Religion is found around the world in a variety of forms and belief systems. There are Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs and thousands of other different religious groups that structure their lives around a particular set of beliefs and customs about a divine reality. For the most part, religious peoples worldwide live quiet, responsible and productive lives within their communities, but have rejected the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures.
In spite of a sincere devotion to their faiths, non-biblical religious worship is categorized in the Bible as idolatry or false worship; a rebellious rejection of the one true God. The first two commandments clearly state that God’s wrath rests on those who worship other gods or who worship the true God in a false manner. (Exodus 20:1-6) The non-Christian religious expressions among the nations are regarded as false, no matter how sincere, or how sacrificial in their devotion. They are false because they do not gain access to the Creator. (Romans 1:18ff, 3:23 6:23) Instead these religions believe in various demonic substitutes of God’s revelation in Christ and condemn themselves with the very devotions they hope will save them.
Because the Creator God is not impressed with religious zeal or devotion per se, He is not obligated to answer the prayers of non-Christians. Nevertheless, the Bible makes it clear that God does provide for the needs of people around the world in spite of their false worship and failure to recognize the true source of daily provision. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This “common grace” of God is dispensed throughout the nations irrespective of religious affiliation. Because of this common grace and according the good pleasure of His sovereign will, God may allow the specific prayers of some unbelievers to be answered. Such answered prayer does not condone the idolatrous notions behind the petitions. They are simply examples of God’s kindness, not the least of which is the extension of life in order to give the masses ample opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel (Romans 2:4; II Pete3:9).
The Bible records instances when God dictated the affairs of the world through unbelievers to accomplish a divine purpose. Assyria was a tool in God’s hands to punish Israel (Isaiah 10). Babylon was empowered to defeat Judah (Habakkuk 1:12ff) Yet God humbled the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzer , who went insane for seven years for refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of God (Daniel 4:25, 4:32) Even Cyrus, the Persian king, administered God’s purposes, even though he was an unbeliever (Is 45:4; Ezra 1:1) King Darius, after being tricked to condemn Daniel to death in the lion’s den, petitioned Daniel’s God for help and acknowledged His power when He answered. (Daniel 6:16 26-27)
God is not obligated to answer the prayers of unbelievers, and very often does not. But God may elect to answer some prayers directed at false gods in order to advance His secret decretive will and accomplish the advancement of His kingdom.