean that these sins will suddenly disappear, lose all their power over me, and never trouble me again. Rather this means that I commit to waging war against them, that I join the Spirit’s jihad of putting to death the deeds of the body. Upon completing this exercise in prayer one of two things will likely happen. I may feel free to proceed to make whatever petitions called me to prayer to begin with, or, more likely, God will have completely transformed the agenda of my prayer. I may not even remember what I meant to ask as it now seems inconsequential in the light of the more serious matters that God has brought to my attention. Either way, prayer ends in a delightful deepening of communion with God, a fresh sense of being cleansed and renewed for the day’s struggle to conform to the perfect likeness of Christ.

Search me and know me. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be anything offensive to you in my heart. Then lead me in the way everlasting. Forgive me for rushing into prayer with my own agenda, blind to my own faults and sins that are interfering with true intimacy with you. Forgive me for treating prayer like ordering from a menu, reducing you to the genie in the bottle as if you existed simply to grant my wishes. Call me back to the kind of praying that seeks nothing but you, that seeks you first and foremost trusting that all my other needs will be met if I simply seek your kingdom first.

In Jesus’ name,