If God would hear your prayer, then He must hear your praise!

We are familiar with Psalm 66:18: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." We need to understand it in its context. Often, this verse makes us question whether God hears our prayers; however, the following verses show that the psalmist had assurance that God heard his prayer because he was not one who cherished sin in his heart. The main emphasis of this psalm is the need to give praise to God. In fact, 14 different ways to praise God are mentioned in this psalm. We can be assured that if God would hear our prayer, then He must hear our praise.

Praise God for His Wondrous Deeds (Psalm 66:1-15)

In verses 1-4, the psalmist praises God for His dominion. This keeps with the theme of the psalms preceding and following this one. (See Psalm 65:5-8 and Psalm 67:2-7.) The psalmist calls on all creation to acknowledge God’s dominion, while he anticipates a coming day when God will assert His dominion and make it known everywhere.

In verses 5-9, the psalmist praises God for His deliverance. This is the first of two invitations to “come”. The psalmist is not satisfied with just retelling what God has done; he is inviting Israel to see for themselves. The wording here would have reminded Israel of their deliverance from Egypt and their passing into the promised land (two times when God parted the waters). By remembering what God had done for His people in the past, Israel would be assured of God's protection and strength as they feared Him; and those who would rebel against Him should reconsider any attempt to put themselves before God.

In verses 10-15, the psalmist praises God for His difficulties. The passage is clear that God is the sovereign instigator of these difficulties. God has permitted trials that would purify them by breaking them down, as silver is heated until it is broken apart and impurities can be removed. In the midst of trials, it is harder to praise God; but there is simplicity on the other side of complexity. Like when working on a difficult math problem, we can know the final answer, but we must show our work to arrive there. James 1:2-4 tells us to "count" or "consider" our trials to be "joy" because God is using them to develop perseverance and maturity in us.

Praise God for His Listening Ear (Psalm 66:16-20)

The first point the Psalmist makes is that God listens, but on His terms (verses 16-19). Those who cherish sin in their hearts (in verse 18) are coming to God on their own terms. The God Who is to be praised for His Wondrous Deeds – His dominion, His deliverance, and even His difficulties – should not be relegated to the role of “lucky rabbit’s foot” when times get tough. He is a holy God Who demands total devotion. The psalmist worships God on His terms (verses 13-15). He was in distress, came to the Lord and made a vow, then fulfilled those vows of worship.

In addition requiring complete devotion, God’s ability to answer prayers is to be shared with others, not kept to one’s self. The psalmist transitions from a general "come and see" God's wondrous works to a more personal “come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul” (verse 16).

The Psalmist uses a specific term for God in verse 18: "the Lord." The word he chooses is a title for one’s master. When we pray to God, we pray to the one who has dominion over all the earth, who is sovereign over all creation, over all peoples, and over all circumstances. As such, God wants our lifestyle and our values to reflect Him as the ruler of our lives.

God also listens with loyal love (verse 20). If verse 19 was not enough to assure Israel that God hears the prayers of the righteous, verse 20 affirms that God “has not turned away my prayer.” This word for "lovingkindness" is used throughout the Psalms and the Old Testament. It is a love that is steadfast and faithful.

When we read Psalm 66:18 and are reminded that our prayers can be hindered when we treasure sin, let’s also remember that God wants to hear more than just our confession and requests. God wants to hear our praise!

Application Points

  • Wherever we are in the midst of trials, we must remember that God using them to refine us. What should "showing your work" look like in your current trial?
  • Remember that in the refining process, the silver must heated until it is broken apart. Maybe the circumstances that we are trying so hard to keep together – our sense of comfort, that everything is ok – needs to be broken apart so that we are left with who we really are before God. As God uses trials to change you, trust Him and persevere so that what will be left is a purified, refined Christian.
  • When you come to church, do you gather together to remind one another to praise God? When many things threaten to divide us and show how different we are, we must rejoice in God together and love one another. Do you tell your spiritual family what God has done in your life? Do you listen to what He is doing in theirs?
  • Do you praise God verbally so others can hear? Here are a few ways you could do this:
    • Thank God for your lunch at school or at work in a public setting, and people will see you.
    • Let your family, both biological and spiritual, hear you pray and praise God. Give yourself the opportunity to hear them pray and praise God.
    • Be ready to share the hope that you have in Christ Jesus.
  • Some obstacles to praise in our life are ones we are able to control. The psalmist was not spiritually paralyzed by the difficulties of verses 10-13. What do you allow your mind to dwell on that detracts from praise to God? What consumes your attention? Is praising God crowded out by the worries and cares of this world? These last few months have only further emphasized how vital it is to be in God’s Word and to be with God’s people.
  • As God has been refining us, what is left? When your comforts and your preferences, even your finances and health are taken away, what is left? What is God showing you about yourself and your ability to praise Him? If you are finding an inability to consider your trials as joy, perhaps you need to ask if you are born again.

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: "For the Beauty of the Earth"

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r,
Sun and moon, and stars of light,

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,