God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers

We have been going through Hebrews recently in church. The key headline from Sunday’s sermon was that, in Christ, we can have real confidence before the judgement seat of God. We can access God confidently through the Lord Jesus.

One of the side points I made in that sermon – in passing and it was not in my notes – was that unbelievers have no right of access. Specifically, I noted that God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers. That is to say, if you do not trust in Jesus, God does not hear your prayers.

Of course, by that, I don’t mean God cannot hear the words coming out of people’s mouths or the thoughts in their heads. Of course he knows and hears those things. He knows and hears everything. So, in the sense that he knows when unbelievers are praying and knows exactly why they are praying and what they want, God hears their prayers in that sense.

But what I mean is that God does not grant them a hearing. That is, he turns a deaf ear to their prayer. Unbelievers have zero right of access to God. They have zero ability to petition him for anything. They have no grounds to expect God to work for them or answer their prayer. He might – because of common grace or for his particular purposes – choose to do something for them that corresponds to their prayer nonetheless. But it bears saying such things are not a response to their prayer.

What I am saying is that God has a massive dead-letter office. Prayers that are not offered in and through Christ are like undelivered letters. They remain unread, unopened, and most significantly, unheeded. Anyone who has not put their faith in Jesus and approached God through him does not have access to him. Your prayers are undelivered, landing in God’s infinite dead-letter office.

The Bible is very clear on this point. ‘There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5). Similarly, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me’ (John 14:6). There are all sorts of other places we could go to to hear the same message again and again. It is only those who are in Christ who have any access to God.

Which means, if you are not a believer, your prayers will not be heard. They can be if you turn in repentance and faith to Jesus. But until such time, the prayers of unbelievers will not be heard.