By R.W. McAlister
Certainly there is no question that God “hears” all prayers in the sense that He knows we’re saying them. God is omniscient, and therefore hears and sees everything that happens on Earth. The Scriptures affirm this repeatedly. The Proverb writer observed: “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings” (Prov. 5:21). Jeremiah wrote: “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD” (Jer. 23:24). The writer of Hebrews said: “And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).
The real question is: Does God respond to every prayer? Specifically, does God “act” based upon requests made by someone who is not a Christian? What do the Scriptures teach us about God’s response to the alien sinner? The Scriptures are clear in teaching that God does not hear (to respond to) the prayer of alien sinners. Numerous verses in the Old Testament confirm the idea that God does respond to the prayers of the righteous, but does not respond to the prayers of the wicked. Psalm 66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Proverbs 15:29 declares: “The Lord is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” David wrote: “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. 16The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:15-16).
Consider the story found in John 9. During His travels, Jesus encountered a man who had been blind since birth and healed him. After the former blind man left Jesus and His followers, he was brought before the Pharisees and questioned. They reasoned that because Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath, He must have been a sinner. The blind man defended Jesus to these Pharisees when he said: “We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31). Simply put, his argument was: (1) Only God could have worked such a miracle as giving sight to the blind; (2) God doesn’t hear the petitions of sinners; (3) therefore, Jesus could not be a sinner, because He restored the man’s sight by the power of God.
We have no record of any of those religious leaders trying to correct or contradict his statement. Why? Because the Pharisees were well trained in the Law, and the blind man’s statement was a well-known fact. The Old Testament passages referenced earlier (Psalm 34:15-16; Proverbs 15:29, et al.) confirmed the truth of what he said.
Also, Jesus Himself said in Matt. 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Saul of Tarsus prayed for three days after arriving in Damascus, yet his sins were not “washed away” until he was immersed in water – baptized - in obedience to God’s command (Acts 22:16). If there ever was a case to be made for the “sinner’s prayer,” this was it; and yet it didn’t save him!
Finally, prayer is an avenue of communication between a “child of God” and his heavenly Father. The model prayer begins: “Our Father which art in heaven …” (Mt. 6:9), and one becomes a child of the Father only by being born again (Jn. 3:3-5), not by praying. The sinner’s prayer will not save anyone, because prayer is not the means by which man is saved – repentance, confession and baptism – that’s the Lord’s way of salvation. Won’t you respond in obedience today?
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/