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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 66:18



If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

Adam Clarke Commentary

If I regard iniquity in my heart - "If I have seen (ראיתי raithi ) iniquity in my heart," if I have known it was there, and encouraged it; if I pretended to be what I was not; if I loved iniquity, while I professed to pray and be sorry for my sin; the Lord, אדני Adonai, my Prop, Stay, and Supporter, would not have heard, and I should have been left without help or support.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

If I regard iniquity in my heart - literally, “If I have seen iniquity in my heart.” That is, If I have indulged in a purpose of iniquity; if I have had a wicked end in view; if I have not been willing to forsake all sin; if I have cherished a purpose of pollution or wrong. The meaning is not literally, If I have “seen” any iniquity in my heart - for no one can look into his own heart, and not see that it is defiled by sin; but, If I have cherished it in my soul; if I have gloated over past sins; if I am purposing to commit sin again; if I am not willing to abandon all sin, and to be holy.

The Lord will not hear me - That is, He will not regard and answer my prayer. The idea is, that in order that prayer may be heard, there must be a purpose to forsake all forms of sin. This is a great and most important principle in regard to prayer. The same principle is affirmed or implied in Psalm 18:41; Psalm 34:15; Proverbs 1:28; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 15:1-9; Jeremiah 11:11; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:13; John 9:31. It is also especially stated in Isaiah 58:3-7. The principle is applicable

(a) to secret purposes of sin; to sinful desires, corrupt passions. and evil propensities;

(b) to acts of sin in individuals, as when a man is pursuing a business founded on fraud, dishonesty, oppression, and wrong;

(c) to public acts of sin, as when a people fast and pray Isaiah 58:1-14, and yet hold their fellow-men in bondage; or enact and maintain unjust and unrighteous laws; or uphold the acts of wicked rulers; or countenance and support by law that which is contrary to the law of God; and

(d) to the feelings of an awakened and trembling sinner when he is professedly seeking salvation.

If there is still the love of evil in his heart; if he has some cherished purpose of iniquity which he is not willing to abandon; if there is any one sin, however small or unimportant it may seem to be, which he is not willing to forsake, he cannot hope that God will hear his prayer; he may be assured that he will not. All prayer, to be acceptable to God, must be connected with a purpose to forsake all sin.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 66:18

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.

The petitions of the insincere unavailing

I. Consider what is implied in regarding iniquity in the heart. The words do not point to open, profane and scandalous sinners. But there are many who maintain a fair character before men, who, before God, shall be found wanting indeed. They are deceiving themselves, and say they have peace when they have none really. But--

1. These regard iniquity in their hearts who secretly practise it, fearing the world, but not God. They forget Jeremiah 23:24.

2. Who indulge the desire of sin though they may be restrained from the actual commission of it. Many do this in regard to impurity, sensuality and malice. But see the words of our Lord (Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 5:21-22). And--

3. They who reflect upon past sins with delight, or without sincere humiliation of mind. Perhaps our real disposition, both towards sin and duty, may be as certainly discovered by the state of our minds after, as in the trine of action. For sudden temptation may sweep a man away; but the question which determines what the man is, is what are his thoughts and feelings in regard to his sin afterwards (Job 13:26; Psalms 25:7).

4. Those who look upon the sins of others with approbation or without grief. Not as in Psalms 119:136; Psalms 119:158; Jeremiah 13:17; 2 Peter 2:7-8. Some there are who find mirth in other’s sins (Proverbs 14:9). And--

5. They are to be suspected who are loth to bring themselves to real searching of heart, or that God should try them (Psalms 19:12). Now, all such do more or less regard iniquity in their hearts. But--

II. God will not hear them. This means--

1. When they cry for deliverance from affliction. God does hear the cry of His children (Psalms 91:15; Psalms 50:15). There are three different objects of desire to a good man while in affliction--the Divine presence to support him under it; the sanctified use of it for the improvement of the spiritual life; and, in due time, complete deliverance from it. The two first, he that regards iniquity in his heart will hardly ask; and the last he shall not be able to obtain (Hosea 7:14).

