Bible Question:

It says in the Bible somewhere that God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. Where does it say that and what do you have to say about the topic. How do we explain this to a non-Christian?

Bible Answer:

What does God hear? What does God know? There is nothing that God does not know. There is no prayer that any man or woman has ever offered that God does not know about,

O Thou who dost hear prayer, To Thee all men come. (NASB) Psalms 65:2

He knows the content of every prayer ever offered. There is a difference between God hearing our prayers and God answering our prayer as we had desired. The question before us is, “Does God answer the prayers of non-Christians, that is, unbelievers or those who reject Him?”

When God Rejects Prayer. One time I heard a person say that God did not answer his/her prayers. I stopped and asked myself, “Is that true?” As I thought about the comment, I realized the person was really saying God did not give the person what he wanted. God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is yes. God answers every prayer ever offered to Him but not necessarily like we want.

So, how does God decide when to give us what we want? Or, when does He say “yes!” The first clues come in 1 Peter 3:12 and 1 John 5:14,

FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:12

And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (NASB) 1 John 5:14

God says “yes” to the prayers of the righteous and to prayers that are according to His will. If you are righteous and asking according to God’s will, He hears you!

He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.. (NASB) Prov. 28:9

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 (NASB) Isaiah 1:15

If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear; (NASB) Ps 66:18

These passages tell us God will not hear the prayers of the wicked or things inconsistent with His will. And God will not answer the prayers of Christians either, if they are unrepentant (notice the word “regard”).

God Answers Prayer. God answers the prayers of 1) those who seek Him, 2) those who confess their sins and repent and 3) those who are righteous. Does God hear the prayers of non-Christians? According to Jeremiah 29:13. God says He will hear the prayer of any who seek Him and He proves it in Acts 10:31. This passage is a wonderful example of God answering the prayer of an unbeliever whose name is Cornelius. How else shall a man or woman be saved except to call on the name of the Lord.

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (NASB) Jeremiah 29:12-13

Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. (NASB) Acts 10:31

Yet, God will reject the prayers of Christians who are in sin. Saul is an example of this in Samuel 14:37. A husband who does not honor his wife is another example.

And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Wilt Thou give them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him on that day. (NASB) 1 Samuel 14:37

You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:7

The only prayer of a sinning Christian God will listen to is one of confession. A familiar Old Testament example of this is found in 2 Chronicles,

My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (NASB) 2 Chronicles 7:14

Conclusion:

God does hear the prayers of unbelievers and sinning believers. God will listen and respond to anyone who is seeking forgiveness of his/her sins. He will listen and answer anyone who really seeks Jesus. God will reject the prayers of Christians who are not repenting of their sins. God does answer the prayers of the righteous that are according to His will.

If you feel like God is not listening to your prayers or you believe God is not answering your prayers, look for sin in your life. Ask God to help you see it. Seek Him and admit your wrong – admit you are a sinner. If you are not a Christian, ask Jesus to forgive your sins. If you are sincere, He looks past your words and into your heart and forgives your sin. He will listen to you!