The Bible teaches us that prayer is the privilege of those who have become the children of God (John 1:12). The Psalm writer tells us: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil..." (Psalm 34:15).
This is also implied in the Gospel of John, chapter 9. Jesus healed a man who had been blind since his birth. The religious leaders of that day challenged the man's healing and sought to discredit Jesus by implying that he acted outside of God's will. To this accusation, the healed man replied, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will ... If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." (John 9:28-33).
In the New Testament, there are a few examples of prayers spoken by unbelievers, such as the thief on the cross who prayed, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). There is the prayer of the tax collector, who prayed simply, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13b).
There are also the prayers of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, who had come to believe in the God of Israel. God heard the prayers and sent the apostle Peter to Cornelius with the good news about Jesus in order that he might be saved (Acts, chapter 10).
From these instances it appears that the prayers of those who were not followers of God took the form of calls upon God for mercy and acceptance. One can pray such a prayer with the confidence that God will answer and receive him or her by His grace into the assurance of salvation and eternal life.
Jesus once said, "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37b). However, one who has never trusted in Jesus as his personal Savior should be reminded that if his only point in prayer is to relieve his mind of problems and secure benefits, it is extremely doubtful that such praying would gain the desired objective.
If you have received Christ as your Savior, you have the privilege to talk freely with God because He is your Heavenly Father, and you are His child. If you have never received Christ, we urge you to make your commitment to God by turning from sin, trusting Christ to forgive you, and inviting Jesus to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. When you do this, you become a member of God's own family.