Does God Hear the Prayers of Those Who Do Not Know Him?


We are not told all we would like to know about how God hears the members of His human family. However, if God limited His listening to the righteous, the upright, He would be cutting Himself off from helping those who are on the way to becoming righteous, because no one starts out righteous. All must grow to that exalted state. Many Bible passages picture the Christ-life as a growth. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Reaching the state of the “perfect man,” even the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” requires time and growth. The apostle Peter also pictured the new life as a growth: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).

Very early in His career our Lord gave His disciples what we call the “Lord’s Prayer,” long before His disciples reached the state of complete righteousness. In this prayer He includes a phrase which asks God for forgiveness of our sins, and this assumes we those praying are sinners still. If God did not listen to such a prayer from one who was striving but not fully righteous, how could he or she receive any help?

Jesus commanded His disciples to pray to the Father in His name. He is our intercessor, our mediator, and He has special help and understanding to lend. As we read in Hebrews, “in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). We need God to direct us, to strengthen us in the battle against our lower nature. Of what value would such aid be, if otherwise?

The same is true of the help of the angels. We read, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). This implying they have not yet reached that exalted goal at the time they need help.

Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep indicates that God is looking upon those who have not repented, in the hope that they will, otherwise how could there be joy in heaven when one repents? (Luke 15:7).

We can know that God will hear each one who is striving to obey. Only when we forsake God will He forsake us. And whenever we turn back to God, He will again hear us if we are humble and penitent.

The words of God’s prophet Azariah to king Asa when he had sinned illustrate the same point: “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chron. 15:2).

This is why David could say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). We can have this same very present help, if only we will sincerely seek and strive to obey God. We need not fear that God will withhold His help until we are wholly righteous.