(Is It Wrong To Pray For Sinners?) Bible Question
Question (in this case, a statement):
“We should not pray for sinners to be saved. They need to repent first and then we can pray for them.”
That would mean Jesus made a serious mistake or two.
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
– Luke 23:33, 34a (New International Version)
As Jesus was being crucified, He was praying for the sinners who were killing Him. And Jesus would have been wrong to teach us to:
“love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:44, 45a (New International Version)
If we can’t pray for sinners, who is it that is persecuting us that we should pray for?
I suppose the mistake made is the idea that my praying for a sinner will save that sinner. The fact is, only the blood of Jesus will save the sinner. But I can pray for the sinner, in hopes that God will find a way to break through to change him or her and find a way to bring him or her to Christ.
A good example is found in Stephen. He was being stoned to death when he prayed. . .
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
– Acts 7:56 – 60 (New International Version)
Stephen (like Jesus) was merciful even as he died. And his prayer did not save anyone at that time. But if you read further, you will see that the young man who tended to the coats later was confronted by the Lord Jesus, was taught and was baptized (Acts 22:6 – 16).
From that conversion grew the apostle Paul. Although Stephen’s prayer didn’t save Saul, it did go up to God who later found a way to break through to Saul of Tarsus and bring him to Christ. The fact is Jesus and others prayed for sinners and so can we.