Why Do We Pray For Others' Salvation?
(The simple command for the Church to pray for unbelievers is a point that exposes the illogic and unbiblical nature of synergism (the system which says God and man cooperate in the new birth). I provide the following as a help when you are debating this issue of "grace alone" with your synergist friends. I have yet to hear anyone adequately answer this simple question on prayer (which follows). My purpose here is not to have you win a debate for its own sake, but to continually urge the church reform its thoughts to be more God-honoring & consistent with the Word of God.)
An interesting question worth considering arose during a recent discussion I had with a synergist who challenged the ideas presented in my article on monergism. He is coming from the viewpoint that unbelievers have the innate capacity to exercise faith in Christ independent from any special work of the Holy Spirit or action of grace on the part of God ... that the kind of grace that God gives to all mankind is a generic or equal grace which only constitutes an offer, but itself does not do anything to change our rebellious hearts. The erroneous presupposition behind this unbiblical belief is the idea that natural man (apart from the gracious action of God) has a roll to play in his own regeneration. But this is like trying to convince people that Lazarus cooperated with Jesus when he called him forth from the dead. Yes, Lazarus responded and rose up but only because life was graciously restored in him first. In one part of our conversation the topic of prayer came up and I asked them the following questions in response to his synergistic views of regeneration:
(My Question) I would like to hear, if I may, why you take the time
to pray for others' souls? If God cannot actually go in a change their hearts'
disposition, then what are you, in fact, praying for? If all fallen men already
naturally have the moral ability to believe, and God can do nothing more, as
you are saying, then what use is there in praying? The Bible takes for granted
that we should pray because it teaches that God can save people and deliver
them from their rebellion. Are you claiming that God has no such right?. Then
why do you pray at all?
Their answer (as follows) was no different than many others I have heard when asking this question:
(Visitor' answer) "Ask and ye shall receive."
My response -
(My Reponse) OK ... Receive what? Either God does something in answer to your prayer for that person's soul or He does not. You certainly are not praying to the individual ... you are praying to God because you believe He can do something to change them. Otherwise your prayer is meaningless babble. We don't say "Oh God, may they independently make the right decision, etc.!", for such a prayer would be tantamount to having God do nothing but stand on the sidelines with folded arms. Instead we pray, "God, turn their hearts toward You; open their blind eyes open their deaf ears, and save them,." But if everyone has the same amount of grace (at some point in their life), as synergists claim, then why pray?
Of course the real reason the Scriptures teach us to pray is because we believe that God can overcome an individuals resistance and hostility when we preach the gospel to him/her. It is grace that makes us to differ with others, not faith. Even the very desire for faith itself, and the willingness to accept the humbling terms of the gospel are a gift of God's grace (John 1:13, Eph 2:5, 8). What do we have that we did not receive? If you do not believe God does anything to the persons we pray for then all the passages in the Bible which command us to pray for men are really quite useless. Take some time to think about this ... don't just pass it over.
We pray for those in darkness because we believe only God can lift the
dark mist that covers their eyes and save them. They cannot save themselves.
We pray for God to illumine their darkened and convoluted understanding so that
they would believe. God ordains both the means (prayer/gospel preaching) and
the ends (for the salvation of His elect) in order to accomplish His sovereign
purposes. Yet it is only the Holy Spirit who sovereignly determines to whom
these means will be effectual. God's ultimate end is to bring glory to Himself
in the restoration of all things. He uses the Church as a agent on earth to
work concurrently in carrying out those ultimate ends through the preaching
of the word, prayer and the right use of sacraments (baptism, eucharist) which
themselves proclaim a visible gospel which point to the work of Christ. But
these means cannot convince in themselves (ex opere operato), rather, it is
the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening
the heart through the gospel and prayer to bring forth life. So the written
word and prayer is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its
means or medium. It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the Word
carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to
us through the word. Our prayers, therefore, ultimately play a role in bringing
about the salvation of God's elect. God not only ordained the salvation of those
he chose before time, but also ordained the prayers of the saints which would
be used in conjunction with their salvation.
(I never heard back from the synergist again)
If I get a reasonable reply to this from any person defending synergism I will post it here.
Rather than answer the above question, synergists sometimes tend to deflect from the issue by asking why we should pray if God has already predetermined who are the elect. While a legitimate question, it still does not answer the above. But here are some articles that may help shed some light on this question.
Predestination is - True Why Pray? by C.H. Spurgeon
The Sovereignty of God and Prayer by John Piper
If God is Sovereign, Why do Anything? by Matt Perman