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Question: I have read that God will not hear sinners’ prayers. Since all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, how is it possible for God to hear anyone’s prayers?
Answer: The sobering truth is that sin—the breaking of God’s law—does cut us off from God! Indeed, ever since Adam and Eve, all have sinned, falling short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The prophet Isaiah told the Israelites that their “iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2; John 9:31; Proverbs 28:9). How, then, can God hear us? Notice Isaiah’s answer:
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7).
To be heard in prayer, one must seek God by turning away from sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s spiritual law—the Ten Commandments (1 John 3:4). Because the carnal mind rebels against God’s holy and righteous laws, Christians often experience an inner struggle (Romans 8:7). The Apostle Paul describes this struggle by exclaiming, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). His answer? “Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).
When we repent, we turn 180 degrees and face toward God. With repentance comes a revulsion against sin, and a heart-rending change of mind. By God’s mercy, repentant people see their helplessness and their inescapable need for faith in Jesus Christ. That faith in Christ and His shed blood cleanses the conscience from dead works (Hebrews 9:11–14), opening us to direct contact with the Father.
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19–22).
Genuine repentance means total surrender to Jesus Christ—repenting of thoughts as well as deeds! One must truly accept Jesus Christ—not shallowly, but deeply as Lord, Master and soon-coming King. True repentance means making His will, not our own, our life’s priority.
God does hear the prayers of those who truly seek Him, repent of their sins and turn His way. Notice the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9–14)! Those who rebel, ignore God and never change will simply not be heard! Their sins are a barrier, and cut them off from God. But a truly repentant attitude moves God to hear (Psalm 34:17). God promises, “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).
Do Christians still sin—even after baptism? Yes! “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Yet God looks at the heart to see the intent. Before conversion, the human heart is hardened in deception and rebellion against God. After conversion, most Christians sin out of weakness or neglect, but repentance moves the growing Christian to cry out to God for forgiveness and strength to overcome. Many scriptures explain that conversion is a growth process—that we must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
But does sin after conversion cut us off from God as before? All sin that has not been repented of does hinder our prayers from being answered (1 Peter 3:7). However, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). As we repent of sin and yield to God, our prayers can and will be heard!