Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. Proverbs 21:13
Enemies of prayer V: Hardness of heart
The cry of the poor may seem distant. In western nations it is ‘a problem in far-off countries’. In pleasant middle-class suburbs it is ‘a problem on the other side of the tracks’. But however far away the cry of the poor is, it reaches all our ears. If this were not so then God could never ask us to get involved. The question is not whether we are aware of the poor, but what we have done about it. Everyone has a responsibility before God to keep a compassionate heart. It is all too easy to dismiss the cry of the poor. We might say, “They should do more to help themselves”, or, “If we give to organisations that collect for the poor, only a small amount will actually get to them”. There may well be some truth in this, but if it leads us to inaction then we will have become guilty of hardening our hearts. The result is that God will do the same to us. God sees the human race as a family; He can see the way one member of the family is disadvantaged. We might see the matter very differently – perhaps as the fault of big business or bad government. But God is not asking us to solve the world’s problems; He is asking us to attend to the state of our hearts. He is asking us to have compassion for the poor. We might not solve the world’s problems, but we will certainly open up our hearts to God’s influence in our lives. Once that influence is flowing, it is surprising how God widens the flow, and where we once felt negative about the whole process of giving to the poor, we now see God’s hand opening a door for us to be involved in His work. Part of that work will be the sense that God’s heart and ears are open to our prayers, and there is nothing more wonderful than to feel that we have caught God’s attention.
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