Why I Stopped Praying for Non-Christians

Monday Discussion

I have stopped praying for non-Christians. That’s a little bit overstated, but not much. I stopped praying for them because I love them. I stopped praying for them because it is too easy and unproductive. I stopped praying for them because I think there is a more effective way to love them through my prayers. I sound like a heretic to many of my readers. But I have hinted at my biblical reasons for what I am advocating in other posts. Here’s my thinking.

  1. There are no commands in the New Testament to pray for the salvation of unbelievers. (Go look. Zero.)
  2. There are numerous commands and prayers for boldness in the New Testament ( For example, see: Acts 4:29; Eph. 6:20; Col. 4:3-4; 2 Cor. 2:12)
  3. The consistent example of the New Testament is of bold gospel proclamation  as a result of being filled with the Spirit. (For examples, see: Acts 4:13, 31; 18:26; 26:26; 28:31; 2 Cor. 3:12; Phil 1:14; 1 Thess. 2:2)

Therefore, I have concluded it is wiser to pray for:

  • Saints to be empowered by the Spirit
  • Saints to be bold to proclaim
  • Saints to have open doors and eyes to see them, to proclaim the gospel. 

The field is white unto harvest. We just need to get out of our barns (Churches and homes) and proclaim the gospel.


11 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Praying for Non-Christians

  1. I’m not so sure that praying for a non-believer’s salvation and praying for a believer’s boldness to share the gospel with them are not the same thing. I mean, no one who prays for a non-believer’s salvation is expecting God to bypass use the means of the word preached.

    However, I think you’re right as far as our attitude goes. I can pray for someone to come to know Jesus and feel that I’ve done all I need to. We need to use the means God has given us. Prayer is one of them but sharing the gospel is the effective one.

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  2. We are to pray about everything. Please keep praying for the lost to be won, laborers to be raised, and multiplying disciples grown into Christ’s likeness for the glory of God.

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  3. I brought these over from the facebook conversation on this post because Dan Leman’s comments help clarify my meaning. Dan is a gifted young expositor making an impact for Christ.

    Derek Torres writes:
    Good points, I had not quite decided to stop praying for non-Christians, but it is probably easier for many Believers to pray for unbelievers than to pray for their own boldness in gospel proclamation, because if you have prayed then you have done your part and the rest is up to God, heaven forbid we act in an apostolic manner.

    Sharon Williams Cathey writes:
    Thank you for this writing…It is making me think!

    Dan Leman writes:
    Very provocative, and I take your point. We shouldn’t think we are truly loving non-Christians if we are only praying for them. We should also be sharing the gospel verbally. But I wonder, what do you make of Matthew 5:44? We are commanded to pray for those who persecute us (non-Christians). And surely the expectation is that you would pray for their good (the greatest good being their salvation). It’s not always easy to pray for non-Christians. If they are your enemies sometimes you’d rather (in the flesh) see them face judgement.

    Marty responded:
    What do I make of Matthew 5:44? See the link to an older post in this latest article.

    Dan Leman’s return:
    I did read your older post and saw references to Rom 10:1 and 1 Tim 2:1-2, but nothing on Matt 5:44. Are you saying that you interpret Matt 5:44 in the same way as 1 Tim 2, that the command is only to pray that those who persecute won’t interfere with the spread of the gospel? Or is Matt 5:44 one of those passages where you think prayer for the salvation of the lost is implied or inferred but not commanded?

    Me again:
    The latter. Look at your own comment. You move from the command to pray for those who persecute us to the inference that we should pray for the salvation of the lost. It isn’t wrong to pray for their salvation. It just isn’t commanded. The post is deliberately titled provocatively to elicit a response.

    The impulse in us, because we have believed, is to pray about everything. We are going to pray for the salvation of the lost. It’s easy. But God commands us to be bold because it is not our inclination. It seems to me that I would be wiser to concentrate on the things that God, my all wise, all knowing sovereign tells me to pray for than to venture off and spend all my time praying for those things he doesn’t command.

    It’s easy, too easy, to pray for neighbors salvation and think I have done what pleases God, when in fact, I am avoiding doing the very thing that will bring my neighbor to faith, the proclamation of the gospel.
    2 hours ago · Like · 2 persons (Alana Brown, Terry Ivy)

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  4. Dan Leman wrote:
    I totally get that. (Although I think you are giving us all too much credit when you say it is easy to pray for the lost and that our impulse is to pray about everything.) But I’m also concerned about a methodological point. I’m not ready to grant that there is a significant difference between things that are explicitly commanded by God and things that are obviously implied or inferred. Even if it isn’t spelled out explicitly, I think an obvious inference is the same as a command.

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    Dan, I hear what you are saying. But I think you are putting too fine a point on the issue at hand. How many Christians do you know that pray for the salvation of the lost but never open their mouth? How many Christians do you know that ever pray that God would make them bold to proclaim the gospel? My guess is that the number in the first category is large and the number in the second category is small.

