Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 41 — Praying for the Unsaved
This question was sent to me: "Pastor, why pray for the unsaved when God wants them saved more than we do?" The answer to this question certainly warrants space for a treatise of this sort. We know that it is Scriptural for God's people to pray for salvation of others. Romans 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." Romans 9:1,2, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart."
Yet if man can persuade God to save a soul, it would challenge the doctrine of the free will of man and would give ammunition to the heresy of hyper-Calvinism.
Yet we are to pray for sinners. Perhaps we should learn why.
1. A person must DECIDE to get saved. Heaven is for the whosoever wills, and Hell is for the whosoever won'ts. God made man for fellowship and voluntary love, He gave man both an alternative and a will so that man could choose to love Him.
2. God wants all to choose Him. II Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Jesus died for all men. The blood of Christ was shed for all men. The grace of God is extended to all men. Salvation is offered to all men. It is completely against the nature of God and His Word to believe that God has predestined some to go to Heaven and predestined some to go to Hell. If a person misses Heaven and spends eternity in endless torment, it will not be of God's choosing; it will be of man's choosing because God wants all to choose Him.
3. God will not force His will on man. Of course, God wants fellowship with man. That was the purpose of man's creation. Oh, how sweet was the fellowship between God and Jesus! Jesus spoke of this fellowship in John 17:5, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Oh, how Jesus anticipated the restoration of that fellowship as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane! Perhaps God enjoyed fellowship with Jesus so much that one day He decided to make a lot of little Jesuses in order that He might fellowship with many. The great, loving heart of God wants that love returned, and He wants it voluntarily returned, so God will not force His will upon man. That would defeat the purpose of His creation of man.
4. Our prayers do not affect the sinner's will. The will of the sinner is his rich heritage. Yes, we are to pray that sinners will be saved, but our prayer will not change the eternal plan of God whereby He requires sinners to receive Him willfully as Saviour in order to have eternal life.
5. Our prayers CAN cause God to give the unsaved man more opportunities to be saved. Though God will not nullify the sinner's will, He will, however, in response to our prayers, give that sinner more chances to exercise his will and more opportunities to receive Christ as Saviour. Matthew 9:37,38, "Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest." Notice, we are to pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send or thrust firth laborers into the harvest field. This means that we are to pray that God will send more soul winners. Of course, the more soul winners that are sent, the more opportunities the sinner will have to receive Christ.
The Bible teaches that all men have an opportunity to be saved. John 1:9, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork."
Let's suppose that there are two people in a remote part of the earth who have never heard the story of Jesus. The Bible tells us that the moon and the stars and the heavens declare the glory of God. These two people ignorant of the Gospel, look to the heavens. The heavens say to each of these men, "There was Somebody Who made these stars and Who made this moon and Who made the sun" One heathen man hears the message and believes it. He says in his heart, "I believe Somebody greater than man made that."
The other heathen man says to himself, "I don't believe it." I don't believe that there is any great being behind the creation of the heavens." Because that man did not act upon the knowledge that he had, God is not bound to give him more light or more knowledge. However, the man who acted on the knowledge that he had received from God will be given more light." As long as he continues to act upon the light he is given, God will continue to give him more light until one day he will hear the glorious Gospel of Christ. The truth being emphasized here is that all men are lighted by the truth of God. It is also true that God will increase the number of opportunities that an unsaved man has to receive Christ in response to the prayers of God's people. We CANNOT and God WILL NOT take away from the unsaved person his will, but we can through prayer cause God to give those whom we love and for whom we pray more opportunities to receive the Saviour. Ah, this is a wonderful truth and gives us even added incentive to continue to pray for the salvation of our loved ones!
6. In answer to our prayer, God may even make salvation more enticing to the sinner. In the Bible, salvation is likened to eating. God will not, in answer to our prayer, force a sinner to eat, but He may make the food smell better! He may put some parsley around the edge of the plate to decorate it. He may adorn the Gospel so as to make salvation more appealing. He is not forcing salvation upon anyone in answer to the prayer of the believer; He is making it more attractive to the unsaved man because of the believer's prayers.
