Question: If God is sovereign, why pray for an unbeliever’s salvation?
Answer: Predestination and election can be two of the most frustrating subjects in Scripture. That frustration is compounded when it comes to prayer in relation to evangelism. Some have asked, “If there are those who are going to come to Christ and those who aren’t, why pray for someone who may not be one of the elect?”
Our view of election and predestination should not in the smallest way hinder our praying for unbelievers. Two verses found in back-to-back chapters of Romans make that crystal clear. In Romans 9:18, we are told “Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will harden.”
This verse is imbedded in a section where Paul is discussing God’s dealings with Israel. Regardless of all the ramifications of that verse, one thing is clear; God is the governor of the universe. As the Supreme Ruler, He does all things according to the counsel of His own will.
With all that in mind, turn one chapter ahead to Romans 10:1 where Paul says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Although Paul recognized the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men, regardless of whether he understood it, that did not prevent his praying for all Israel to be saved.
Suffice it to say that God’s greatest need is not for the man who can explain Him. Instead, His greatest need is for the man who will obey Him. Therefore, we can pray in faith (as Paul did) that God will bring lost friends and relatives to Christ. As 1 Timothy 2:1 instructs, we ought to pray for all men. Since three verses later we read, “Who will have all men to be saved . . .,” it becomes obvious that we should pray particularly for their salvation.
No view of predestination or election should keep us from praying for the salvation of any unbeliever. We must concentrate on obeying Him—not trying to figure Him out.