Does God's knowledge affect how he answers prayer?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question 1: Does God really know what I`m thinking every second? Does he know more about me than I know about myself? Question 2: I also know that God doesn`t hear the prayers of sinners. But let`s say that someone is still confused about their purpose in life and that they have Christian faith (although that are not really sure about the details)… but they are living in a sinful state… and they pray for God`s help. But this goes on for years because this person cannot overcome any number of sins. Will God ignore the prayers of such people while they live in a sinful situation?

Answer: Greetings friend. These are piercing questions — and it will be my pleasure to answer them today. Please know… and even though these questions are hypothetical… that I am praying for the person who is on your mind as you seek these answers. But before we proceed, let me address a problem that is embedded in your question, because it will trip us up if we let it stand.

You are not alone in the assumption that God does not hear or answer the prayers of sinners. But I do not believe this. For one thing, it is dangerous to make blanket statements that restrict God. I could invent any number of scenarios where it would benefit the kingdom for God to answer the prayers of sinners.

But most importantly, the idea is biblically weak. There is one well-known passage that seems to say this (John 9:31), but that verse’s context shows that it does not. (For more information on this, see this article at ). If God ignored the prayers of people who are in a sinful state, then he’d be out of the prayer-answering business… because there are no other states.

As to question 1, we know from the Bible and from natural theology that God is omniscient — that is, he knows everything (Isaiah 46:9-10) — and a subset of knowing everything is knowing what his creatures are thinking at every moment (Psalm 139:4). So, the answer to part one of question one is yes —God does know what you are thinking every second.

And since another subset of knowing everything is knowing what you will freely do and think in the future — and where you do not know this — God does know more about you than you know about yourself! Besides that, God is an infinite being — and an infinite being will always have more knowledge than a finite being about anything… even about the being itself.

I am more than a little impressed that you asked this because — and especially for a believer — there is great power in understanding God’s unlimited presence. Where a friend might support you by saying, “I’ve got your back” (which is great to hear) God says, “I’ve got your front” (which is greater to hear). Now, God does not determine what we will do in the future… but it’s good to know that he keeps an eye on it. And since understanding how he does this will help you with all of your questions, let’s take a minute to look at that.

In addition to being omniscient, God is omnipresent. He experiences every place at the same time. But this means he experiences all time at the same time, too… and we call this attribute his omnitemporality. When we focus on the combination of God’s omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnitemporality, we can see how God would know every possible result of every possible free choice… but without stealing from a person’s free will.

So — and armed with this information — God lets you live whichever of those lives gives optimal benefit to his kingdom, but you live that life by your own energies and by making your own decisions. This how God knows if your path will lead to the path of righteousness… or if you will walk in disbelief until the end of your life. But, while we live our lives in real-time, God superintends our lives in omni-time. That is, we are stuck linear time, but God is not.

This is how God knew — and before the foundations of the world, by the way (Ephesians 1:4) — who would be saved and who would be lost. This allows God to treat people categorically — to elect them, to foreordain them… but without forcing anyone into heaven or hell against their wishes.

Now… God knows all these things about the future, but we do not… so it’s natural for any thinking person to wonder about their purpose and their future. In fact, I’d call that our normal state of being. But hiding within that state is one of the answers to your question: we are all works in progress… not completed works. This is why we look at the world agog — like children let loose in a big city. Given enough time, we will learn our way around… but God does not expect us to act like full-on adults until we have done the time… so cut us all some slack.

Every one of us wrestles with sin — the saved and the unsaved alike… but God is invested in his holiness. As such, he’d love holiness to reign. But this is the age of redemption, and today we must deal with sin. But I can imagine a scenario where God would help a person who will ultimately be lost because it might play out where several more people will be saved by his action. But I can also see him doing this because he is beneficent, merciful and longsuffering. He wants to bless and not punish… but redemption hurts. It hurt Jesus, it hurts believers and it hurts the very world that groans because of it (Romans 8:22). That’s the kind of thing it is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Redemption has a good result… and it’s certainly worth the hurt (or God wouldn’t have set it all in motion). But we must personally be purged of sin… and this is happening while the whole creation is being purged of sin… so, it can be a rocky ride, and people will gyrate spiritually because of it. But God knows this — and he’s not the kind of God who turns a deaf ear to earnest seekers just because they are on a roller coaster (Hebrews 11:6).

Whether sinner or saint, we are all in a sinful situation. So, if God didn’t listen to us because of this, then he’d have nothing to do... well… perhaps I’m overstating that part. But sinners are the only types of people that God has… because this age of redemption is designed to see who will listen to him. In the next age, sinners will lose that platform (Revelation 20:15). But today, there is still time. So God hears us all.

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