Does God Hear Sinners?
A few days ago I walked by a woman who said “hello” to me. I greeted her in return and then gave her a gospel tract seeing this as an evangelism opportunity. She wasn’t certain of going to heaven but believed the gospel. After offering to pray with her, this woman claimed God heard her prayers every night. She got defensive after I told her one must know Jesus to get into heaven. During our conversation, I kept thinking of what John 9:31 says, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.”
The Amplified Bible clarifies the meaning of this better…
“We know that God does not listen to sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and a worshiper of Him and does His will, He listens to him.”
There is a difference between hearing and listening. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines hearing as “the faculty of perceiving sounds.” That same dictionary defines listen as “give one’s attention to a sound.” A person can hear somebody but not listen to what he is saying. As a child, you might have heard your mother calling you to come inside the house but didn’t listen to her because you wanted to stay outside longer.
This reminds me of a humorous story told by Jesse Duplantis. The Louisiana-based evangelist was talking with a pastor who didn’t think God was hearing his prayers. So Jesse encouraged this pastor to cuss. The pastor refused to consider doing such a thing. Jesse then asked, “What’s the matter? You think God will hear you?”
While God may hear all our prayers, He will not listen and respond to some of them for various reasons. James 4:3 mentions people asking for things with the wrong motives. The following parable in Luke 18 illustrates the importance of having the right attitude when praying…
10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Once while I lived in Pensacola, Florida, my roommate told me our next-door neighbor was a Muslim. One afternoon I saw this man sitting on his front steps and perceived this was the right time to approach him with the gospel. Although this man was reluctant to let go of some of his Islamic beliefs, he did pray to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. When he showed me his copy of the Koran, I noticed it was written in both Arabic and Old English. That prompted me to give him a King James Bible to read (usually I give away newer translations because it’s easier reading for young believers). This man then told me he had asked God to give him a Bible and wanted it to be a King James Version. God definitely answered his prayers.
There is one type of prayer from sinners that God will always answer...the call for eternal life. One of the thieves on the cross was promised to be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:43). In Acts chapter 10, Cornelius’ prayers ultimately resulted in him receiving salvation when he got together with Peter. So if you are not yet born again, your prayers can be heard if you repent of your sins and make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior. He will listen to you!
“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” - Romans 10:13