“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” Psalm 66:18
I wonder if you can relate with what I’m about to ask. Have you ever felt as if your prayers were going unheard? Did it ever seem as if your prayers were not getting through to God? I imagine you and I both have felt like this from time to time, wondering if He is even listening. For sure, there are times in life when God seems to be silent, and I’ve always wondered at this. “Is He really silent, or it that only what I’m perceiving?”
And then I came across Psalm 66:18. And it stopped me dead in my tracks.
If I’m understanding this verse accurately, God is telling us that cherished sin in our lives results in His willingness to refrain from listening to our prayers. Let that one sink in for a moment. I’ve always heard that sin separates us from God, but never had I imagined that this is what that would look like – Him actively choosing to not listen to my prayers. Notice that this is not talking about the sin that we stumble into while trying to flee from the temptation. This specifically calls out “cherished sin.” What is that?
The word “cherish” means to hold or treat as dear; to feel love for; to care for tenderly; to nurture; to cling to fondly. There is a distinct difference between clinging fondly to and resisting and fleeing from. This idea of cherished sin implies that the deceptive nature of sin has deceived us into desiring it despite its negative effects on us. Sin distorts and corrupts, not only our souls, but also our minds and desires. When we feast on sin, we begin to crave that which harms and ultimately destroys us. When we continue to make “provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14), we’re just around the corner from cherished sin.
Over these past few months, I’ve found myself frequenting an old favorite Bible study book of mine on prayer called “Praying God’s Word.” This book teaches you how to infuse Scripture into your prayers in order to overcome spiritual strongholds. As I’ve repeatedly exposed myself to the light and truth of God’s Word through this study, it’s always only a matter of time before the sin in my own life surfaces. My eyes have been opened to the deceitful nature of the enemy and sin and how they corrupt the heart and its desires. Even more so, I’m beginning to understand the weight of consequence that follows cherished and unconfessed sin. I’m not sure there is a greater consequence than for God to remove Himself from me and to willingly choose to not listen to my prayers, but this is exactly what He tells us to expect when we choose sin over righteousness.
When was the last time you were convicted of personal sin? Did you confess it or bury it? In your times of prayer, how often do you find yourself in confession? Has sin become such a habit in your life that you’ve begun to cherish it and the pleasure it brings? Are you ready today to let go of any cherished sin that is hindering your prayers from being heard and answered? Be encouraged in remembering that our confession is met with His forgiveness…every time. (1 John 1:9) When we confess, even sins that we’ve cherished, He readily and faithfully forgives.