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Does God hear the prayers of non-Christians?

Jesus asked, "Why do you call Me good?"

Does God hear the prayers of non-Christians? 6/10/2000

Katz writes: The church I attend teaches that God does not hear the prayers of those who are not Christians. Is this teaching correct?

A) We will begin our answer to your question by listing Four Facts from the Biblical record about a fellow named Cornelius...    

Fact #1 - Cornelius was a commander of soldiers.

  • Cornelius prayed to God
  • Cornelius was not a Christian

  There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10.1-2
Fact #2 - God heard and responded to the prayers of Cornelius by sending an angel to him.   About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!'' And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?'' So he (the angel) said to him (Cornelius), "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Acts 10.3-4
Fact #3 - The angel commanded Cornelius to send for one of God's "missionaries" whose name was Peter.   (The angel told Cornelius...) "Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.'' Acts 10.5-6
Fact#4 - Peter came to Cornelius and gave him the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.   (Peter told Cornelius...) whoever believes in Him (Jesus) will receive remission of sins.'' Acts 10.43b
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Acts 10.1-2

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation
whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." Acts 10.34-35
 

B) Acts Chapter 10 (you should read ALL of it) makes it clear that God does hear the prayers of non-Christians who...

  • Are devout -- They revere and honor God and seek Him out.
  • Fear God -- They recognize that God is holy and hates sin.
  • Pray to the one true God -- They do not pray to idols, angels, or demons. They do not pray to religious leaders. They pray ONLY to God.

C) Conversely, the Bible makes it equally clear that God will not hear the prayers of ANYONE who...

  • Does not repent -- Lives a life of persistent sinning. Is unrepentant. Does not regret his or her sins. Has no desire to desist from those sins. (Ps 66.18, Pr 15.29)
  • Rejects the truth -- Has heard the truth of the gospel, and has persisted in rejecting that truth. (Rom 1.25, 1.28; 2 Thes 2.10-12)
  • Doubts that God exists -- Does not come to God in the steadfast belief that He exists. (Heb 11.6)
  The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. Pr 15.29

...because
they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie. 2 Thes 2.10b-11

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for
he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11.6b
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14.6

The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and
His kingdom rules over all. Ps 103.19

There is therefore now no condemnation to
those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. ...The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Rom 8.1, 8.16
 

E) Some folks interpret John 14.6 to mean that God won't hear the prayers of anyone who is not a Christian. However, consider the following...

  • God is "Father" only to those who are adopted as His children by virtue of their belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  • However, God is God to every person. In fact, He is God of ALL creatures, great and small.

Accordingly, it is my INTERPRETATION that anyone may come to God in His capacity as God, but only God's own children may come to God as their Father in Heaven. That, I believe, is the meaning of John 14.6.

Why do you call Me good?

Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?''
So He (Jesus) said to him, "
Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.'' (Mt 19.16-17; also Mk 10.18, Lk 18.19)
In the passage quoted above, a rich man came to Jesus in order to find out how to have eternal life...
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?'' (Mt 19.16)
It is clear that the rich man had no idea of the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Rather, the rich man regarded Jesus as being merely a Rabbi -- a teacher of religious principles...
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher..." (Mt 19.16a)
Obviously the rich man believed that Jesus had Himself obtained eternal life. If the rich man hadn't believed that, he would never have come to Jesus for advice on how to go to heaven.

Moreover, the rich man believed that Jesus had
earned eternal life because Jesus was a "good" person...
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher..." (Mt 19.16a)

In summary, the rich man was sorely in error on three vital points...

  • Error #1 - The rich man thought Jesus was merely a man -- a great teacher, yes -- but merely a man.
  • Error #2 - The rich man thought this "mere man" had achieved such a degree of "human goodness" that He had EARNED eternal life in Heaven.
  • Error #3 - Accordingly, the rich man believed that he, too, could earn eternal life merely by doing good deeds under his own steam...
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?'' (Mt 19.16)
Because the rich man was measuring the goodness of Jesus according to merely human standards, Jesus responded as follows...
So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. (Mt 19.17)
When Jesus said, "Why do you call me good?" He was merely asking a question in order to teach.

He was not saying, "I am not good."

Rather, He was saying, "Don't assess anyone's goodness based on
human standards of goodness."

Then Jesus immediately told the rich man that the ONLY standard of goodness is God Himself...
So He (Jesus) said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. (Mt 19.17)
Thus, Jesus taught the rich man the same lesson He had taught in His "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew chapter 5).

Namely, "good" isn't good enough. You have to be as perfect as God Himself...
(Jesus said...) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Mt 5.48)
The main point that Jesus taught the rich man was that he couldn't achieve God's state of perfection. Therefore, he couldn't obtain eternal life by his own good works.

The bottom line -- eternal life can be obtained only as an out-and-out gift from God, through faith in Jesus...
Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'' (Mt 19.21)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2.8-9)

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