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Joined: 2006/6/15
Posts: 343

 Praying for souls... Scriptural?

If one is to adhere to the doctrine of the Limited Atonement... primarily that Jesus Christ came to the world to die for a specific group of people, whom the Father elected before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6...

Then, in light of this truth, how does a believer resolve the tension between praying for the salvation of souls and reliance of sovereign grace?

Also, when can a believer know when to give up on an individual, and move on to a different area / group of unbelievers?


 2009/12/29 14:02Profile

Joined: 2007/6/27
Posts: 1573
Omaha, NE

 Re: Praying for souls... Scriptural?

Limited atonement means there is redemption only
for those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb
of GOD. The gospel is preached so that men may
come to a knowledge of GOD'S saving grace and be
led to the cross and into a relationship with the
Savior. GOD desires for all to repent and invites
all to believe in the atoning work of His Son
on the cross!!

So, praying for souls to be saved is certainly
scriptural !!

Martin G. Smith

 2009/12/29 14:19Profile

Joined: 2006/6/15
Posts: 343


Are there any instances in the New Testament of prayer for the salvation of souls?

Really not trying here to start a fight... sick and tired of that...

Just trying to tie up the loose ends in my theology / spiritual pilgrimage.


 2009/12/29 15:31Profile

Joined: 2009/12/12
Posts: 592


The Sovereignty of God and Prayer by John Piper

I am often asked, "If you believe God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) and that his knowledge of all things past, present, and future is infallible, then what is the point of praying that anything happen?" Usually this question is asked in relation to human decision: "If God has predestined some to be his sons and chosen them before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4,5), then what's the point in praying for anyone's conversion?"

The implicit argument here is that if prayer is to be possible at all man must have the power of self-determination. That is, all man's decisions must ultimately belong to himself, not God. For otherwise he is determined by God and all his decisions are really fixed in God's eternal counsel. Let's examine the reasonableness of this argument by reflecting on the example cited above.

1. "Why pray for anyone's conversion if God has chosen before the foundation of the world who will be his sons?" A person in need of conversion is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1); he is "enslaved to sin" (Romans 6:17; John 8:34); "the god of this world has blinded his mind that he might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (II Corinthians. 4:4); his heart is hardened against God (Ephesians 4:18) so that he is hostile to God and in rebellion against God's will (Romans 8:7).

Now I would like to turn the question back to my questioner: If you insist that this man must have the power of ultimate self-determination, what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him? You can't ask that God overcome the man's rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he act so as to change the man's heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

Will you pray that God enlighten his mind so that he truly see the beauty of Christ and believe? If you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man's will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man's mind (or heart) so that he will surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man's decision to trust Christ is God's, not merely his.

What I am saying is that it is not the doctrine of God's sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners. On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ. For "no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father" (John 6:65,44).

Only the person who rejects human self-determination can consistently pray for God to save the lost. My prayer for unbelievers is that God will do for them what He did for Lydia: He opened her heart so that she gave heed to what Paul said (Acts 16:14). I will pray that God, who once said, "Let there be light!", will by that same creative power "shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6). I will pray that He will "take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). I will pray that they be born not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God (John 1:13). And with all my praying I will try to "be kind and to teach and correct with gentleness and patience, if perhaps God may grant them repentance and freedom from Satan's snare" (II Timothy 2:24-26).

In short, I do not ask God to sit back and wait for my neighbor to decide to change. I do not suggest to God that He keep his distance lest his beauty become irresistible and violate my neighbor's power of self-determination. No! I pray that he ravish my unbelieving neighbor with his beauty, that he unshackle the enslaved will, that he make the dead alive and that he suffer no resistance to stop him lest my neighbor perish.

2. If someone now says, "O.K., granted that a person's conversion is ultimately determined by God' I still don't see the point of your prayer. If God chose before the foundation of the world who would be converted, what function does your prayer have?" My answer is that it has a function like that of preaching: How shall the lost believe in whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach unless they are sent (Romans 10:14f.)? Belief in Christ is a gift of God (John 6:65; II Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8), but God has ordained that the means by which men believe on Jesus is through the preaching of men. It is simply naive to say that if no one spread the gospel all those predestined to be sons of God (Ephesians 1:5) would be converted anyway. The reason this is naive is because it overlooks the fact that the preaching of the gospel is just as predestined as is the believing of the gospel: Paul was set apart for his preaching ministry before he was born (Galatians 1:15), as was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, to ask, "If we don't evangelize, will the elect be saved?" is like asking, "If there is no predestination, will the predestined be saved?" God knows those who are his and he will raise up messengers to win them. If someone refuses to be a part of that plan, because he dislikes the idea of being tampered with before he was born, then he will be the loser, not God and not the elect. "You will certainly carry out God's purpose however you act but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John." (Problem of Pain chapter 7, Anthology, p 910, cf. p 80)

Prayer is like preaching in that it is a human act also. It is a human act that God has ordained and which he delights in because it reflects the dependence of his creatures upon Him. He has promised to respond to prayer, and his response is just as contingent upon our prayer as our prayer is in accordance with his will. "And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (I John 5:14). When we don't know how to pray according to God's will but desire it earnestly, "the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27).