2. He will not hear them when they intercede for others (John 9:31). It is the prayer of the believing righteous man that availeth (James 5:15-16). How terrible not to be able to intercede for others because we are of those whom God will not hear. How diligent we should be, who have to pray for others, to see to it that we walk with God.

3. When they draw near to Him in worship (Isaiah 1:14-15; Proverbs 15:8). Nor--

4. When they cry for mercy at the last (Galatians 6:7; Matthew 7:22-23; Proverbs 1:24; Proverbs 1:28).


1. Let the ungodly be alarmed: it only regarding iniquity in the heart cause men to be rejected of God, how shall you appear who are living in open and gross sin?

2. Let us each and all examine ourselves whether we be of those spoken of here. Do we mourn over secret sins, and grieve because of the sin of others? Ask God to search and try your ways. Guard against your besetting sins and live continually as in the presence of God. (J. Witherspoon.)

The evil of regarding iniquity in the heart

I. A supposition stated. When may it be said that iniquity is regarded in the heart?

1. When it is permitted to reign in the life.

2. When we offer apologies for its existence.

3. When we evince no solicitude for its destruction.

4. When we make provision for its desires.

II. A consequence deduced. “The Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:19-20). This supposes--

1. That prayer may be offered to God, even when iniquity is regarded in the heart.. Sinners pray when they are in trouble; Pharaoh confessed his sin (Exodus 9:27-28); the Pharisee stood and prayed in the temple, but his language evinced the pride and haughtiness of his heart.

2. That where iniquity is regarded in the heart, the prayer is unacceptable to God.

3. That the man whose prayer God will not hear is in a most pitiable state.


1. How utterly impossible it is to deceive God (2 Chronicles 16:9).

2. That there may be a fair show of religious profession, even where iniquity is regarded in the heart.

3. That the most effectual way to secure success in our prayers, is to hate iniquity and put away our sin, and beseech God to prove us, etc.

4. That if God has not answered our prayers, we should be solicitous to know the cause, and find out the hindrance. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

When God will be found

There is a great deal of praying that is merely a form, and of the lips only. And a great deal that is “abomination to the Lord,” because the heart is not right. God wile not hear prayer that does not fulfil the conditions of prayer. They are--

I. Obedience. So long as I knowingly refuse obedience, no amount or vehemence of prayer will avail. I must lift up “clean” hands, or He will turn away in righteous anger.

II. Wholeheartedness. They that seek Him with “the whole heart “ will find Him. None other. God is a jealous God. Therefore halfheartedness will find no favour with Him. How often does God find it necessary to try His people and keep them waiting, till their hearts wax warm and in dead earnest, and their whole being goes out to Him in prayer.

III. A cleansed heart. See the text. An evil heart--of unbelief, of cherished sin, of impure desire, of malice, envy, worldliness--may spoil all our prayers and make them a very snare and a cursing. Oh, it is a fearful thing to come before God in prayer By our very prayers we shall be judged, both now and at the day of judgment. What wonder, then, that so many prayers are unanswered? (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)

Prayer answered only when offered in sincerity

I. What it is for a man to regard sin in his heart.

1. It is to have a constant and habitual love of it. This true of all the unregenerate. It is born with him and he loves it (Ephesians 5:29).

2. An unmortified habit or course of sin. Even a child of God may have this: David had (Psalms 38:5).

3. An actual retention of the mind upon sin.

II. What it is to have our prayers accepted with God. It is to prevail with God for the obtaining of what we desire.

III. How it is that such regard of sin hinders our prayers.

1. Because in such case we cannot pray by the Spirit, and no other prayers find answer.

2. We cannot pray in faith.

3. Nor with fervour

IV. Application. Let all seek when they pray to have sincere hearts, free from hypocrisy and the love of sin. For otherwise our prayers cannot prosper, and, moreover, we incur the danger of a heavy curse (Genesis 27:12). Therefore, before prayer, let us examine ourselves. This, if anything, will clear the coast. Sift yourselves by examining as Satan does by tempting. (R. South, D.D.)

The hindrances to acceptable prayer

I. The blessing designed--that the Lord will hear us. This supposes--

1. That our prayer be rightly endorsed and presented, which can only be through the atonement of Christ. True, when men, like Balaam, are set on their iniquity, God will at times let them have their way. But the text speaks of a right answer to a right prayer.

