“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man…. About the ninth hour of the day, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, 'Cornelius!... Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.'"
Cornelius was a Gentile, pagan, Roman army officer, a centurion, but one whose prayers God certainly heard. Acts 10 describes him as “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” He was an unsaved man, but God was aware of and answered his prayer.
What’s the difference between a child of God who can pray in the name of Jesus and an unsaved person who prays? God has given prayer promises to the child of God that He has not given to the unsaved. But God can hear the unsaved person’s prayers and have mercy upon him.
Think of it this way—let’s say a banker voluntarily gives money to a charity or worthy cause. He doesn’t have to. No law says he must. It’s just what he wants to do. But on the other hand, let’s say I have money deposited in his bank. I can go in and write a check on my account and expect he will give me that money. Do you see the difference? In my case, it’s legally owed to me, and I receive it. In the other, it’s God’s gift of grace.
God says, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15). In mercy, God extends his love to us. Rejoice that God is merciful to all who call upon Him. Go before His Throne of Grace knowing that God wants to hear from you and to speak with you in prayer.