The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Does God despise your worship, or delight in it? What a contrast! The LORD considers the worship of some an abomination. He does not just dislike their worship: He hates it! But He delights in the prayers of others. What a difference! Is your worship an abominable stench in His holy nostrils? Or is He pleased with it and your prayers?
When wicked men worship God, no matter how accurate, sincere, or costly the effort, it is detestable, disgusting, and loathsome to Him (Pr 21:27). He hates it! He told Israel, "Incense is an abomination unto me.... Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them" (Is 1:12-14). "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies" (Amos 5:21).
God hates your sacrifices, prayers, and worship, if you come with sin in your life. Ritual without righteousness is obnoxious to Him. He wants your obedience, not your worship! The sacrifice He seeks is a broken heart (Ps 51:17). He did not want offerings from Israel: He wanted obedience (Jer 7:22-23). "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (I Sam 15:22).
Fools put on suits, attend church, carry Bibles, sing hymns, bow heads, make prayers, and worship with sin in their lives! They believe such religious exercises will appease God. They think He will overlook their wickedness, because they attend church. But He hates their hypocrisy. They keep up a pretense for men to think more highly of them, but God will miserably expose and destroy all hypocrites (Pr 26:24-26; Job 27:8; Ps 144:11-15).
Wicked men try to find comfort in ritual, religion, or relics. Israel worshipped Moses' brazen serpent (II Kgs 18:4), the Ark of the Covenant (I Sam 4:3), the temple (Jer 7:4), and the Scriptures (Jer 8:8). Catholics wear crucifixes, and Baptists attend Bible studies. But these things have no saving power. They simply add condemnation to hypocrites, for the jealous God cannot tolerate the presumptive use of religion by pretenders.
Unanswered prayers are your fault, not God's! He always answers the righteous. He may not give them the answer they expect, but He always answers. It is your fault! "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Is 59:1-2). It is your fault! "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination" (Pr 28:9).
Accuracy of worship, correctness of doctrine, and sincerity of worship have nothing to do with it. God does not care how accurate, correct, or sincere you are, if you come with less than a pure and trembling heart (Is 66:1-2). He does not want a bowed head; He wants a bowed heart (Is 58:3-7). Not praying is better than praying hypocritically (Rev 3:15-16).
Though the wicked man brings costly sacrifices, though he gives many hours of his time, though he leads the worship of God with great fervency, yet God rejects it for the simple and poor prayer of His humble saints! What a contrast! No matter how much is given to God, the only thing He will accept is the humble petition of a righteous man.
God delights in the prayer of the upright - He hears it and answers it with pleasure. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). "The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Pr 15:29). If sinful fathers give good things to their children, how much more will God give good things to His children that obey and please Him (Matt 7:11)!
What causes God to despise your worship? A single unconfessed sin! David knew, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps 66:18). Peter wrote, "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (I Pet 3:12).
If you worship God with sin in your life, you are aggravating your horrible condition before Him. You will bring His certain, jealous wrath down on your head. Examine yourself! Repent! Confess your sins! Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Worship Him with reverence and godly fear! He is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29)!