Does God hear the prayer of the Unconverted Child?

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JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Dear friends,

I am looking for some Reformed historical testimony regarding the prayers of the unregenerate covenant child. I contend that while the Lord hears every whisper and thought uttered on this earth, He on the other hand does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favourable way. The reason; this prayer is not mediated through the cross work of Jesus Christ. I believe this to be true of not only Joe Pagan's prayer, but also of the prayer of my unconverted child (even though they are Baptized covenant members of the visible Church). From my fellow Reformed & Presbyterian brethren, am I missing something when I say that God does not hear the prayer of our children before they are regenerate?
I'd like some links posted if this topic has been discussed before, or some exposition posted by other Reformed authors in which speak to this issue.

Thanks in advance.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I've wondered why we should teach our children to pray for anything other than salvation if we are basically teaching them to be hypocrites in doing so.

:popcorn:
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Reprobate has reference to the eternal decree of God; unregenerate or unconverted has reference to the life of the soul (or rather, spiritual deadness) prior to quickening or regeneration. This distinction is worth noting.

It is the duty of unbelievers to pray to God. They sin in their prayers by doing so while lacking faith, but the sin is greater to not pray. David Clarkson ("If it be a necessary duty for unbelievers to desire these things, it is their necessary duty to pray for them" Sermon on Faith); Richard Baxter ("Prayer is a duty which God enjoined even wicked men (I could prove it by an hundred Scripture texts.)" The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort); Jonathan Edwards ("God not only directs godly persons to pray, but others also...God is pleased sometimes to answer the prayers of unbelievers. Indeed he hears not their prayers for their goodness or acceptableness, or because of any true respect to him manifested in them, for there is none; yet he is pleased sometimes, of his sovereign mercy, to pity wicked men, and hear their cries and many others have addressed this in their works., et al." The Most High a Prayer-Hearing God); and others have addressed this.

Jacobus Koelman has a chapter on teaching children to pray in The Duties of Parents which is very useful. They should be taught that acceptable prayer is made in faith to God in the name of Christ with thanksgiving, praise and petitions according to the revealed will of God. They are to be taught not only by precept and example but to put in practice their obedience to this duty which is enjoined upon all as soon as they are able to do so.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Reprobate has reference to the eternal decree of God; unregenerate or unconverted has reference to the life of the soul (or rather, spiritual deadness) prior to quickening or regeneration. This distinction is worth noting.
:up:
[bible]Deuteronomy 29:29[/bible]

Do you have a reprobate child in mind who you're concerned about?
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Dear friends,

I am looking for some Reformed historical testimony regarding the prayers of the unregenerate covenant child. I contend that while the Lord hears every whisper and thought uttered on this earth, He on the other hand does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favourable way. The reason; this prayer is not mediated through the cross work of Jesus Christ. I believe this to be true of not only Joe Pagan's prayer, but also of the prayer of my unconverted child (even though they are Baptized covenant members of the visible Church). From my fellow Reformed & Presbyterian brethren, am I missing something when I say that God does not hear the prayer of our children before they are regenerate?
I'd like some links posted if this topic has been discussed before, or some exposition posted by other Reformed authors in which speak to this issue.

Thanks in advance.
If a child (or an adult, for that matter) is praying a prayer for salvation, then, obviously, he is not a reprobate because no one can put his faith in Jesus Christ without being regenerated and then prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit. However, God is not under any obligation whatosever to hear the prayers of unbelievers on any other subject. In His sovereignty and providence, He may choose to do so, of course, but He is not obligated to do so.

God always hears the prayer of faith, but such prayer does not come from non-elect persons.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
I agree that we should teach our children to pray (for a new heart, to give them faith, etc). However, I also think we should stay clear of teaching that that there is any access to the throne of grace other than through mediation. Covenant children do not have a pass to the Father simply because they are baptized. As if Covenant gives them some second way to the Father than through th meditorial office of Christ bypassing the crosswork & regeneration. Dr. Jonathan Gerstler called the prayers of the reprobate, "sinful good works". I tend to agree. Any thoughts? If unregenerate children of the covenant (by baptism) are still dead in their trespasses and sins then,
"The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Pro 15:29). "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth" (Joh 9:31 ).

