Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?
The Bible predominantly talks of the fellowship that one has with God through faith in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. We know that believers pray, praise and make supplications to God for every need that arises in their lives. But, how does God deal with the prayers of unbelievers? The difficulty in this question is compounded by the fact that the prayers are not addressed specifically to Him.
In connection to this, let us look at a few things from the Scripture.
The Bible says that God, who is the one and only God, gives the basic necessities of life to all, irrespective of their relationship with God. He gives food to all flesh (Psalm 136:25, 145:15-16). He gives rain and sunshine (essential for the earthly sustenance of all) to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil (Matthew 5:45). He does so because He is good and compassionate to all that He has made (Psalm 145:9).
In short, although He doesn’t technically answer the prayers (of the unbelievers) that aren’t directed to Him, He gives them the things that pertain to their sustenance. This is why He blesses the business and agricultural ventures of even those who do not relate to Him.
God does what God has to do in order to sustain His creation. This involves taking care of the needs of His creation, which can include acting in the affirmative when unbelievers desire healing from sickness or success in education or career, etc. Not because they prayed to Him, but because He is God and knows what needs to fulfil His sovereign plans and purposes. The aforementioned blessings, therefore, are not just things He gives to believers alone.
God does what God has to do in order to sustain His creation
In Acts 10 and 11, we see a devout God-fearing man named Cornelius who was involved in charity (Acts 10:1-2). Despite his piety, he wasn’t yet in a relationship with God through Jesus (Acts 11:13-14). It was only after Peter went to Cornelius and shared the gospel that Cornelius along with his household believed.
An angel told Cornelius that his regular prayers to God and charitable acts have gone up as a memorial to Him (Acts 10:4). His prayers contained the request to be in a relationship with God and God grants his request by sending Peter, a Jew who has never interacted with people outside his nation, with the gospel to the Gentile group of people assembled at Cornelius’ home.
Thus, we understand that God answers the prayers of every unbeliever who is desperately searching for an abiding relationship with the true God. In fact, the first prayer that God answers for any unbeliever is their prayer of repentance to be saved.
In summary, we can conclude that God, in His sovereignty, grants benevolence to unbelievers in matters of basic necessities and matters regarding various things in life — even though those prayers aren’t specifically directed to the one true God. However, He answers the prayers of anyone who is in search for truth pertaining to the salvation that comes from believing in Jesus.
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