Does God hear our prayers if we sin?

The other day, I wrote a detailed blog responding to the commonly asked question – can I lose my salvation if I sin? If you didn’t read it, I recommend you go check it out. Today, I am tackling a question that is somewhat related to that.

Does God hear our prayers if we sin? The answer is yes He does. But in order to get it, you must first understand the difference between a sinner and a Christians who sins. The two terms are often used interchangeably but they actually are as different as night and day. Even though God will not listen to the prayers of sinners, he is always more than willing to listen to the prayers of his children who might have sinned.

Are sinning Christian’s sinners?

The word sinner is a noun that describes the people who haven’t received Jesus Christ as Lord. When a sinner gets born again, they become new creatures and get a new name. No longer are they sinners but they are now children of God, saints, coheirs with Christ, Christ’s ambassadors, etc. Those are the names that are now used to describe them. Even when they fall into sin, as long as they haven’t left the faith, they are not sinners (If that sounds confusing, go and read my previous blog for a more detailed explanation).

It is, therefore, wrong to refer to a Christian as a sinner, just because he has sinned. Let me explain with the analogy of a chef. If a gourmet chef messes up one of his recipes and ends up with a horrible meal, would that mean he is no longer a chef? Of course not! It only means he had a bad experience in the kitchen. It is very likely that the next meal he prepares will be just as finger licking as all other meals he is known for. Similarly, a Christian will not lose his relationship with God just because he sinned. He might sin but that doesn’t make him a sinner.

David understood this and that is why he said,

18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.
19 But God did listen!
    He paid attention to my prayer.
20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
    or withdraw his unfailing love from me. 
~ Pslams 66:18-20, NLT

Will God hear the prayers of Christians who are living in sin?

Even though God hears the prayers of Christians even after they sin, it’s a completely new ball-game for those that are living in sin. When a Christian falls into temptation and immediately responds in remorse and repentance, God will not only hear them but also revive them. A good example is found in Psalms 50, which is the prayer David made after he had killed Uriah so that he could cover up his extramarital affair. But after he had done such heinous acts, he goes to God in repentance and God not only forgives him but restores him. However, supposing David made it a habit to continue killing men and taking their wives, that would be a different story altogether.

Christians that are living in sin are not remorseful and do not care anymore about the consequences of their actions. They do not care that their actions are grieving the Holy Spirit but are just concerned with “having a good time.” Such people ( it feels weird to continue calling them Christians), should not expect God to answer their prayer.  Christians who live in sin create a gulf between them and God. Prophet Isaiah puts it this way:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.
 But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear.
~Isaih 59:1-2

However, God’s mercies are endless and new every morning. Should a Christian who has been living in sin get back to their senses and genuinely desire to change, God will still show them his mercy and he will listen to their prayers. The parable of the prodigal son is the best illustration of this truth. The young man was living in sin – spending his money on prostitutes and other pleasures – but when he came back to his senses, his father willingly accepted him back.

So if you are living in sin, start by repenting. And repenting is more than just asking God for forgiveness. Repenting means turning away from your sin. It is possible to fool other people but you cannot fool God. God knows those who are genuinely repenting and those who are doing it for the benefit of their pastor, spouse or someone else they are trying to please. And scripture warns us by reminding us that God cannot be mocked.

 Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. 
You will always harvest what you plant
~Galatians 6:7, NLT

Will God hear the prayers of sinners?

I believe we have clearly differentiated between a sinner and a Christian who sins. So if the question is “does God hear our prayers if we sin,” the answer would be yes because I am assuming we are referring to Christians who sin. However, if the question is “does God hear the prayers of sinners,” then the answer would be no.

 We know that God does not listen to sinners. 
He listens to the godly person who does his will.
~ John 9:31

However, God still listens when the sinners repent. For instance, the thief that was crucified with Jesus asked to be given a second chance to which Jesus replied, “today you shall be with me in paradise.” So why exactly doesn’t God listen to the payers of sinners? Well, there are a couple of explanations but here are some of them

  • Prayer is a kingdom language

Prayer is the official language of God’s kingdom. Kingdom citizens communicate to God through prayer and God communicates back to them as they wait on him in meditation. As Christians continue to grow in faith, they get to know and start using the moose code of heaven otherwise known as speaking in tongues. That is why Paul told us that when we start to pray in tongues, we are actually speaking mysteries that are unintelligible to the human ear.

 For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, 
you will be talking only to God,
since people won’t be able to understand you.
You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit,
but it will all be mysterious.
~ 1 Cor. 14:2

The channel of prayer is therefore a dedicated channel through which God communicates with his children. Sinners who attempt to piggyback on this channel will not be too succesessful because their prayers will be considered an EMI (electro magnetic interference) in the communication lines.

  • Prayer is a kingdom weapon

For Christians, prayer is not only a mode of commonucation but it is also a weapon of war. We are in a spiritual battle against the agents of darkness as described in Ephesians 6. However, our warfare is not physical. We do not rely on a physical asernal of man-made weapons. We use prayer as a weapon of warfare.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds
2 Cor. 10:3

But just like in any organized army, there is a protocol for using the weapon of prayer. You cannot use these weapons if you haven’t been auntheticated . And salvation is the only authentication you need.

  • We have to pray through Jesus

Another reason why the prayers of sinners goes unheard is because we were commanded by Jesus to pray in his name.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, 
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
~ John 14:13-14, NIV

Now, sinners do not have access to the name of Jesus. As Solomon explains, the name of the Lord is a strong for the rightous to run to for safety (Proverbs 18:10). When we pray through the name of Jesus, we are guranteed that God will hear us. Since unbelievers do not have the name of Jesus, God will not hear thier prayers.

Finally, let me point out that it is one thing for God to hear prayer and yet another for him to answer the prayer. There are many reasons why the prayers of saints might not be answered but that is a story for another day.

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