This proverb explains for us who God is near and the ones from whom He keeps His distance. It is a frightening thing to me to read that Jehovah is far from the wicked. Note that this does not say that the wicked man is far from God - but that God is far from him. Since this proverb has to do with prayer - we are talking about a wicked man and his prayers (if he has any at all). The only prayer that God will hear from a wicked man is a prayer of repentance. Otherwise we can read in numerous other places that God is sickened and wants nothing to do with his praying. Later in Proverbs we learn that, "He who turnes away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Proverbs 28:9) A wicked man would frequent a prayer meeting as often as an at-large criminal would frequent a police station. But when the wicked do pray, God will not hear. We read another terrifying passage in Proverbs chapter 1 about the prayer of the wicked.
"Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof." Proverbs 1:24-30
This passage warns those who think they can mock God and live with no fear of Him. It warns them that when calamity comes, they cannot turn to God only for deliverance from it. This is how the wicked pray - they turn to God when disaster comes, but then mock Him when everything is well. We read that God Himself will mock them in that day. He does not do so because He is vindictive. He does this because He knows that such praying rises from a heart that is wicked still. Therefore he will not hear. He is far from such praying. He even considers it an abomination to Him.
Fortunately, this proverb does not end with the statement about the wicked. God reminds us that He does hear the prayer of the righteous. There is a twofold way we should understand this. First, we need to see it positionally. The "righteous" is not righteous because of his deeds. We read in multiple places throughout Scripture that the righteous man shall live by faith. He is made righteous by faith in God's provision for sin. He is granted righteousness as a gift of God's grace. He cannot make himself righteous because he is steeped in sin. All he is fit for is punishment and wrath. God, though, has come to the rescue with blood of a spotless lamb that speaks on his behalf. This lamb was a physical one in the Old Testament, but that was just a shadow of the glory of God's grace to come. God sent THE Lamb when Jesus Christ came to earth and gave His life on the cross for our sins. That was sufficient payment for us - and God offers with it the very righteousness of Christ as a gift of His glorious grace. That is why He hears the prayer of this man (or any man for that matter). He stands in a divinely-provided righteousness that speaks effectively for him. Thus God hears!
The second way this passage should be understood is by a practical understanding. God hears the prayer of the saved man who practially embraces the righteous ways of God. We cannot, even as Christians, ignore obedience to God and expect God to hear our prayers. We read in the Word that if we regard sin in our hearts, we know that God does not hear us. Some complain of much prayer that seems to be ignored by God. But prayer that is ignored is prayer to One that we've offended by our choice of sin rather than righteousness. It is only when we take refuge in 1 John 1:9 - confessing our sins - that we can once again be heard.
Our Father is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God. But we must understand that He is God, not a shabby version of Santa Claus. There are principles involved in how God hears and answers prayer. They are not complicated principles - but they are principles that are strictly adhered to as we approach Him. The key to answered prayer is walking and asking according to His will. If we allow sin to enter either our walk or our requests, we will find that our praying is ineffective. Embrace righteousness - both positionally and practially and you will find prayer a delight. You will also find a God who is eager to hear - eager to work - and eager to answer.