For some reason, many human beings tend to think that God hears only those of people sometimes called "good", and "special" and "unusual".
I ran into an unusual conversation of this sort. The person making the suggestion had a verse of Scripture in hand for the attempt, too. It was:
Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he hears.
And there are many who consider this to be "gospel truth". But what about this?
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, “God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but struck his chest, saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
The Pharisee, in the New Testament context, is a very religious man. He does a lot of different religious things every day, and doesn't do a lot of other things, and the leaders of his kind of religion have convinced themselves that if this is how he lives, he is not a sinner; and he believes them. So he fasts, gives lots of money to those leaders, does a lot of other things, doesn't do another list of things, and thinks very well of himself. And he thanks God for giving him the job of being such a great guy.
The tax collector, on the other hand, is not at all a great guy. There are some tax collectors now who are not exactly great guys, but in that time and place, tax collectors in general were quite evil. They had no way to make money for themselves, except by requiring more from the people than the government was asking, and they did their requiring at swordpoint. And it is clear that the tax collector knows that he does evil, practices sin. And yet, the Lord says in that passage, that it is the tax collector, and not the religious man, who is justified, who is right and good, in talking to God, because the tax collector, the sinner, the evil man, was humble in the face of God.
So what is going on with John 9:31? Well, for these we might ask a question. Who is quoted in John 9:31? Who is quoted in Luke 18:10-14?
Well, if you check, you will find that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is quoted in Luke 18:10-14. Those five verses are part of a larger statement which begins a few verses before.
But John 9:31, on the other hand, is not a quote of the Lord. It is a quote of the words of an ordinary man – a man who had been taught much by the proud religious Pharisees.
If we go to God in real humility, if we go to Him and ask Him to help us become better and do better according to His definitions of that which is good and evil, He will do those things for us, no matter who or what we are.
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