2. That our prayers are for permitted things.

II. The declared hindrance to prayer--“If I regard iniquity in my heart.” Now--

1. This is not sin in the life so much as in the heart which is contemplated. The blind man’s reasoning was right (John 9:31). And yet men will keep up the form of prayer though purposing to sin.

2. And it need not be some definite sin that is designed, but if the desires of the mind be turned to sin, then prayer is hindered.

III. The reason of this declared connection between sin and disregarded prayer. Because in such state of heart we cannot pray. We may recite words, but we cannot pray. Let us deal honestly with God in our prayers. (Daniel Moore, M. A.)

Prayer with iniquity in the heart

If iniquity is regarded in the heart--

I. Prayer must be insincere.

1. For the most part, when men engage in prayer, they ask those things for which they are taught to pray.

2. If they regard iniquity in their heart, they cannot be sincere.

3. For they cannot really desire such blessings.

II. Prayer must be faithless.

1. Without faith, there is no prayer.

2. Faith, if it exists, is one of many graces, and itself purifies.

3. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, we cannot have faith, and, therefore, God cannot hear us.

III. Prayer cannot be in accordance with the Divine will.

1. Supposing that the man who regards iniquity in his heart be sincere, his prayer must be for what, etc.

2. He must be rejected.

IV. God will show His displeasure by refusing to hear.

1. Supposing that the man, etc., is offering a prayer for promised blessings, and--

2. That he is sincere, yet--

3. God has a controversy with him.

V. The ends of which we seek the accomplishment, through the blessings asked, must be discountenanced by God.

1. The man asks what is right.

2. He asks sincerely. But--

3. He asks right things for an improper end. We plead the glory of God--the name of Christ. (J. Stewart.)

When may iniquity be said to be in the heart? -

I. There would be iniquity in the heart, in professing to be penitentially humbled on account of any course of action, with which we have had nothing to do, or that is right in itself.

II. There would be iniquity in the heart, if we committed ourselves to any enterprise, without consulting God’s will at the outset.

III. There would be iniquity in the heart, in imploring the Almighty to bless means essentially inadapted to the end.

IV. There would be iniquity in the heart, in supplicating the almighty to enable one class of his sinful creatures to inflict injuries upon another.

V. There would be iniquity in the heart, in entreating Him to bless any instrumentality which He has prohibited. If Christianity expresses the will of God, and if Christianity is embodied in the life of Christ, then war is prohibited. And to ask Him to bless it, is to ask Him to promote rebellion against Himself. (Homilist.)

Iniquity in the heart a hindrance to prayer

Is there any difficulty in seeing why the utterances of one that cherisheth sin can never be wafted thus on high? How comes it that we weak men can ever engage in a work so lofty, so hard, as prayer, a work requiring the putting forth of all the powers of mind and soul? Is it not because there is a Spirit who helpeth our infirmities? Shall His voice be heard from the chamber of a heart in which the love of sin reigns? Will He, the Spirit of purity, work with a heart which is the willing slave of corruption? Again. As the man who regards iniquity in his heart cannot pray in the strength of God the Holy Ghost, so he cannot pray in faith. It is only when our heart, honestly questioned, carefully examined by the rule of God’s commandment, does not condemn us, that we can have confidence towards God. As the Spirit will not inspire, nor faith give wings to the prayer of the lover of sin, so neither can the prayer of such have any glow of life. In such prayers there can be none of that “violence” to which-alone the kingdom of heaven will yield; none of that seeking, knocking, striving, without which we can never find, never have heaven open to us, never enter by the strait gate. A great teacher of the Early Church, one who by God’s grace was rescued from a sinful life, and was enabled when he was converted to strengthen his brethren, confessed that at one time he had been in the habit of praying against a foul sin, nursing all the while a secret hope that his prayer might not be granted. Let those whose first thought on hearing this is one of incredulous horror diligently ask themselves whether, were they as honest as he in the task of learning to know themselves, they would not have to fall under the same condemnation. “I dread to sacrifice to the gods with unwashed hands,” said a grand old heathen warrior, “nor is it comely to present my supplication besmeared with blood and strife.” Besmeared with blood and strife we surely are as often as we come into God’s presence by our bedside or in His House of Prayer with thoughts and deeds of cruelty, of pride, of selfishness, of meanness and unkindness unrepented of; unwashed our hands surely are when our spirits are defiled with the stains of sin which we do not loathe, and in which we acquiesce, instead of being unwilling to rest until they be blotted out. Forgiving, tranquil, pure must his breast be who would worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; he that would take upon him the name of Christ must see to it that his steps depart from iniquity; he that would pray aright must sift his heart ere he kneel, lest he offer the sacrifice of fools; he that would rise from addressing God and joyfully cry with the psalmist, “Blessed be God which hath not cast out my prayer, nor turned His mercy from me,” must first approach God’s awful presence with fear and trembling and a reverent heed that the hands which he lifts up be holy hands, that the heart whose desires his lips are to declare be one that regardeth not iniquity. (G. H. Whitaker, M. A.)

