Ask An Evangelical: Does a non born again Christian have God’s ear?

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By Scott McIntyre

Does a non born again Christian have God’s ear?  Stated differently, if an unbeliever’s first prayer to God is not to accept Christ as savior, does God entertain his/her prayers on behalf of other people…or for anything for that matter?

Probably the most accurate answer is, ‘It depends on who you ask.”  During a 30 minute search online, I found yes’s, no’s, and maybe’s.  I have my own conclusion but first…

A fairly strong ‘No’ came from ‘Grace to You’, a worldwide media ministry that grew out of John MacArthur’s teaching at a small church in Los Angeles.  In an article titled, ‘Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?,’ they acknowledge God is independent and can choose to answer any prayer he sees fit. However, after reviewing a number of biblical reasons for unanswered prayer, and relating many of them to behavior commonly found in unbelievers, they conclude, “Thus we can safely say that, in general, God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever.”

A less enthusiastic ‘no’, perhaps falling into the ‘maybe’ category, was uncovered on the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  Their article started with the stipulation that “prayer is the privilege of those who have become the children of God.”  But then they gave some examples of prayers spoken by unbelievers, like the thief on the cross and a tax collector.

From these and other passages, they concluded that the prayers, “took the form of calls upon God for mercy and acceptance” and that people praying in such a way could be confident God would answer.  However, they also linked the answer with the belief that God would change the person, from one who hadn’t accepted Christ, to one who had.

Finally we have Got Questions.  This ministry (which for full disclosure, I’m in the process of applying to write for their site), seeks to provide “biblical, applicable, and timely answers to spiritually related questions through an internet presence.”  In their answer to this question, they refer to a biblical passage that states God’s criteria for answering prayers is based on whether they are asked according to His will. If this principle applies to unbelievers, they speculate, nothing would prevent God from answering such a prayer.  Sort of another maybe, but then they go a step further.

They list several Scriptures which describe God hearing and answering the prayers of unbelievers, in some cases “out of compassion.”  The two prayers that stood out for me were from…

  1. The people of Nineveh who asked that God not destroy their city
  2. A Gentile woman who asked Jesus (God the Son) to deliver her daughter from a demon

In both cases, the seeking received what they requested so that seems to support Got Questions’ conclusion and my own; “…there are instances in which God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever. At the same time, in His grace and mercy, God can intervene in the lives of unbelievers in response to their prayers.”

About Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre is glad his parents didn’t name him Vladimir or he’d be listed last on this page. While a long time California resident, he was the Oakland Spirituality Examiner for from 2011-12 and about the same time began blogging on several topics. The first, teaching Christians how to lovingly share their spiritual beliefs, emphasized skills that can benefit all forms of one-to-one interaction. He also writes on marriage, travel, downsizing, humor, and the motive behind people’s words and actions. After retiring in 2016, Scott embarked on some major ‘R & R’; Relocating and Rebranding. Following in his sister’s footsteps from the early 80’s, and later in the decade, his parent’s, Scott left the Golden State to become a Washingtonian in a small town just west of Spokane County.

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