If God is omniscient, he sees, hears, and knows all things. But in John 9:31 we read, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, he hears him.” Contextually these words were spoken by an uninspired former blind man. Nevertheless, he seems to have been alluding to a biblical truth (Zechariah 7:13; Psalm 34:15-16) repeated in the New Testament (1 Peter 3:12).
The key is understanding the Greek word akouō, translated “hear” in English, which has various shades of meaning, including reception of audible sounds, listening, understanding, accepting, heeding, and hearkening unto. God aurally “hears” all things, but he has only promised to hearken unto or answer the petitions of his righteous ones (James 5:16; 1 John 5:14-15).
The prayers of the unsaved who are genuinely seeking to know the truth might be a possible exception (Acts 10:1-5; 11:14). However, rather than a direct answer to their prayers this is more likely God’s providential working to ensure truth seekers have the opportunity to learn his will (Acts 17:24-31; 1 Timothy 2:3-7).
-- Kevin L. Moore
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