“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:15).
The book of Psalms demonstrates there are many different occasions in which prayer is appropriate. The writers of the psalms prayed when they were suffering. They prayed when they were joyous. The prayed when they were…depressed…thankful…fearful…awed…overwhelmed and confused. They also prayed when they were penitent and desperately in need of divine pardon.
Not only do the Scriptures teach that God hears and answers prayer, they also affirm God forgives His penitent children when they seek the remission of their sin(s).
Sadly, though, this sublime truth has been misunderstood and misapplied. People who are not children of God (i.e., their sins have not yet been remitted by the cleansing blood of Christ) do not have access to God’s throne of grace and mercy. They are not yet a member of God’s spiritual family, the royal priesthood of believers. They have not yet been born again by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Until they have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11), they have no access to the throne of God. Therefore, it is not possible for them to have a divine audience. God does not hear sinners (John 9:31); His ears are open to the prayers of the righteous, but His face is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).
The script is flipped, however, when the penitent believer does exactly what Saul of Tarsus—the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) did while he was in Damascus. He was told, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Once he had done that, he enjoyed all the blessings of being a son of God and all the privileges of being a citizen in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
A child of God can come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). A child of God can penitently confess his sin and be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Because of the riches of God’s manifold grace, love, and mercy: 1) A guilty sinner can become a forgiven son and 2) A penitent son can become a pardoned child of God. The first occurs when a penitent believer is immersed. The latter occurs when a penitent son confesses his sins and prays to God (Acts 8:22). Both are only possible because of the atoning power of Christ’s blood and God’s insatiable desire that none perish but all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).