Prayer is mysterious, life-giving and frustrating. It’s mysterious because answered prayers don’t always look like we want them to. It’s life-giving when you recognize you’re getting to talk to a Father that loves you more deeply than any other relationship you’ve ever had. Prayer is frustrating because you never know if it’s going to “work.”
When our prayers aren’t answered immediately or in the way we had hoped it’s easy to wonder if there is something blocking the prayer. Is there unforgiveness in your heart? Is God ignoring your prayer because you took extra granola bars from work? When you honked at that car, did God put his finger in his ears? What if you’re not a believer in Christ? Does God hear and answer the prayers of “sinners?”
How Does Prayer Work
It’s just a conversation. There really isn’t anything religious about it. If you want to hear from God prayer is the starting point. The answers to these questions are that He always hears us, He always wants what’s best for us. When you read the Bible the answers are there. God is the most loving parent. We as earthly parents don’t always give our children what they ask for because we know what’s best for them. In addition, there are times when our children ask for things that we gladly would give them but would not have given them otherwise. This is why the Bible is clear, we must ask.
Does God Answer Prayers of Sinners?
What about people who do not profess to know Christ. Can those people’s prayers be heard? I believe the answer is an emphatic yes. However, before you get the torches ready to set me ablaze for heresy. I believe He listens. I didn’t say He answers their prayers. Our God is all knowing and all powerful. I believe when John wrote, “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. (John 9:31 NIV),” that he was talking about prayers that are clearly outside of God will. I believe this is true for believers as well. The biggest difference between a follower of Christ and one that is not is the relationship. When a person prays that the slow car in front of them be blown up and sent flying so that they can get to work faster, the non-believer hears nothing. While the believer may hear correction because what was asked was outside the will of God (it’s not in love).
Evidence Evil People’s Prayers Are Heard
Most everyone knows the story of Jonah. The man who was called to preach to the city of Nineveh and ran the opposite direction. While at sea, he’s tossed overboard and is swallowed by a giant fish. However, most people don’t know Nineveh.
Founded by Nimrod, Nineveh has some dubious historical background. If that name sounds familiar, it should, it’s the same guy that led the building of the tower of Babel. The people of Nineveh were just as dubious as their founder. If they considered you an enemy it wasn’t enough to beat you in battle, they wanted you horrified and humiliated. The city was a spiritual center for them the name itself “Nin” is in honor of the Assyrian god. The actual historical account is much too gruesome to put here. Accounts of Assyrians during this time including hanging the skin of downed fighters over the walls of conquered cities, beheading, and burnings. These accounts are watered down versions of what actually took place.
Hopefully, by now you’re properly convinced that Nineveh is probably home to some of the most violent, idol worshipping, and evil people on the planet. In addition, they were not fond of Israelites.
So when Jonah shows up smelling like fish telling his sworn enemies to repent, he faces being skinned alive. What’s their response?
The heed his advice and repent. Full stop, wait, what?!?
What does God do? He spares them. In fact, History tells us they would have “a good run” until the Medes come and conquer. Wikipedia even tells us that, a 3 day fast is still honored to this day in this region.
Notice what happened. They repented. True heart change is required to recieve anything from God. That’s all He’s ever wanted. Your heart. If an unbeliever humbles themselves and prayers, I believe He not only hears the prayer but that He will answer the prayer. If you’re an unbeliever I challenge you to call out to God and see if He doesn’t meet you there!
Need more proof?
One of the most notoriously bad kings of Israel was Ahab. The Bible says “no king was more evil than Ahab.” Ahab is more famously known for being married to Jezebel. The book of Kings reads like a story with Ahab as the villain and God and Elijah as the hero. Shortly after murdering a man to take his vineyard Elijah shows up to rebuke Ahab. In fact, this is the famous rebuke that tells Jezebel that dogs will eat her dead body. Safe to say God is upset with them and if anyone was a candidate for God to ignore them it would be Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab responds with repentance and prayer…
Does God Hear The Prayers of Sinners?
Clearly He did in the Bible. Throughout the old testament the Bible calls these kings evil, and yet he answered the prayers of Abijah, Ahab, Manaseh, Jehoahaz and Jehoash. The key is that in each case, the person humbled themselves before God, acknowledging God as the supreme. There is no other God.
What about the new testament though? There are several verses that speak to God ignoring sinners’ prayers.
Indeed, there are. Prayers that our outside of God’s will, will not be answered. However, the biggest proof I have of God answering a sinners sincere prayer is my own testimony. If God ignored sinners than how could he possibly hear anyone’s cries. When I say repent, I’m not talking about a weird, “turn or burn” religious thing. To me repentance is saying, “Father God, I want a relationship with you and value you over what the world has given me.”
So yes, God hears the prayers of sinners and with the right heart, I believe he will answer a sinner’s prayer.
What do you think? Is my theology off? Let’s discuss!