Ask Father Paul 061709

Father Paul Massey's picture

Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few questions that I have received in my years of ministry and via email for this column.

Dear Father Paul: Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers? — Alex

Dear Alex: Opinions are mixed on this question. The Bible does say in John 9:31 “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will.” Some ministers preach that, “the only prayer God will answer from an unbeliever is, ‘Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.’” But it is important to put this verse from John in the context of what was happening.

Jesus had just performed a miracle earlier and the Pharisees were questioning him about what right he had to perform a miracle since he was obviously (in their minds) a sinner. So the verse is actually saying that since Jesus had, in fact, performed the miracle ... he was certainly from God, so the verse is actually saying that God does not perform miracles for sinners, not that God refuses to ever answer sinner’s prayers.

Many other scriptures describe God hearing and answering the prayers of unbelievers. Here are just a few.

In Jonah 3:5-10 it is told how God spared the godless city of Nineveh, which he had promised to destroy, when the (unbelievers) there prayed that the city might be spared.

Hagar, an unbeliever, prayed that God would protect her son Ishmael in Genesis 21;14-19. God not only protected Ishmael, but prospered him.

Acts 10 tells the story about Cornelius, a Roman soldier and a non-Christian, who prayed to God for help resulting in God sending Peter to him.

There are many other instances in the Bible where God responded to the prayers of an unbeliever.

God also promises to hear and respond to the prayers of believers and unbelievers alike as he does in Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, (to all people), “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” The answer then is yes, there are times when God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever. But there are also times when, because of his boundless grace and mercy, he does intervene in the lives of unbelievers in response to their prayers.

Dear Father Paul: I heard about a man who, as he lay dying, looked up smiling at the ceiling and exclaimed that he could see into heaven. He described angels and numerous long-dead relatives beckoning him to come. He then laughed out loud with glee, sank back on his pillow and died. What do you think about these kind of stories? - — Clay

Dear Clay: David Aikman, in his 2007 biography of Billy Graham, describes (on page 33) a similar experience that the teenage Billy Graham had as he, along with a number of his relatives, was in the room with his 90-year-old godly grandmother as she neared death. All of a sudden she woke from a coma-like state, lifted herself up off of her pillow and said loudly, “I see heaven. Oh, I can see heaven. Yes, yes I see Jesus. He has his hands outstretched to me.” Then, speaking of her late husband, Billy’s grandfather, she exclaimed, “I see Ben. There’s Ben.” And with that she fell back on her pillow and died.

Aikman reports that this incident had a profound and lasting effect on the young Billy Graham.

These and similar stories are quite common from people who work in nursing homes and hospices. Pastors and priests who are often with the dying at the time of death, also report similar experiences. I myself experienced this very recently when I sat alone at the bed side of my godly 94- year-old mother only a few hours before her death.

Are these experiences genuine? I believe they are, although I can’t prove it. I do believe that sometimes, as we near death, the veil that exists between earth and heaven can grow quite thin, even be parted. The Bible records that both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul were allowed to see and hear into heaven although not at the time of death. Deacon Stephen also saw Christ in heaven as he was being stoned to death. I also know pastors and priests who have been with godless people at the time of their deaths and report hearing them shriek in terror as they saw eternal hell looming in the distance.

Do you have a question? I will try to answer you in the paper. Email me your question at or mail it to P.O. Box 510, Fayetteville, GA. 30314. Or, you can call me at 678-457-3050.

Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Church of the Holy Cross is evangelical, charismatic and sacramental ... together ... in one church, and is modeled after the ancient, historic New Testament Church. Guests are most welcome. Information, directions and service times are available at

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DarthDubious's picture
Submitted by DarthDubious on Thu, 06/18/2009 - 3:40pm.

If a man is praying to God he obviously believes that God is there listening, so that makes him a believer, wouldn't you say?

In Liberty,


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