Thoughts?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I often think of the account of Cornelius when this subject is discussed.

Acts 10:1-8 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 "Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 "He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." 7 And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. 8 So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa.
God was under no obligation to hear Cornelius' prayer, but it pleased God to do so. Later in the chapter, upon hearing the gospel from the mouth of Peter, Cornelius believed and was gloriously saved.

Whether it is an unbelieving child or adult, God is not obligated to hear their prayer; but if it pleases Him to do so, His ear can be attentive to their prayer.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Reprobate has reference to the eternal decree of God; unregenerate or unconverted has reference to the life of the soul (or rather, spiritual deadness) prior to quickening or regeneration. This distinction is worth noting.
:up:
[bible]Deuteronomy 29:29[/bible]

Do you have a reprobate child in mind who you're concerned about?
No. Just the belief that not every covenant child is elect. I have 8, and desire that they all be converted. Yet perhaps some will not be. What of their prayers as covenant children who, despite their baptism are reprobate. Some argue that on the basis of their baptism and covenant membership, their prayers are heard. Not prayers for salvation, but for protection for daddy on the way home from work, and the missionaries in foreign lands, and thanks for the food etc. What of these prayers?
Thanks.
 

Reformingstudent

Puritan Board Junior
How can anyone know if their child is a "Reprobate"? I had thought that we were to assume unless otherwise shown that all our children are elect. The Canons Of Dort Article 17: We must judge concerning the will of God from His Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy (Gen_17:7; Act_2:39; 1Co_7:14).
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I agree that we should teach our children to pray (for a new heart, to give them faith, etc). However, I also think we should stay clear of teaching that that there is any access to the throne of grace other than through mediation. Covenant children do not have a pass to the Father simply because they are baptized. As if Covenant gives them some second way to the Father than through th meditorial office of Christ bypassing the crosswork & regeneration. Dr. Jonathan Gerstler called the prayers of the reprobate, "sinful good works". I tend to agree. Any thoughts? If unregenerate children of the covenant (by baptism) are still dead in their trespasses and sins then,
"The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Pro 15:29). "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth" (Joh 9:31 ).

Thoughts?
My thoughts are this: why ask about children in the above. Insert {adult} anywhere that you type {children} above and the same issue applies.

This is the difference between the Covenant of Grace and the Covenant of Redemption. The Covenant of Grace is a historic outworking of God's plan to save an Elect for Himself. Of course we maintain that the reprobate do not participate in Christ's mediatorial work except that they have been united to Him by faith that is born from above. Yet it is fundamental to visible Covenant participation that all in the Covenant are called to obedience by the Gospel and are administered the Sacraments for strengthening toward that end. In a visible sense, it is impious to go around wondering if someone in the congregation is elect/reprobate and treating them differently on the basis of speculation. Hebrews repeatedly commands that we strive together, fear together, and consider how we might spur one another on toward love and good works. It doesn't encourage us to tell a child or an adult to divine for themselves whether they are elect or reprobate and, on that basis, determine whether they should call upon the Name of the Lord.

Rather, a day has been apppinted called Today: Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.

I remember a man that I attended Church with a few years ago that wanted to believe the Gospel (and had believed it) but got a hold of some of this kind of speculative material. He convinced himself that he must be one of those reprobate people that deceives themselves that they believe but, in fact, he was convinced he was reprobate and nothing could be done. I can't tell you how heartbroken I was to think that the man had his head filled with nonsense that he was supposed to focus on the hidden things of God. The Gospel is not held out to us that we might ask the question: am I elect and, if so, I shall believe. The Gospel is announced to us to believe and, in our believing, we shall be saved.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
If a child (or an adult, for that matter) is praying a prayer for salvation, then, obviously, he is not a reprobate because no one can put his faith in Jesus Christ without being regenerated and then prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit. However, God is not under any obligation whatosever to hear the prayers of unbelievers on any other subject. In His sovereignty and providence, He may choose to do so, of course, but He is not obligated to do so.

