Question: Does God hear and respond to the prayers of the unsaved? I know that believers have the privilege of prayer as children of God, but what about the lost?
Response: It is clear that God hears every prayer—meaning that He is aware of the petitioner and his or her prayer. The pertinent question, however is, Does God hear and respond to every prayer? It has often been said that the only prayer of the unrighteous that the Lord will hear is a prayer of repentance. The following Scriptures come to mind: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps:66:18). “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Prv 15:29).
In 1 Peter:3:12, the apostle writes, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”
The intent of the heart is key. The Roman Centurion Cornelius was a just (not justified) man, who told Peter, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God” (Acts:10:30-31). Earlier, the angel told him to contact Peter, “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts:11:14). Cornelius was clearly seeking the Lord, and in this instance we can see that the prayers of a man who was not yet saved were heard.
Again, it is clear that the Lord will hear the prayers of the repentant man, and the one who is earnestly seeking Him: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer:29:13).