Psalms 67:1-7

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 66:18". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

If I regard iniquity in my heart,.... There was iniquity in his heart, as there is in every good man's heart, and a great deal too; it is full of it; and it should be regarded in some sense, so as to guard against it, and pray to be kept from it, that it may not break forth into action; and so as to loath it, abhor it, and be humbled for it; but not so as to nourish and cherish it, to take delight and pleasure in it: or "if I look upon it"F8אם ראיתי "si vidi", Pagninus, Montanus; "si aspexi", V. L. "si conspexi", Gejerus. , as it may be rendered; that is, with approbation of it, and satisfaction in it, and ordered his conversation according to it; or acted the deceitful and hypocritical part in prayer; or had any evil intention in his petitions, to consume on his lusts what he asked for;

the Lord will not hear me; for the Lord hears not sinners that delight in sin, and live in it; neither profane sinners nor hypocrites; see John 9:31.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

k If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]:

(k) If I delight in wickedness, God will not hear me, but if I confess it, he will receive me.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

If I regard iniquity in my heart — literally, “see iniquity with pleasure.”

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Iniquity — Any sin.

In heart — If my heart had been false to God, although I might have forborne outward acts. If I had been guilty of that, by heart was set upon sin, or I desired only that which I resolved in my heart to spend upon my lusts.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]:

Ver. 18. If l regard iniquity in my heart] If I have but a month’s mind to it, as we say; if I cast but a leering look towards it; if there be in me but an irresolution against it; how much more, then, if I allow it and wallow in it? He who chooseth to hold fast sin doth, by his own election, forsake mercy, Jonah 2:8, neither let such a man think that he shall receive anything at the hands of God, James 1:7. As in a wound, a plaster prevaileth not while the iron remaineth within; so neither prayer while sin rankleth. God will never accept a good motion from a bad mouth, as that State in story would not. A man may deliver an excellent speech, but, because of his stinking breath, we may have no pleasure to hear him; so in this case. Prayer as a pouring out of the heart, as hath been already, observed. If iniquity harbour there, prayer is obstructed, and if it do break out, it will have the scent and savour of that iniquity upon it, and thereby displease. Kimchi maketh this strange sense (quite from the purpose, and from the truth), If I regard iniquity only in my heart, so that I break not forth into outward act, God will not hear, i.e. so hear, as to impute it, or to account it a sin. Pharisaice.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

If I regard, Heb. if I have or had seen, or looked upon, to wit, with approbation and affection, as Job 31:26 Habakkuk 1:13. Men look upon what they like, and turn away their face from what they loathe or hate.

Iniquity; any sin whatsoever, and especially idolatry, which is oft expressed by this word, to which the Israelites were very prone, and to which they had most powerful temptations from the examples, and counsels, and promises, and threats of the idolaters, in whose land and power they had been. And so this is a purgation of themselves from that crime, somewhat like that Psalms 44:20,21, and in general from those gross and reigning sins whereof they had been guilty formerly.

In my heart; if my heart was false to God, and did cleave to idols or to any wickedness, although I might for some prudential reasons forbear the gross and outward acts. Compare Psalms 44:17,18. If I had been guilty of that hypocrisy wherewith mine enemies charged me, and had been a secret favourer of wickedness when I pretended great piety. Or, If I did not cry unto God with my heart, but only howled for corn and wine, &c.; and whilst I cried to God with my tongue, my heart was set upon sin, or I desired only that which I resolved in my heart to spend upon my lusts.

