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Question and Answer

Does God hear the prayer of really bad people? There are some really wicked people in the world, and I can’t imagine that a holy God would ever listen to people like Hitler, Mussolini, or Saddam Hussein.

The Bible seems to indicate that God not only listens to wicked people but also responds to right prayers. The Bible is filled with examples, but let’s examine one in particular: the sinful exploits of Manasseh. King Manasseh made every effort to destroy the reforms that his godly father Hezekiah had put in place. His father had destroyed the shrines of foreign gods, but Manasseh systematically raised them again. In addition, he built shrines to Baal and Asherah. Even God’s temple was desecrated by the creation of pagan altars to other gods. Manasseh burned his own sons as sacrifices to Molech. In addition, he murdered innumerable people, leaving the city of Jerusalem saturated with their blood.

Late in Manasseh’s 55-year reign, Assyria attacked Jerusalem, capturing Manasseh and putting him in a prison hundreds of miles from Israel. As he contemplated his situation, now without power and stripped of bravado, he began to remember the wonderful godly reign of his dad. Amazingly, with his heart broken, Manassah prayed and acknowledged his sin. At this point he requested that God would help to renew his life. God heard him and restored him to his throne. Manasseh did what he promised to do. He destroyed all the wicked things he had built and resumed true worship in the temple. He was reborn from the inside out. Sadly, Manasseh’s change in his life, while significant, failed to change the hearts of the people he ruled. God laid the blame for this squarely on Manasseh’s earlier reign. Even restored people whose prayers have been heard by God still suffer the consequences of their sins.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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