Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 29, 1955
NUMBER 21, PAGE 6,9b

The Unregenerate's Prayer

Vaughn D. Shofner, Camden, Arkansas

The voice of preachers is everywhere pleading with unregenerate sinners to pray to God and be saved. The ether waves are kept active bearing their mellifluent message of God clearing away every charge that is against any unregenerate soul who will only kneel by his radio and pray. And some church members, who should know better, have accepted this sectarian shibboleth and are marching in the ranks of the rebels, regarding prayer.

What advantage has the child of God over the one who has never surrendered to the new birth, if indeed all prayers are heard? And if, like some, you reason that he answers only prayers of a certain kind for the unregenerate, where is the standard to which you have gone to get this information about "which is which"? "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Prayer is a means of worship. In what way could an alien sinner's worship be acceptable? In praying to, and receiving from God, who is a Spirit, where would the separation of spiritual and physical be? How ? How differ from Christian's prayer in this separation?

There are qualifications to govern the prayers of the child of God, but there is no standard which states that God gives to one something he will not give to every other person who prays according to the qualifications. God is no respecter of persons, you remember. If unregenerate can pray for and obtain one single thing in answer to his prayer, why can not he pray for and receive all things which he might request? Where is the scripture that allows the unregenerate certain things in answer to his prayers, but denies him other things? If he can get just one thing by prayer he can get all things for which a child of God can pray. If not, why not?

If you cavil in your course by way of the word "hear", and claim answer has been made to prayer simply because God can receive knowledge of every spoken word, then being a child of God has no advantage. And, too, it is helpful to accept the fact that the providence of God can and does work without the intervention of miracles, and that it is in his grace that all men be saved. Not by an unregenerate's prayer does his grace come. I believe God will providentially provide any honest seeker with the gospel plan of salvation, but I do not believe he is thus compelled to answer an alien sinner's prayer. "Now 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). Yes, I know the words were spoken by the man who was saved from blindness. But how does that discredit a fact and prove, or hint in the direction of proof, that it is not true? Does the contextual setting of the statement deny its veracity? James said the "devils also believe and tremble." Does that in any way destroy the need of faith? And since the devils believe and tremble, is the verse not usable in showing the need of more than faith? James used the fact as help toward complete truth, and I feel no remorse for using the once blind man's statement to emphasize the truths of God's will. And, old Legion, "plumb full' of devils, when he saw Jesus afar off, ran and worshipped him, and cried, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus thou Son of the most high God?" (Mark 3). Did his worshipping Jesus belittle worship? Would calling attention to the fact that even Legion believed Jesus to be the Son of the most high God do any injustice to the truth? Neither will rehearsing the words of the once blind man destroy or discredit the truths of his statement, and if you can prove that the teaching is only incidental, truth is truth.

Mr. Thayer's Lexicon says the "heareth" of John 9:31 is more than auricular reception, and finds its meaning in the idea of having regard to; of God answering prayers of men. So, God does not hear all prayer, and therefore does not answer all prayers. And this verse says he does not answer the sinner's prayer.

Who is the sinner? Why, the verse tells us. The sinner is one in contradistinction to one who is "a worshipper of God, and doeth his will." Yes, an erring child of God is a sinner, but his sins are not forgiven in his rebellion. He is to "repent and pray"! don't you remember? So, he humbly changes from his wayward course, respects God and pays homage to him and his plan in order to receive forgiveness. But that is not the way an unregenerate is born again. Man is born again of the seed, the word of God. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth . . . being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Pet. 1:22,23). Therefore, believing the word, and obeying its conditions, even unto going down into the water by baptism, and coming forth from it, is God's plan for man to be born again and become his child.

Maybe you are ready to say that God heard (in the sense of God answering prayers of men) Saul of Tarsus before he became a child of God. Just what did he receive in answer to prayer? If you say he received his sight, I demand proof. Yes, scripture declares of Saul, "behold, he prayeth," but that simply gave information to Ananias relative to the change being made in Saul. Friend, the scripture also says Saul "hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight" (Acts 9:12). Did he pray for the vision? If his sight was received in answer to his prayer, was not the vision also? Should unregenerate sinners also have visions today? Why not?

Not one scintilla of the scriptural record regarding Saul of Tarsus, as it appears to me in the light of complete revelation, demands belief in power of an unregenerate's prayer. Gentle reader, the apostle Paul tells us so as he preached to Agrippa, leaving no shadow of a doubt as to why things happened as they did on the Damascus road. His sermon said, "for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose (HEAR IT! V.D.S.), to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:16-18). Believing this, who could say the doings of the Damascus road were in answer to the prayers of unregenerate Saul of Tarsus?

Even so did Cornelius pray, but I demand proof of one thing he received in answer to his prayers. The happenings at the house of Cornelius were to convince the Jews, "then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). And I therefore have no quarrel with the words of the Lord: "The Lord is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Prov. 16:29). "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination" (Prov. 28:9). "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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in they name done many wonderful works? And then will profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-23). I respect the truth, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Now, again, for what could an unregenerate pray? All that is essential unto the salvation of souls has been provided, leaving nothing for which he might pray.

And, How on earth could an unregenerate pray? All authority belongs to Christ (Mat. 28:18). Christ taught his disciples to pray to the Father, and gave examples of praying (see John 17). Only those things done in the name of Christ, by his authority, are acceptable. So, one must pray by Christ's authority, and he authorizes prayers to be made to "our Father" in heaven. But, "ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29). God made all beneficial promises to Abraham's seed, to be in Christ is to be Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise, because "in Christ" are all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). What manner of prayer can an unregenerate make? and what promise does he have? Talk to me about God rewarding the prayers of the unregenerate, and you talk about changing God's will.