7. When we pray for sinners, God gives us more burden for them, which makes us more likely to be the laborers that God is going to send into the harvest field.
In 1957 I preached in the city of Chicago for the first time, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Dr. John R. Rice, Dr, G.B. Vick and I preached in a series of round-robin Bible conferences. One night I would preach at the First Baptist Church of Harvey, just South of Chicago; at the same time Dr. Rice would be preaching at the Northside Gospel Center; Dr. Jones would be preaching at the Belden Avenue Baptist Church and Dr. Vick would be preaching at the Oak Park Bible Church. The next night each of us would go to another church. We conducted central services in the mornings at the Belden Avenue Baptist Church. The night that I preached at the First Baptist Church of Harvey, I had to drive from the Northside of Chicago to Harvey. I found that Halsted Street went all the way from the north side of Chicago to Harvey, so I got on Halsted Street. Boy, was I in for a surprise! What a trip! I drove and I drove and I drove and I drove, and it seemed that I would never arrive in Harvey. The more I drove the more burdened I got for Chicago. The more I saw of the millions of people and of the conditions that prevailed, the more my heart broke. Soon tears were flowing down my cheeks. I drove and wept and wept and drove. Before I got to Harvey I was praying for God to send somebody to Chicago. I realized and remembered that this was the city of Dwight Moody, the city of R.A. Torrey, the city of Paul Rader, and yet it seemed so desperate for the Gospel. I continued my praying when I returned to Texas. I pleaded with God to send somebody to Chicago. I begged Him to thrust laborers into the harvest. God answered that prayer, but not in the way I had planned. I was the laborer that He sent to Chicago! I was the answer to my own prayer, and now for nearly a quarter of a century I have spent most of my life trying to reach the greater-Chicago area; now 20,000 people a year from the Chicago area walk the isle for salvation in the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
8. The best way to pray for the unsaved, then, is to pray that God will send laborers. This does not mean that we should not ask God to save souls. The terminology is not the important thing here. The important thing is the burden! When we pray for sinners, regardless of what terminology we use, God's answer to that prayer will be sending more laborers and making the Gospel more enticing to them so that the unsaved will have more and better opportunities of exercising their will.
9.God will come nearer taking such action for His friends. Isn't it natural for one to do favors for a friend? Hence, God will come nearer obeying the request of His friends.
This behooves us to find how we may become His friend. This is found in John 15:14, "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." It is also worth note to see in Matthew 9:37,38, Jesus addressed His statement to His "disciples." "Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest." God is simply saying, "I will send forth laborers into the harvest fields if My friends and disciples ask Me to." He is promising that He will give added opportunities for salvation to our friends and loved ones if we will be His friends, and we become His friends by obeying His commandments. Of course, the great commandment, or Great Commission, is Matthew 28:19,20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Hence, the best way to engage God into giving our unsaved loved ones and our unsaved dear ones more and better opportunities to exercise their wills for salvation is for us to enter into that labor of soul winning and obeying Christ's command. The one who wins souls where he is will have more influence on God that he may send laborers into the harvest fields of those dear to him.
The question then comes, "Why then does God often give peace to the Christian that his loved one will be saved." Every Christian who has been a soul winner and who has prayed for sinners can give testimony to the fact that there are times when a subtle peace and a confident assurance comes that God is going to save a loved one. Does this mean that God is going to save then in spite of their will? Absolutely not! It must be remembered that God has foreknowledge. Though He does not control the will of the unsaved man, He is aware beforehand whether or not this unsaved man is going to accept the Gospel. Because of this foreknowledge and because He knows that the will of the sinner is going to be favorably exercised for Jesus, God can, and sometimes does, give us peace that it is going to happen. Maybe the Lord is like us in that sometimes He has a hard time keeping from "spilling the beans." Maybe He gets so excited knowing that the sinner is going to receive Him that He wants to share the good news with us.
These blessed and Scriptural truths should entice us to pray more for sinners and rive us to our knees praying for the salvation of those who are dear to us!
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