The context for this statement begins in chapter 9:1. Jesus was passing by a man who was blind. He disciples asked Him why this man was born blind. Jesus said it was so that the power of God could be shown. After this man is healed, he is taken before the Pharisees. The Pharisees want to use this man for their own purposes, so they ask him to blaspheme against Christ by 1) saying that Jesus did “work” on the Sabbath, 2) saying that Jesus was not the Son of God. However, the man who was healed does not cooperate with them. Instead, he debates them. During this debate, this former blind man makes the statement in John 9:31. This verse says, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
The original statement that this man makes is not inspired. That is, we have no indication from the scriptures that this blind man who was healed was anything other than just a man who was engaged in a dialogue with the Pharisees. He is not an apostle; he is not a prophet; he is not an inspired teacher; he is just a man who has been healed. So the statement that he makes is not inspired. However, when John recorded this event, HE (JOHN) WAS INSPIRED to accurately record what this man originally said to the Pharisees. So the man’s statement was not inspired, but John’s account of the man’s statement is inspired.
Now, was what he said true? Yes it is true. God does not hear the prayer of sinners. In Isaiah 59:2, we see that sin separates man from God. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Notice also what Peter has to say about who God does and does not hear. We read in 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” Proverbs 28:9 says, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.” Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”
Someone may ask the question, “Doesn’t God hear the prayer of sinners who want to be saved?” First, God does not hear the prayer of the sinner in the same way that he hears the prayer of the righteous. God does hear the prayer of the sinner in the sense that God knows all the thoughts of men (Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13). God wants all men to be saved (2 Peter 3:9) and thus will providentially help the man come to a knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:27). Again, however, we stress that this is NOT the same as a Christian who can call upon God and talk to Him about anything. There is NO BARRIER between the child of God and God, but there is a barrier between the sinner and God.