Does God hear and answer the prayers of sinners?

Published 8:56 am Friday, August 18, 2017

There are those who are actively living without regard to God and His Law. These stand in contrast to those who are sinners/disobedient, yet are seeking forgiveness of their sins. While the latter are sinners, they are actively seeking to find God and to become obedient to His Word. There is a distinction between these two types of sinners. Generally speaking a sinner is one who the Bible says are actively engaging in sin. Definitely, God doesn’t hear the prayers of those actively involved in sin. According to (Psalms 66:18), God will not listen to those who cherish/desire a sinful lifestyle. A good example of this is found in (Isa. 59:1ff). It was the active sinfulness of the Israelites that prevented their prayers from being answered by God. It was not that God could not answer, it is that He would not. God cannot not involve himself in the lives of those who desire to live in sin.
James says, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:2-4 KJV). See also James 5:1-6.
God shows us a different kind of person in the life of Cornelius. He like all men sinned. Neither was he a child of God, still he was not portrayed as a sinner. “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:1-2). Generally speaking Cornelius was a sinner and needed salvation from his sins but he is not described as a typical sinner. Because of his devotion and sincerity, God heard his prayers. Note however that though his prayers were heard he still needed to be saved from his sins. His prayers did not dismiss the fact that he was a sinner separated from God. Luke recorded, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4); but those prayers did not save Cornelius. They did not change the fact that Cornelius needed saving from his sins. Because Cornelius desired to be obedient to God, God helped him to find salvation through the preaching and teaching of Peter (Acts 10:30-48). James teaches the same concept in (James 4:7-10). James teaches us to seek God and draw near to Him; in doing so Satan will flee. However, salvation has not come until one has been cleansed of their sins and seeks God. This is exactly what happened in the case of Cornelius.
A person seeking God can find Him. However, to expect God’s favor and answer to prayers when we do not respect Him and His Word is illogical. Finally note: God did not directly tell Cornelius what he had to do to be saved. There was no small voice, no Holy Spirit directly saving him, rather he was told where to go to find the answer. I sincerely believe the same will happen today in the life of one who sincerely desires to serve God. When they find the answers via a friend, preacher or even self Bible study the person must still respond in obedience to the Word of God.
(Tony Hoss is minister at Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton. Tony can be contacted at 423-737-2287 or by email at:

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