God always hears the prayer of faith, but such prayer does not come from non-elect persons.
Yes, if it is a prayer of faith it is a response to the work of regeneration done in them by a sovereign work. It is this statement I would like to investigate further for my own clarification. "However, God is not under any obligation whatosever to hear the prayers of unbelievers on any other subject. In His sovereignty and providence, He may choose to do so, of course, but He is not obligated to do so." Is there some proof you would offer in this regard?
Is there access to the favorable response of the Father in prayer outside the mediation of Christ, is my question. This seems to be what you are saying. If so, how would you support this from the Word?
Thanks for your thoughts,
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thoughts?
Hi Jerrold, hope you are well. Have you considered the Directory for Public Worship, and what it says about the children of the faithful having right to the outward privileges of the church, being blessed by Jesus, and federally holy? Christian Parents should pray WITH their children as well as FOR them. By so doing they can teach their children the importance of approaching God through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
I agree that we should teach our children to pray (for a new heart, to give them faith, etc). However, I also think we should stay clear of teaching that that there is any access to the throne of grace other than through mediation. Covenant children do not have a pass to the Father simply because they are baptized. As if Covenant gives them some second way to the Father than through th meditorial office of Christ bypassing the crosswork & regeneration. Dr. Jonathan Gerstler called the prayers of the reprobate, "sinful good works". I tend to agree. Any thoughts? If unregenerate children of the covenant (by baptism) are still dead in their trespasses and sins then,
"The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Pro 15:29). "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth" (Joh 9:31 ).

Thoughts?
My thoughts are this: why ask about children in the above. Insert {adult} anywhere that you type {children} above and the same issue applies.

This is the difference between the Covenant of Grace and the Covenant of Redemption. The Covenant of Grace is a historic outworking of God's plan to save an Elect for Himself. Of course we maintain that the reprobate do not participate in Christ's mediatorial work except that they have been united to Him by faith that is born from above. Yet it is fundamental to visible Covenant participation that all in the Covenant are called to obedience by the Gospel and are administered the Sacraments for strengthening toward that end. In a visible sense, it is impious to go around wondering if someone in the congregation is elect/reprobate and treating them differently on the basis of speculation. Hebrews repeatedly commands that we strive together, fear together, and consider how we might spur one another on toward love and good works. It doesn't encourage us to tell a child or an adult to divine for themselves whether they are elect or reprobate and, on that basis, determine whether they should call upon the Name of the Lord.

Rather, a day has been apppinted called Today: Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.

I remember a man that I attended Church with a few years ago that wanted to believe the Gospel (and had believed it) but got a hold of some of this kind of speculative material. He convinced himself that he must be one of those reprobate people that deceives themselves that they believe but, in fact, he was convinced he was reprobate and nothing could be done. I can't tell you how heartbroken I was to think that the man had his head filled with nonsense that he was supposed to focus on the hidden things of God. The Gospel is not held out to us that we might ask the question: am I elect and, if so, I shall believe. The Gospel is announced to us to believe and, in our believing, we shall be saved.
Here is the context of the statement I made this morning on the first service. It was after the administration of baptism to a new baby. I said the following, and a few eyebrows were raised to it. Looking for feedback.

Sub-point #3. Train Them in the Duty of Prayer

Some will shirk from this because they cannot believe that one unconverted might offer prayer to God. And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith), it so lowers our children before the Creator that they might very well be taught of God in their prayers. Pray often in their midst. One Puritan said that "A home without prayer is like a home without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of heaven".
Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them in the discipline of prayer. Show them how to start. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere, to beg for a new heart. This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before she can read, you can teach her to kneel by her mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in hers mouth.
The contention was that I said, "And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith), it so lowers our children before the Creator that they might very well be taught of God in their prayers."

Thoughts?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Reprobate has reference to the eternal decree of God; unregenerate or unconverted has reference to the life of the soul (or rather, spiritual deadness) prior to quickening or regeneration. This distinction is worth noting.

