I want to start out with a question for us to consider. Does God hear a sinner’s prayer? Some may not put much thought into this question, but this is a legitimate question that may be asked of you by those who are skeptics. Some even attempt to point this idea out as a contradiction in God’s word. To answer this question honestly, we need to consider all of God’s teachings. Some do a pretty good job in stating their case with only a partial revealing of a passage.
John 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
Some erroneously come to this verse and state this as absolute truth. That there are no exceptions. Yet, look at this passage closely and take the time to break it down simply. God does not hear sinners, OK – check. BUT! If any man be a worshipper of God, and does His will, He hears him. God’s hearing is based upon the condition of the sinner. What are the circumstances of this man? Is this man a sinner in a state of practicing the same sins every single day (unrepentant) or is this man a sinner in a state of seeking, worshipping God, living by faith to Him? It is not that this man never sins again. It is the fact that when this man recognizes his sin, he repents of that sin, turns away from it, and turns back to God. Which man are you? The answer to the question, “Does God hear a sinner’s prayer?” is both yes and no. How can this be? That is not consistent! It is if we take all what God’s word says on the matter. Let me provide you with a few examples.
Psalm 34:16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Psalm 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;
Proverbs 28:9 He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.
I don’t believe this is difficult to understand. The skeptics may try to point out inconsistencies or say that this contradicts other passages. The truth seeker will comprehend what is being communicated with ease. If one wants to argue that since God does not hear sinners at all (with no exceptions) then He hears no one! We all sin from time to time. If what is being proposed is true, then how can we pray to God? So, we must conclude that not all circumstances are equal. There is no doubt that people struggle with these thoughts. The best way to help those who struggle with this line of thinking is to be consistent and just stick with the text. To help us understand this, we will compare two examples.
Jeremiah 7:16 As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.
Acts 8:24 But Simon answered and said, Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.
In Jeremiah’s case, he is proclaiming God’s word to the people. They were disobeying God, they were warned about what would happen if they continued to disobey God, and they continued to disobey Him anyways. They were stealing, committing murder and adultery, swearing falsely, offering idol worship, and they were comfortable with the thought of “God is not going to destroy the temple”. They felt safe in their sin because of how “close” they were to God.
Jeremiah 7:10 then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ – that you may do all these abominations?
This kind of attitude is wrong. We cannot draw near to God while remaining in our sin. We can offer up as many prayers as we want but if our attitude is like this, God will not hear our prayers.
What about Simon from Acts 8? During my recent studies on this topic, nearly everything I was reading about Simon in verse 24 is that he is copping out from what he was told to do. I’ll be honest with you, that thought had never come to my mind anytime I read Acts 8:19-24. For one, if this was true, surely Peter would have rebuked Simon again? This is why I am extremely cautious when it comes to studying God’s word. I have always asked people to consider what the text says before ever making a presumption about the text. This idea that Simon “copped out” is something that is just not proven from the verses. Again, I have never read it that way. I have always seen Simon’s response as him being humbled, showing humility, begging for help because he realizes that he needs forgiveness. Simon is communicating that he wants Peter to pray for him. Simon sinned and he wants others to call upon God for His grace and mercy. How is that a cop out?
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
As we can see, this principle of asking for prayers is in God’s word. The question is, are we like Simon in seeking forgiveness or are we remaining in our sins?