The Black Plague, otherwise known as the Bubonic Plague, is something that everyone has at least heard about. Why? Because it was a significant historical event. In 1347 the Plague killed one-third of the human population! Talk about deadly! It is even believed that this was a significant turning point for European economic development because such a large number of the working class was lost (Wikipedia).
A plague is "a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly" and "causes high mortality" (Dictionary.com). From chills and fevers to swelling and seizures, a plague is not something you want to "catch" - it affects your entire body and could possibly result in death.
1 Kings 8:38-39 - 38 ...whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men...
The condition of your heart matters.
Take a look at the word "affliction" in verse 38. Nega' is the Hebrew word used here, meaning "stroke, plague, disease, mark, plague spot" (Strong's H5061). So really this is saying that each man knows the plague of his own heart. Many versions even refer to it this way, including the King James (Parallel Bible). We can assume that sins are the "plague of the heart, because that is both the principle seat of sin, and the fountain from whence all actual sins flow" (Wesley). Now go back to our discussion of a plague - it spreads quickly, affects the entire body, makes you feel absolutely miserable, and could result in death - it is even contagious. That is sin! Sin starts at the center of your being, your heart, and spreads quickly throughout your entire being. It makes you miserable emotionally, spiritually, and yes, sometimes even physically. Sin can be very contagious at times. And if not treated, it will most definitely end in death. Sin, like the plague, has quite a high mortality rate.
But this plague, these sins - "Every Israelite indeed endeavors to know these, the he may mortify them and watch against the risings of them...These drive him to his knees, drive him to the sanctuary. Lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer" (Henry). When we notice the beginnings of these sins, this plague, we need to come before God with a sincere prayer. Sincerity is expressed in these verses through the expression of "spreading his hands toward the house." This would put their faces toward God, in a manner of speaking. It made them vulnerable and open to Him. We have to be sincere in our prayers if we want the Lord to hear us, as Solomon is asking here.
But even without spreading their hands toward His house, God knows their hearts. He knows our hearts. He knows not only the plagues but the wants and burdens, the sincerity or the hypocrisy. He knows what the condition of our heart is and He will only listen if we are truly sincere.
The condition of your heart matters!
I challenge you today to examine your heart. Is it plagued by sin? Take a piece of paper and write down all that you need to ask forgiveness for. Is your heart sincere when you approach the Father? Take the time today to put everything else aside, clear your thoughts, and show the Lord your heart, stretch your arms toward His house - be open, honest, and sincere.
He will hear and He will forgive.