There are some instances in the Bible where God hears and answers the prayers of unbelievers but nowhere in Scripture is there a verse that says that He always does so.
Did Jesus listen to and answer the requests of unbelievers?
In Mark 7:24-30 we read of a Gentile woman from the Tyre and Sidon area who prayed that Jesus would deliver her daughter from a demon. Although it was only later that the Gospel would be extended to the Gentiles, Jesus answered her prayer and cast the demon out of the woman’s daughter. Jesus’ mission was to preach the good news to the people of Israel. He kept the company of ‘tax-collectors and sinners’ (Luke 5:30) because He loved them and wanted them to be saved. (Jesus also wanted the Pharisees to be saved but they were self-righteous and did not think they needed salvation). Does this mean that the only prayer that God hears from a sinner is the prayer that leads to his/ her salvation?
Let us look at some of the instances where God answered the prayers of unbelievers and what happened to them as a result.
Cornelius (Acts 10:30-48)
Cornelius was a Roman centurion. He and his family were ‘devout and God-fearing’. In spite of that they did not know the way of salvation and did not have the Holy Spirit. We are told that Cornelius “prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2). God sent an angel to Cornelius and told him, “God has heard your prayers and remembered your gifts to the poor” (10:31). Cornelius was then instructed to send for Peter who shared the Gospel with him. As a result he, his family, relatives and close friends were saved (10:24, 44-46).
Naaman (2 Kings 5)
Naaman was a commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a “valiant soldier but he had leprosy” (5:1). Naaman did not pray to the God of Israel to heal him but he expected Him to be able to do that and went to the prophet Elisha for his healing. When Naaman finally obeyed the prophet’s instructions, he was healed and he declared “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” (5:15)
King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37)
God struck him down when he glorified himself. Everything was taken from him and he became insane. Finally he said, “I Nebuchadnezzar raised my eyes toward heaven and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High. I honoured and glorified Him who lives forever“.
God is sovereign (there is no limit to his power and ability). We cannot put Him in a box and say this or that is what He will or will not do. He knows what is in the heart of every man, woman and child. He hears the cry of their heart and He can chose to answer any prayer that He sees fit.
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