Should we pray for all people? Paul claimed that we must:
· First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4; ESV)
However, other verses claim that we shouldn’t pray for all. John wrote that we shouldn’t pray for people who sin a sin leading to death:
· If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)
Besides these verses, God orders Jeremiah to not pray for “this people”:
· “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. (Jeremiah 7:16)
· “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. (Jeremiah 11:14)
Should we then pray for all people? Yes, but not in the same way. God had also ordered Jeremiah to not pray for the “welfare of this people”:
· The LORD said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.” (Jeremiah 14:11-12)
Therefore, I don’t think that it is wrong to pray that God will bring the unrepentant to repentance. I, therefore, might pray that God would heal the unrepentant but only after he repents. Consistent with this, the writer of Hebrews asked for prayer for God’s blessings based on the fact that they have a clear and repentant conscience.
· Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. (Hebrews 13:18)
What then is the “sin leading to death?” To be consistent with the rest of Scripture, it seems that this is the sin of refusing to repent.