Will not hear me; or, would not have heard me; as divers learned interpreters translate it; the future being put potentially, as is usual among the Hebrews. For God heareth not sinners, John 9:31, nor hypocrites, Job 27:8,9 Pr 15:29.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 66:18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, &c. — God’s hearing and granting my petitions hath brought along with it a testimony of my sincerity in serving him, far more valuable than my kingdom; for, if I had been guilty of known iniquity, or had entertained in my heart a desire or intention to commit it, the Lord, who hates iniquity, would have denied my request. What the psalmist here observes merits our deep attention. From this, and many other passages in the Old Testament, we learn that the religion of the Holy Scriptures has always been the same in substance, and that in the time when various sacrifices and divers ceremonies were enjoined, the truly pious were persuaded that sincerity of heart and purity of intention, with a conscientious care to abstain from all known sin, were things absolutely necessary in order to their pleasing God, and being acceptable in his sight: and that without these, thousands of sacrifices and burnt-offerings, and the most scrupulous observance of outward ceremonies, were of no signification before him who searches the heart, and requires truth in the inward parts.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary


A prayer for the propagation of the Church.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

iniquity. Hebrew. "aven. App-44.

The LORD*. One of the 134 places where the Sopherim say they altered Jehovah to Adonai. App-32.

hear = answer.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me - rather 'If I had regarded iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me' (Job 35:12-13; Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:2-3; John 9:31; 1 John 3:22). Integrity of aim, with purity as to secret or open sin and habitual hypocrisy, not absolute sinlessness, is meant.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) If I regard . . .—Rather, if I had seen evil (i.e., had had it purposely in view) in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me. One may not “be pardoned and retain the offence.” The reference may be either to the forming of wicked schemes, or to the complacent view of wickedness in others.

The protestation of innocence in this verse, being made by or for the community at large, marks a late period for the composition. (See Introduction, and Psalms 44, Introduction and Notes.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
If I regard
Job 27:8,9; Proverbs 15:8,29; 21:13; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15; John 9:31; James 4:3

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me"— Psalm 66:18

The notion is that a man is professedly praying and is at the same time really forming some unkind or wicked scheme in his heart. The morality of the Bible is thus brought into strong view. It will have everything right at the core, and not on the surface only. It will not have prayer regarded in its detached relation, but will search into all the circumstances and conditions of the heart which is professedly praying. We must bring a whole heart to the altar of prayer if our supplications are to be answered. Suppose that a man is praying for the forgiveness of his sins, and is at the same time considering in his heart how he may punish his adversaries, that man"s prayer is an empty wind which will never reach the heavens to which it is addressed. If we are praying for great mercies upon our household, and withholding that which is due from the labourer, our prayer will be wasted breath. If we are orthodox in doctrine and heterodox in conduct, our heterodoxy will keep our prayers out of heaven. A wonderful revelation this of the penetrating spirit of the Bible. It searches the hearts and tries the reins of the children of men; it is sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow; the word of the Lord is a candle by which the heart is searched. All this, though terrible in one aspect and almost discouraging, is yet when viewed in its fullest relations, most assuring and comforting. It protects us against the prayers of wicked and unworthy men. We know that our enemies cannot pray against us, because being our enemies they cannot pray at all. The Lord will not hear any man whose heart is hard towards his brother.

It is in vain that I seek mercy for myself if I will not extend it to those who have wronged me. Except we forgive we cannot be forgiven. If we forgive not men from our hearts, neither will our Father in heaven forgive us. Again and again we come upon the holy thought that we are in reality just what we are in our heart or in our thought. A comforting reflection lies here, namely, that if our heart be free from guile, no matter how poor our words may be, they shall find acceptance in heaven. Not the prayer that is eloquent in language, but the prayer that is eloquent in sincerity, will be heard and answered from on high. Extend forgiveness to those who have trespassed against you, if you would be sure that your prayers will ascend to heaven and bring back answers of holy peace.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 66:18". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

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