In other words, just as God will see to it that His Word is proclaimed as a means to saving the elect, so He will see to it that all those prayers are prayed which He has promised to respond to. I think Paul's words in Romans 15:18 would apply equally well to his preaching and his praying ministry: "I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles." Even our prayers are a gift from the one who "works in us that which is pleasing in his sight" (Hebrews 13:21). Oh, how grateful we should be that He has chosen us to be employed in this high service! How eager we should be to spend much time in prayer!


 2009/12/29 16:37Profile

Joined: 2003/7/31
Posts: 2774
Phoenix, Arizona USA

 Re: Praying for souls... Scriptural?

Here's something from John MacArthur in response to someone who asked a similar question;

Well, I just think that’s silly. Its never unbiblical to pray. Praying for the salvation of an unbeliever is pretty standard fare. Jesus asked His disciples to pray that the Lord would send forth laborers into the harvest and that is an assumption that he was praying that someone would go and tell those people about Christ. Paul over and over and over prayed for the church and certainly prayed for their growth and their building up and implied in that is their evangelism. There is no commandment specifically in the New Testament that says to pray for the unsaved, but there is no commandment in the New Testament that says pray for your mother-in-law either. I mean there are some things that are obvious. I’m not picking out mother-in-laws as the most obvious of all to pray for, but all I’m saying is that there are a lot of things that aren’t touched. We go to God in a very normal way about every need and about everything.

You should read this book called “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”. Its a paper back by J. I.. Packer, in which he shows how that the sovereignty of God and His elective purpose does not eliminate prayer for the unsaved. Just to give an illustration: the Spirit of God is operative in your life, when you want someone to come to Christ, what is the first thing you do? You pray for them, and that’s the prompting of the Spirit of God in your heart. God not only chooses them, but He chooses the process by which that comes about. And that is through human instrumentation in prayer and in witnessing. If we don’t need to pray, then we don’t need to witness either. We don’t need to do anything, we’ll just let God come down and do His number on them.

Ron Halverson

 2009/12/29 17:08Profile



2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.112 He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."113 The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."114

2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God's mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ's, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks "not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others," even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.115

2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.116 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel117 but also intercedes for them.118 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: "for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions," for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119

 2009/12/30 0:03


I think we have been invaded by a copy and paster.......Frank

 2009/12/30 0:42

Joined: 2006/6/15
Posts: 343


I agree with John Piper to a certain extent... where he states that we are commanded to preach the gospel, according to the will of God... because the Scripture explicitly states that God will honor the preaching of the gospel, to the salvation of souls.

But, I do not see the same connection of preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls, to prayer and the salvation of souls.

Prayer is a confession of our helplessness before God. Perhaps yes, we may pray,

"Father, help me, empower me to preach your truth in way that honors you, and glorifies you, please endow me with your Holy Spirit that I do not speak from my flesh. Let me show Jesus Christ as glorious and beautiful, for I am utterly destitute of any strength of my own..."

For this type of prayer is in accordance to Scripture.

But I do not see anywhere in Scripture,

"Father, please save so and so... according to your will..."

Can we presume upon God that He will change His elect number on our behalf?

Or do we suffer from the humanism in which we cannot accept the notion that God saves and damns souls according to His perfect will?

This is very difficult for me, in trying to accept that perhaps some of the people closest to me will be damned according to the will of God for His glory.


 2009/12/30 1:50Profile

Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4533

 Re: Praying for souls... Scriptural?

Hi IWantAnguish...

I'm not sure about the wording of this...but we were asked something by Jesus. After Jesus saw the multitudes and had compassion on them for being "sheep with no shepherd," he told his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers.

[b]35[/b] And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
[b]36[/b] But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
[b]37[/b] Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
[b]38[/b] Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

- Matthew 9:35-38

Of course, I don't really hold to a "limited atonement" ideology. I believe that Jesus came to die (as an atonement) for the sins of the ENTIRE world (and His death was worth more than the entire universe)...but that atonement is only directly applied on behalf of those who turn to him in truth -- those whose names are written in the Book of Life on the other side of Eternity.

I see it sort of like a king who pays for a massive banquet (enough to feed every person), but only a few actually choose to attend (and, thus, have their names written on the attendance list). This might be a little oversimplified, but maybe the Gospel is actually that simple?



 2009/12/30 1:55Profile

Joined: 2006/6/15
Posts: 343


Me, Sam, really would like to accept and share this concept of the atonement with you.

But I run into so many problem areas with the Scripture... like Revelation 13:8...

and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain...

Like... what the heck am I supposed to do with texts like that?

The book of life was written before the foundation of the world? God really did choose certain individuals for Jesus Christ to die for according to His sovereign election?

Why am I even struggling over this matter?

Is it perhaps I feel that God is unjust in damning certain people according to His sovereign will?

My mind has yet to be renewed to the point of which I really do see people as reprobate sinners who deserve nothing but the wrath of God... But is this the view of people we ought to want to have?

Is this how Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney and John Wesley and George Whitefield saw people? Completely worthy of hellfire? Thus God used them in order to bring salvation to sinners?

Perhaps I ought to rejoice in the fact that God even chooses to save a single person... Because that's more then what God did for the angels who sinned and fell from glory.

HMM... so many questions.


 2009/12/30 2:09Profile

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