    Let’s pray for what we are commanded to pray and look for the opportunities to proclaim that the sovereign Lord will give. He delights to reveal himself to those who do what he commands (John 14:21) and pray according to his will (1 John 5:14-15).

    Dan Leman wrote:
    Thanks for putting up with my nit picking. On the bigger issue, your guess is certainly more reliable than mine in judging how big those categories are. (I’ve only been a pastor for a year and a half.) How big do you think the third group is – Christians who don’t pray for salvation of the lost or for boldness? Is it good to encourage them to pray for the lost as a first step, or should we go straight to praying for boldness?

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    It’s a problem. We ought to teach and pray our way out of every problem. Teach our people these texts. Show them the word. Call them to trust in God and do the word they hear. Let them pray. But call them to speak and to be the answer to their own prayer. The third category you mention is also embarrassingly large.

    Don’t forget to be the model you call them to be.

    Terry Ivy wrote:
    Love the discussion. Bottom line seems to be that we really can’t separate the two. If we are ‘really’ praying for them, it seems impossible to not share with them. And when we step out to share with them, we realize the need to identify with their heart and point of need. The metaphysical (prayer to the Lord–in spirit and truth) verified by the actual (sharing the gospel to the man before us). My $0.02 and probably not worth that much.

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  5. I find it so hypocritical!!! This is HATE MONGERING!!! What is this garbage? I find it -not Judeo/Christian!!! Prayer is praise of God. Psalm 113:1 Psalm 148:1, Psalm 149:1 Psalm 150:1 We pray for each other and at every opportunity Eph 6:18 and …pray for us, so that the word may speed forward and be glorified 2 Thess 3:1 and First of all, then, I ask the supplication, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone… 1 Timothy 2:1 Pray for us…Hebrews 13:18

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    1. Texas Trout,
      Brother, I appreciate your passion for prayer but your missive makes me wonder … did you read the post, its links and its comment thread? Or did you fire off this flame after only reading the title? You have misjudged me. I challenge you to read the whole post again along with the comments, I think you will think differently. You might also take a look at this link (Measuring our Passion for the Lost). http://wp.me/pGYIn-7p

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  6. I must pray, prepare and, follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to reach anyone who needs the gift of eternal life. Lately I have been praying for the person who will reach the people I love so they are not lost for eternity.

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  7. You have imposed human logic upon Scripture and caused great error. Now you are spreading your error. If the Great Apostle Paul said “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1. If Paul prayed that, then I think I will just listen to Paul, not you. You need to repent of this error as publicly as you have led other astray with this erroneous teaching.

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  8. I responded to Billy offline and bring both that response and Billy’s over to the blog below.

    Billy,

    Got your comment on the blog post “Why I stopped praying for Non-Christians” and I am confused. You wrote:

    [[You have imposed human logic upon Scripture and caused great error. Now you are spreading your error. If the Great Apostle Paul said “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1. If Paul prayed that, then I think I will just listen to Paul, not you. You need to repent of this error as publicly as you have led other astray with this erroneous teaching.]]

    Brother, did you read the article and the comment stream? Did you bother to read the link that was attached to the post?

    Is there a command in Scripture to pray for the salvation of the lost? NO
    Did I say that praying for the salvation of the lost was wrong? NO
    Did I say that those who followed Paul’s example where wrong? NO
    Am I disappointed when others pray for the salvation of the lost? NO

    What did I say?

    I said it would be wiser for us to pray for our own boldness to proclaim the gospel.
    I said we should concentrate on doing what is commanded before we expand to other legitimate enterprises.
    I said it will be more productive to pray for our boldness because it [boldness] is commanded and the gospel is the means by which our lost friends will be saved.
    I said praying this way is a better way to love my friends with my prayer.

    Things I did not say:

    I didn’t say I don’t pray for non-christians at all.
    (I pray for God’s kindness to be recognized;
    that God’s kindness would lead to repentance;
    that the Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment,
    that grace would be given to lead them to repentance, etc)

    So, my brother, while I have much to repent of myself, I find nothing to repent of in my post except poor writing perhaps. If you want to enter into these on line conversations you must be a more careful and respectful reader my brother. I hope this helps.

    Serving the glory of Christ for the joy of the nations,
    Marty

    Billy response:

    I did not read the original post on prayer. I guess my bifocals were not focaling. After reading that post on prayer, I agree virtually 100% with it. But you should have stopped there. Your second post, which I replied to, left little in understanding to be desired. The explanation of your premise as related to your title is not accomplished at all in the post. Paul also said to follow his example. Your exegesis is flawed. You did impose human logic upon Scripture, instead of letting it speak for itself. Jesus said, by your words you will be justified (declared right) and by your words you will be condemned. I stand by my original assessment.

    Have a good day
    Billy

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