Will a prayer from an unbeliever move the hand of God?

Jim Allen

A young man in his late twenties had been struggling with faith in God since childhood. His teachers said he was intelligent, even though he convinced himself God did not exist. God was just a story like all the other stories his mother read to him growing up, so he supposed. The young man had been dealing with a long-term medical disorder and one night reached a breaking point. Despondent and planning the unthinkable, he drove to a cove where it was dark and isolated.

While sitting in the car he could smell the ocean breeze and hear the waves breaking against rocks. Seagulls were flying about. A bell on a distant buoy would occasionally sound. Looking upward at the night sky and seeing innumerable stars placed within an immeasurable expanse, he prayed for a sign from God that would prove he was wrong, and that there really is someone who cares. As he thought about life and his denial of God, the thought of suicide passed. Surely, he thought, God would not answer him now after these many years of unbelief.

But then the young man reasoned he would give God one more chance to prove Himself, and said looking heavenward, "If you're real, then show me a shooting star." Satisfied with the petition, he waited in hope and searched the sky intently for more than two hours. But nothing happened. Disappointed, he reasoned he was right all along and there was no God. Forgetting why he came to the beach, he went home downhearted and did not realize God had indeed heard him. After all, did not God cause the thought of suicide to pass?

Now safely home and just when turning the key to open the door to his house, he looked skyward and saw a bright shooting star blazing right across the middle of the night sky. Surprised, he was elated and later said, "I mean, it was dead-on-center, not to be missed…it was amazing."

While the true [1] story about this young man ends here, it reveals God's power to know every heartbeat and hear the faintest whisper from the least of despairing souls. While some teach God will never hear the prayer of a lost person unless for salvation, the Bible does not teach that view. God is all-knowing and hears every prayer when uttered to Him in genuineness of heart. While the young man's prayer did not demonstrate great faith, his prayer of little faith was enough, that night, to move the hand of God in the heavenlies.

Some might argue the shooting star was by chance and nothing more. The author of Ecclesiastes appears to have a godless view on life and writes, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all... As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)." The author describes life from the perspective of a gambler rolling the dice and hoping for a little luck.

So then, are all men under the natural decree of time and chance, living life by luck of the dice roll? While the Bible teaches God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), it also teaches He wisely allows arrogant and imprudent men to plot their own course in life, some to great wealth and fame and others to poverty and shame (Proverbs 16:25). So then and in this way, godless men do make their own luck.

But, this is not true for believers. We are not under luck or left to plot our own course through life. We live under the divine decree of Godly purpose (Jeremiah 29:11). For the young man in the story who prayed a simple prayer, God apparently changed his path - that fateful night - from despair and wanton destruction to one of hope. Believers who bring their petitions before the Lord are often surprised when heaven appears to turn a deaf ear. One believer said, "I might as well be talking to the ceiling for all the good it does."

So, what's going on here? First, God's priority is to the believer, always (Psalm 34:15). Second, we have a direct line to the Almighty, and the line is never busy. Lastly, God knows every need before we pray (Matthew 6:8). He hears. He knows. He decides. He knows what is best for you and me. The faintest whisper of need, a sincere thank you, or an inspired moment of praise is always seized by the Father. Part of the challenge and confusion for some, so it would seem, is the perception our prayers are not heard.

God answers every prayer. Sometimes the answer is NO or WAIT. Sometimes the answer is YES, but always according to what is best for you and me and those for whom we pray (1 John 5:14-15). The Lord's "perfect will" for the young man that night was for him to see that God is real, plugged in, listening, and powerful enough to answer any prayer including those who give Him just one more chance.

1. Story adapted from Written in the Sky – Posted on

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Published 9-10-13