Summary: Faith is always required to approach God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is (or know who God is) and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (know His character).” Hebrews 11:6. However, praying to God or praying to God, our Father, as His child are two different relationships.
Individual men of faith (like Job, Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel) had faith in God’s promises. Some of these prophets and patriarchs are listed in Hebrews 11. They all believed God would ransom and resurrect mankind. (Psalm 49:15; 86:13) They were justified by faith in the promise of a Redeemer, for “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6.
Under the Law Covenant, Israel sacrificed bulls and goats as an atonement for their sins. But those sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s true atonement sacrifice. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." Hebrews 10:4. Thus, the people could pray to God through faith in believing God’s typical arrangement for forgiveness of sins.
The heathen may have prayed to some gods, but few had even heard of the one, true God, Jehovah. They did not know Him; therefore, they could not pray to Him. There were times when God would honor their prayers, but those were special interventions, as when God sent Jonah to the heathen city of Ninevah. God spoke to those people through Jonah, and they believed Jonah’s message. They had faith in the true God. In those “times of ignorance God overlooked (their lack of knowledge), but now commands all men everywhere to repent,” Acts 17:30.
But NOW, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) After Jesus died to redeem all mankind, he opened “a new and living way,…through the veil, that is His flesh,” Hebrews 10:20. What was new and living? It was the opportunity to become a son of God through Jesus.
Before the ransom was paid, no sinful human being was called God’s son. Faithful Jews were called servants or friends. Jesus said to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NKJV)
After Jesus’s resurrection, we have the new opportunity to find life as sons of God. Paul wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26. We receive, “adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.” Ephesians 1:5 As sons, we approach God through Jesus.
For any to receive life, both now and in the kingdom, forgiveness of sins and access to God are only through Jesus.