HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
An important aspect of the above point about being merciful and forgiving others is the need to humbly realize that God often hears even the prayers of completely unconverted individuals who cry out to Him. Of course, we know that God has said: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2).
It is certainly true that God will virtually never hear those who are sinning and in a wrong attitude. But, there are millions of sincere people who think they are truly worshipping God and are simply deceived. God, Himself has allowed this! And in His inspired Word, God explains that it is “the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Also, Jesus Christ tells us very clearly: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
It is very important that we do not self-righteously assume that God only hears the prayers of those who are converted and are obeying Him. Again, what about those sincere people who are not yet called? And what about you and me before we were called and converted? As I look back on my own life, I definitely remember several times when God absolutely intervened in answer to my prayers. He was “calling” me. He was beginning to reveal Himself to me as a “real” God by intervening in my life. He has done and will do the same for many, many others all over the world.
Remember the story of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9–14: “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'”
So the Creator will often hear the prayers of weak or spiritually blinded people who humbly pray to Him. He will not hear them if they knowingly disobey Him or are in a wrong attitude. He will not hear those who directly pray to idols or to false “gods.” But our merciful Father will hear those who—though ignorant of His full revelation—sincerely cry out to Him as the Creator and the true God.
The above understanding is beautifully expressed in Psalm 107:23–24, 27–31: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.… They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
We all know of vain, disobedient or even “worldly” professing Christians who frankly “brag” about answered prayer or tell wild stories of constant “miracles” in their churches or in their lives. This religious boasting and even falsifying is a real detriment to true Christianity and could easily be a stumbling block to those being called who see through this sham. But, if your friend or neighbour sincerely and heartfeltly prays to the God of heaven, he or she may be heard because God knows that their ignorance of His ways is not deliberate and that their sincerity is very real.