By Brad Andres
How do we know if God does answer the prayers of non-believers? This can be a loaded question. It is also something that can be easily misunderstood. Therefore, before we attempt to answer this question, we must understand the exact question we are trying to answer.
Two terms in this question can be understood in different ways. The variations of meaning in these two terms can lead to different answers to this question. So, let’s clarify what we mean when we are using these words:
One says, “We know God answers the prayer for salvation of non-believers, otherwise there would be no Christians in the world. If God did not answer the prayer of those non-believers, then no one would be able to have their sins forgiven.” This idea says salvation is dependent upon a prayer before becoming a believer.
Another says, “Once a person believes in Jesus; He grants them eternal life. As soon as someone honestly believes Jesus came back to life that person secures salvation.” This idea implies belief comes first and is the only requisite to salvation.
There is not a separation between these two actions of belief and prayer, but a combination which occurs. Once a person believes, they pray or confess that Jesus is God. If they are asking God for forgiveness of sin, then they already believe he is able and willing to forgive. The idea is that these two realities are working in tandem with each other, not that one must happen before the other.
Our question is this: Does God respond to the requests of those who are not currently his devoted followers?
This passage was spoken by a man who knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament. This man had been born blind. Jesus healed this man; He gave him his sight back. This is a statement showing his understanding of the Scriptures to prove that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
This was not a statement meant to be taken as proof that God does not listen to the requests of those not currently devoted to him. However, this man’s understanding may have arrived through this verse and others similar found throughout the Psalms:
Ultimately, there is substantial evidence that God does not respond to the requests of those not devoted to his will. He has made it clear in his Word that He is under no obligation to answer the prayers of non-believers.
On the flip side, God has also made it clear that he is under no obligation to answer the many prayers of believers either. Just because someone is a devoted follower of Christ, does not mean God will concede to their every request.
Talking to the church at large, James writes this concerning their personal requests:
God answers prayer when it is according to His will. Anyone, a devoted follower of Christ, a casual acquaintance with Christ, or a stranger to God and his will, all can rest assured that God indeed hears their requests. However, God reserves the right to sit in judgment on that request. He weighs the true motives; He determines the purpose for the prayer, and He sees the outcome from the beginning. This is an awesome thing about our sovereign Lord; He controls the universe. He can choose what He answers, what He denies, and what He leaves on the table for later.
Yes, sometimes God does answer the prayer of unbelievers. Sometimes he also denies the prayers of believers. The important question to ask is this: Is the prayer within the will of God?
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