I belong to a facebook group where different Christian thoughts are shared. Recently, a question was posted which inspired this post. "Will You Pray At All For Someone Who Is Not willing To Submit To Christ?" That's a good question, isn't it? I believe as Christians, we all have experiences of praying for the salvation of a friend, family member, neighbour etc and it seems the more we pray, and tell them about their need of salvation, their rebellion towards God and Christianity grows. Now, it can indeed get frustrating. So the question whether to continue in prayer for an unwilling, unrepentant sinner is, to be frank, a relevant question. In this post, I seek to answer an emphatic Yes to the question "Will You Pray At All For Someone Who Is Not willing To Submit To Christ?"
Here are my reasons
1: Prayers For The Unsaved Is A Command
In a conversation with His disciples, Jesus commanded them to pray about salvation of souls. "Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38). In these words, we see embedded the necessity of prayer for souls. Why must we pray for labourers? Because "The harvest is plentiful". In other words, there are many people who have to be saved. In 1Timothy 2:1-4, Paul instructs we engage in prayers for the salvation of souls. We don't possess the ability to save anyone. Salvation is of the Lord therefore we must continually entreat Him in prayer to save sinners. Without prayer, our efforts at reaching people for the Lord will be in vain.
After planting and watering, God is the one who gives the increase. Now, if we look at the preceeding verses of Matthew 9, we will get a perfect picture of why Jesus asked for prayers for labourers to be sent: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."(v36).
Herein is the sad state of the unbeliever; the multitudes-crowd without Christ. They are harassed and helpless under the bondage of sin. They are guilty under the wrath of God. They are without a shepherd. They have no relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ..."Harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd"...that must break every believers' heart to say a word of prayer for the unsaved. They will not admit it; but our Lord's words are true; they are "Harassed and helpless, like sheep without shepherd". They are lost! Out of compassion, our Lord told His disciples; “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”(v37-38). Don't give up praying for the lost.
2: Only God Can Break The Unwilling Heart Of The Sinner
It must not be lost on us as believers, that our salvation is not a smart choice or good decision we made. We are not smarter than our neighbhour who hasn't yet submitted to the Lordship of Christ. The truth is, we are not Christians because we were willing to give our lives to Christ. Jesus said He chose us, not us (John 15:16). In John 6:44, we are also told "No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father ... draws him. By our own will we cannot be saved (Ezekiel 36:26, John 1:12-13, Roman 9:18). We are Christians because of God's grace.
Before we came to Christ, we were all people who rebelled against God until grace found us. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul describes our spiritual deadness prior to coming to Christ. He compares us to that unwilling sinner we are getting tired praying for. He seems to say, "before you came to Christ, you were just like them"; "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
That was our state. We were equally "following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience". We were no different from the unwilling unbeliever. The difference now is God's intervention. In verse 4 of Ephesians 2, after our former state has been described, we are told what God did with us: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—"
God showed us mercy. God stepped into out rebellion and broke our resistance. Knowing our former state and how merciful God has been to us, we must be patient and continue in prayer for those who seem unwilling to submit to Christ. Their unwillingness can only be broken by the Spirit of God. Don't give up. Keep praying for them. Their unwillingness is indeed a spiritual battle. Satan has blinded them to the truth. That is the more reason we must pray for them. Only God can rip off their spiritual blindness and shine lights into their hearts.
3: Someone Prayed For Your Salvation
You might not be directly aware. But I am confident your salvation is an answer to somebody's prayers. Your friend, your family member, a church in your community, a Pastor, your school chaplain, a missionary...somebody's prayer definitely has a hand in your salvation. An incident in the Bible readily comes to minpicture comes to mind. In Acts 7, Stephen's martydom by stoning is recorded:
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen , he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord , do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.(vs58-60)
See two powerful phrases in the verses here. The first is the record that they laid Stephen's garment at the feet of Saul(v58) and secondly Stephen's prayer in v60, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them". Even at the brink of death Stephen still prays for his murderers. Immediately we step into Chapter 8, Saul's name is mentioned again. He has come into the picture. He must be important to the storyline: "And Saul approved of his execution."(v8). Fast foward to Chapter 9 we meet Saul and his encounter on the road to Damascus. He met the Lord and his life was changed. I am very convinced Paul's conversion has a relationship with Stephen's prayer; "Lord , do not hold this sin against them"
I pray you don't get tired praying for anyone's salvation. Continue in prayer and don't give up.