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Hello Brother Gregg :-)
Since God is sovereign and has predestined all who will receive salvation, are we still to pray for the salvation of the lost?
Ron this is a very good question.
First, let me begin by stating an obvious danger that the opponents of the biblical doctrine of election always bring up. That objection is usually stated like this, “Well, if God has already determined who will be saved then why do we preach the gospel or why do we send out missionaries? The implication of course is that we do not need to do these things. Nothing could be further from the truth! The reason is just as obvious as the opponents to the biblical teaching of election – we do not know who the elect are.
Someone once remarked, “Nobody is born with a big “E” stamped on their back.” God has not revealed to us who He has chosen to redeem. Therefore, we are commanded, and God expects us to obey the command to preach the gospel to every creature. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to convict the hearts of men of sin and judgment. The Holy Spirit gives life to those whom He applies the work of salvation enabling them to repent and believe. Since we don’t know who will respond we are to be obedient to the command of God to preach the gospel to every creature.
Secondly, it is interesting to note, at least to me, that there isn’t one instance of where someone prayed for an individual to become saved. Jesus did tell the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the field because the harvest was great and the workers were few. (Luke 10:2) Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them that a great and effective door for ministry was given to him in Ephesus. We believe that door was the opportunity to preach the gospel unhindered or unmolested resulting in a great harvest of souls. I think the closest thing we have to praying for the lost is possibly in I Corinthians 1:-6-7 where Paul planted and Apollos watered. An argument might be made that the watering included prayer, but I am not sure that is what is meant there. Apollos was probably giving further insight and "words" to those whom Paul had preached the gospel.
I think a third thing to take into consideration at this point Ron, is how do we pray for the lost? I think that God understands what we mean when we pray even if we pray incorrectly. I hear many people pray that so and so will open their hearts, or would see the truth, or realize their need, and etc. Since a lost person is dead in trespasses and sin and cannot respond to any stimuli apart from the Holy Spirit is actually useless. A dead person is not able to open their hearts nor are they going to “see” nor will they realize their need. Here are some things to consider about the lost:
They are spiritually dead and they are not, nor do they seek God
They are slaves of sin and bound in fortresses of darkness
They are deceived and blinded by sin and by Satan
They are actually enemies of God under the wrath of God with no hope
That the lost would be given spiritual eyes by the Holy Spirit enabling them to see Jesus as God’s sovereign plan for salvation
- That God would direct the Holy Spirit to move in the heart of one who is lost and that the Holy Spirit would give life to them
That as the prodigal son, the Holy Spirit would enable the lost to come to the end of themselves, enabling them to see themselves as God sees them
That they would know that they have sinned against God, that they are under judgment and condemnation of a Holy and righteous God
That they would feel the weight of their sin, become aware of their lostness and embrace the gospel for their salvation
That God in His mercy would grant them life, faith and repentance and that God would regenerate them by the Holy Spirit
That God would give Himself to them without measure, that God would lay hold of them and say that you are mine, and that you shall be mine, and that I claim you for myself
Apart from a work of God through the Holy Spirit a man who is dead, void of all spiritual life, locked in the bondage to sin, who loves his sin and darkness, and has no desire to give up his sin will not come to the light. As we pray, we are not praying for a dead man to do what he cannot do, we are praying to God on behalf of that dead man that God would save that man, if it pleases him and it is in accordance with his will.
Now, dear reader of my blog, before you whip II Peter 3:9 out on me, study your grammar and your context. That passage does not say that God is not willing that any human being that has ever lived, is living now, or will live should not be lost. It states in context beginning in chapter one that God is slow to bring judgment and the end of this age because he is not willing that any of the elect, those whom he has chosen to be saved would be lost. He is patient and patiently allows sin to go unpunished and judgment to be delayed while all those from the first to the last elect person is drawn to Him and saved.
Thanks for your question Ron! Thanks for reading the Gospel-driven Disciples!