Since All Have Sinned, How Does God Hear Anyone’s Prayers?
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: Of course, God reserves to Himself the prerogative to have mercy on whomever He wills (Romans 9:18). But the sobering truth is that sin—the breaking of God’s law—does cut us off from God! The prophet Isaiah records, “Your 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). So, what can we do, since all have sinned (Romans 3:23)? Notice the prophet 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 have God respond to our prayers, we must seek Him by turning away from sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s spiritual laws, the Ten Commandments (1 John 3:4). Because the carnal mind is not subject to 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). The answer is “through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25).
When we repent, we turn 180 degrees and face toward God. With repentance comes a repugnance toward sin and a heart-rending change of mind. By God’s mercy, repentant individuals see their helplessness and inescapable need for faith in Jesus Christ. That faith in Christ and His shed blood purges 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 as personal Savior, Lord, Master and soon-coming King. One must make His will, not our own, our life’s priority. One must seek His ways and His thoughts, and serve others rather than seeking “to serve” ourselves.
God does respond to the prayers of those who truly seek Him, repent of their sins and turn His way! 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 states, “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). If, in humbleness of mind and repentance, we “draw near to God,” He will draw near to us (James 4:7–8). Miracles of divine intervention will take place. We will receive answers to prayer. Why? Notice the inspired answer: “Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
Do Christians still sin—even after conversion? 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 heart is hardened in deception and rebellion against God. After conversion, most Christians sin out of weakness or neglect. Yet sensitivity to sin, and the resulting guilt, 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 this sin after conversion cut us off from God as before? Our prayers can be hindered when we fail to repent of our sins (e.g., 1 Peter 3:7). However, “If we confess our sins, He [Jesus Christ] 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!