Does God answer the prayers of non-believers?
In the last couple of years, I have met numerous unregenerate people who say they have at one time or another asked God for a job, a car or to get them out of a sticky situation, and they proclaim that God in fact gave them what they prayed for. However, is there any scriptural support for this? It’s clear to believers that God is sovereign and can choose to answer and fulfill any prayer He sees fit. Scripture clearly indicates that God does not listen to or answer every prayer. Here are Ten reasons for unanswered prayer.
God does not answer the prayers of those who:
1. Have personal and selfish motives.
–You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:3).
2. Regard iniquity in their hearts
-If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (psalm 66:18)
3. Remain In Unrepentant Sin
-We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. (John 9:31)
4. Offer Unworthy Service To God
– By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. (1 Malachi 1:7-9)
5. Forsake God
-Thus says the LORD concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the LORD does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” 11 The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.” (Jeremiah 14:10-12)
5. Reject The Call of God
– Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, (Proverbs 1:24-25)
6. Ignore The Cries of The Poor
-Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (proverbs 21:13)
7. Are Violent
– When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:15)
8. Worship Idols
– Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal. “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. (Jeremiah 11:11-14)
8. Have No Faith
– But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (James 1:6-7)
9. Are Proud of Heart
– “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
10. Are Self-Righteous
– “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-14)
So, does God answer the prayers of non-believers? Well, an affirmative yes or no answer is difficult without qualifying the answer in various ways. It is interesting though that the above mentioned principles represent some of the key characteristics of non-believers.
I think we can safely say that, in general, God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever. So what about those who believe? The saved; the “Elect of God?” How are we to pray in such a way as to pray the will of God?
James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
If you study the exemplary prayers in Scripture, you cannot help noticing that all of them are brief and simple. Prayer that is heartfelt, urgent, and unfeigned must be of that style. Verbiage and those who wrestle with quantity of words are badges of insincerity, especially in prayer. The prayer of the publican in Luke 18:13 is as short and to the point as possible: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Then there’s the prayer of the thief on the cross: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). Those prayers are cut from the same cloth as Peter’s cry for help when he was walking on water—sometimes cited as the shortest prayer in the Bible: “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30).
Scripture records very few long prayers. It would seem to me that if we were to do the OPPOSITE of the ten principles mentioned above, that would be a good start, along with keeping it short and sweet; real. It has been a long struggle of mine to pray the same way publicly that I do privately. The only real difference between the two settings are my openness and compendiousness. Which makes sense…if you’ve ever had a conversation with your Father in private, it’s a bit different in context and candidness in contrast to how you would converse with your Father at a public event with many onlookers or patrons standing nearby and especially those that are a part of the conversation.
The biggest thing I’ve come to realize in praying prayers that matter is we have to remember, if we knew what God knows, we would want what God wants. Can’t argue with that. The ever so popular Jeremiah 29:11 is just one of the verses that demonstrates God’s desire for His children to prosper. Alas, Jesus gives us the best example of a fervent prayer:
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.