It is the duty of unbelievers to pray to God. They sin in their prayers by doing so while lacking faith, but the sin is greater to not pray. David Clarkson ("If it be a necessary duty for unbelievers to desire these things, it is their necessary duty to pray for them" Sermon on Faith); Richard Baxter ("Prayer is a duty which God enjoined even wicked men (I could prove it by an hundred Scripture texts.)" The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort); Jonathan Edwards ("God not only directs godly persons to pray, but others also...God is pleased sometimes to answer the prayers of unbelievers. Indeed he hears not their prayers for their goodness or acceptableness, or because of any true respect to him manifested in them, for there is none; yet he is pleased sometimes, of his sovereign mercy, to pity wicked men, and hear their cries and many others have addressed this in their works., et al." The Most High a Prayer-Hearing God); and others have addressed this.

Jacobus Koelman has a chapter on teaching children to pray in The Duties of Parents which is very useful. They should be taught that acceptable prayer is made in faith to God in the name of Christ with thanksgiving, praise and petitions according to the revealed will of God. They are to be taught not only by precept and example but to put in practice their obedience to this duty which is enjoined upon all as soon as they are able to do so.
Andrew,

This is very helpful. Thanks for posting this!
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Thoughts?
Hi Jerrold, hope you are well. Have you considered the Directory for Public Worship, and what it says about the children of the faithful having right to the outward privileges of the church, being blessed by Jesus, and federally holy? Christian Parents should pray WITH their children as well as FOR them. By so doing they can teach their children the importance of approaching God through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
Hi Matthew,

Yes, the Directory is a big help in this regard. I do see our children as federally holy, and the objets of the blessings and benefits of the Covenant. Could you read my previous post and tell me what you think?

Blessings brother,
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Here is the context of the statement I made this morning on the first service. It was after the administration of baptism to a new baby. I said the following, and a few eyebrows were raised to it. Looking for feedback.

Sub-point #3. Train Them in the Duty of Prayer

Some will shirk from this because they cannot believe that one unconverted might offer prayer to God. And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith), it so lowers our children before the Creator that they might very well be taught of God in their prayers. Pray often in their midst. One Puritan said that "A home without prayer is like a home without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of heaven".
Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them in the discipline of prayer. Show them how to start. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere, to beg for a new heart. This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before she can read, you can teach her to kneel by her mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in hers mouth.
The contention was that I said, "And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith), it so lowers our children before the Creator that they might very well be taught of God in their prayers."

Thoughts?
The nature of this question seems completely different to me. I agree wholeheartedly above with Adam that the difference between unconverted and reprobate is an important one.

I have argued vehemently in another thread that disciples are baptized not simply that they might begin a process of sanctification after definitive conversion but that baptism is also for the training in the fear and admonition toward the end of conversion: both adult and child.

I actually don't have a problem with the above.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
And, incidentally, I apologize for coming out of the blocks aggressively but the original question really caught me off guard.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Yes, the Directory is a big help in this regard. I do see our children as federally holy, and the objets of the blessings and benefits of the Covenant. Could you read my previous post and tell me what you think?
Jerrold, Is this point you have in mind?

"The contention was that I said, "And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith)."
I'm not sure how an unconverted person prays the prayer of faith. Also, didn't God take favourable notice of Ahab humbling himself, and therefore postpone punishment of his house? I would be inclined to classify such external covenant favours as "common operations of the Spirit."

Blessings!
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I do not know a theological answer to this question other than the fact that my older daughter has still not made a public profession of faith, and my younger daughter only recently acknowledged her faith. Both of my children prayed very specific prayers for several weeks (and in the case of my older daughter it was over a period of several months), and God clearly answered their prayers. While I am trusting God to bring my older daughter to Himself, why did He answer her specific prayer?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Jerrold,

Do I have your permission to change the title of the thread to: "Does God hear the prayers of the unconverted child?"

Your title asks one question but I think your OP asks a different one but the title really threw me for a loop.
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Jerrold,

Do I have your permission to change the title of the thread to: "Does God hear the prayers of the unconverted child?"

Your title asks one question but I think your OP asks a different one but the title really threw me for a loop.
Yes, please
 
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