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Sender's name: montgomery

does God listen to and/or respond to the prayers of non-christians (unsaved)? (excluding of course, the prayers for salvation)




There is no passage in the Bible that says definitively whether God will listen to the prayer of a person. There are some examples and general principles concerning prayer that might help to answer this question.


These passages demonstrate that there were times he did not listen to the prayers of his people.


"So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil (Isa 1:15-16),"


"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear (Isa 59:1-2)."


"For your gods are as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to the shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal. Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster (Jer 11:13-14)."


"Thus says the LORD to this people, "Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account. So the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence (Jer 14:10-12)."


The reason God refused to listen was due to the sins of the people. They disregarded his will, oppressed other people, acted wickedly, and went after other gods, even though they didn't completely cease to worship God. As a result, God allowed calamity to come on the people, and refused to listen when they cried out and prayed to him.


When we come to the New Testament, we have these instructions concerning prayer.


"You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (Jas 4:3-4)."


"and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22)."


"This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1 John 5:14-15)."


God will not listen to prayers that come from selfish motivation, but hears any prayer that is according to his will.


As to your question, does God hear the prayers of someone that is not a Christian, we have Old Testament examples of God listening to the prayers of the Ninevites, who repented at the preaching of Jonah in the book of Jonah. We also see that God listens to Balaam in Numbers 22. In both cases, God is involved with foreigners, not Israelites.


In the New Testament, we have this:


"Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;(Acts 10:1-5)."


The story goes on to tell how Peter came and preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his household, which resulted in their conversion. Cornelius was not a Christian. He was not even a Jew. He was a Gentile "God-Fearer" which meant that he was not a Jew, but he served God. God recognized his prayer, devotion, and service, and as a result dispatched Peter to preach the Gospel to him in order to be saved.


What might have happened if Cornelius had refused to obey the Gospel? What if he refused to accept Christ and believe in him? Would God still listen to his prayers? I think we can safely answer that he would not continue to listen.


I don't know why God would listen to the prayers of someone who refuses to do God's will. However, in the case of someone who hasn't heard God's will and desires to know and do God's will, God may respond, and provide more light and opportunity to know him and serve him as one of his redeemed people, as in the case of Cornelius.


John Telgren

P.O. Box 452

Leavenworth, KS 66048


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