Why do we pray for the lost? Arthur Pink once wrote that he couldn’t find one scripture instructing believers to pray for the lost. Let me say, I haven’t really examined the Scriptures in that particular light, so I don’t know if Pink was right or wrong.
Since the bible teaches clearly the doctrine of election, we know that God will save those whom He has elected. There is no doubt that the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross was absolutely efficacious. We know that no one will come to Christ for salvation unless they have been sovereignly regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
So, no amount of prayer, regardless of how sincere or fervent will change the decree of God concerning the destiny of an individual. Our pleading will not cause God to change His mind.
Forgetting Pink’s premise for the moment, I do think I might possibly know why we can and should pray for lost individuals.
First of all let me say that regardless of election being doctrinally sound, we as believers are still privileged and commanded to preach the gospel to every creature. As you well know, we are not privy to who has been elected and who has not. We are to preach the gospel, call every creature to repentance and trust God for His will to be done. We have no excuse not to evangelize those who are not believers.
Second, I think we are to pray for the lost in order to gain and maintain a heart for their soul. When I pray for someone I cannot be ambivalent about them. As I pray for someone I become more and more concerned about them. As a matter of fact my heart is drawn toward them and I find that I am more compassionate towards them. I cannot pray for someone for very long and be angry at them, or view them with disdain.
Prayer is an act of submission to God and a recognition that He is sovereign. God is sovereign especially in the area of salvation. My willingness to humble myself and recognize this sovereignty brings me into line with God’s will. As I pray for a lost individual I am admitting that God is the only one who through His Holy Spirit implant spiritual life within the individual enabling them to respond in faith and repentance. As I pray my heart is broken for them, my heart is exposed to God’s overall plan of redemption, and I am recognizing that God will do as He pleases.
As a result I don’t pray things like:
· Make them see how much they need God
· Open their eyes to their need
· Make them see their sin
Nor do I any longer pray things like this:
· Give them life through your spirit
· Regenerate them in order for them to repent
· Save them in-spite of themselves
I think when we pray like this we are not praying in accordance with God’s will. We may be praying a prayer that God cannot answer.
My prayers for the lost now include things like:
· O God how magnificent you are and that there is none like you
· You do as you please and all that you do is to reveal your majestic, holy, and glorious character to your creation
· Father, so and so does not know you nor have they experienced your marvelous unmerited favor we call grace
· I recognize that you are sovereign and have chosen for yourself and your good pleasure a company of believers of whom you will cause to worship you in Spirit and truth.
· Father, save those whom you will and if it pleases you use me as part of your means of grace. Father harden those whom you choose to harden lest they too repent.
· Father, my heart breaks for this individual knowing their end if you do not redeem them, but use me to share the good news with this individual and I trust you with the results knowing you are a gracious God
I think this enables me to pray in accordance with God’s will even for the lost. Since He has mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy and He hardens those whom He chooses to harden I can share the gospel, and ask God to do the work that He chooses to do in this individual. Therefore, God hears my prayer and answers my prayer, since I have left the results up to Him and His sovereignty.