I want to continue to address questions that were submitted during our Q & A time a few weeks back, but I was unable to get to because of time constraints. This week, the question is as follows:
- Q: Does God hear a sinners prayer, other than a prayer of repentance?
- Well, the most obvious answer is, “God can do whatever he wants. . . He’s God?” (However, that would make for a very short blog post;-).
Some of the confusion around this subject comes from a story in John chapter 9 where Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. The religious leaders come to interrogate the man, and in the course of their questioning the man makes the statement, “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but only godly people who do his will” (Jn. 9:31). Many have taken that statement as gospel truth and surmised that any prayer offered by a sinner is automatically dismissed out of hand by God. However, we need to be careful about building a whole theology around statements made by characters in the Bible (In fact, I once heard a TV preacher quote from one of Job’s ‘friends’ as a rational for giving financially to his ministry. . . this is problematic at best).
Instead, we need to look at the whole of Scripture. When we do, we can see places throughout where God did answer the prayer of ‘sinners’. For example, in Genesis 21, Abraham’s servant Hagar prays that God would protect her son Ishmael and God does. Naaman was a Syrian soldier asked God to heal him from leprosy, and he did (2 Kings 5). Cornelius, a Roman solder, when we are introduced to him, he’s found ‘praying constantly to God’ (Acts 10:2) and God answers his prayers by sending Peter to his house. So there seems to be evidence that God hears and answers the prayers of those outside the community of faith.
“But”, some might ask, “What do you do with passages in the Bible that seem to indicate that God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners (Ps. 66:18-19, Is.59:1-2)?” These, and passages like them, when examined in context, tend to be directed towards believers. Those who know God’s purposes and plans, but for whatever reason refuse to submit themselves to them. Yet even for those who find themselves caught in the same cycle of sin, again and again (as with the people of Israel in the time of Judges) we know that when we ‘groan’ under the weight of those things that ‘oppress and afflict’ us, God reaches out to us with ‘compassion’ (Judges 2:18).
So whether believer or unbeliever, God reaches out to us with compassion and with the promise that if we ‘seek him’ we will find Him, if we ‘seek him with our whole heart’ (Jer. 29: 13).
God Bless. See you Sunday!