Praying for the lost
I was recently asked whether it is possible to pray for the salvation of another person. This type of question can be a bit tricky because the other person is most likely a parent, child or close friend. Well, my view is pray for anything and everything. Broadly speaking, prayer is taking to Jesus and we should be willing to talk to Jesus about everything that's on our mind.
A problem only develops when we think we should get what we pray for. Somehow we have picked up the idea that God is some cosmic Father Christmas who will give us all that we desire. Well, that's not the Bible's view. The Bible tells us that he will do what he wills. Jesus is our sovereign Lord. So, when it comes to communicating with Jesus, we lay everything before him, but when it comes to the prayer of faith, Mark.11:22-25, the prayer we expect to be answered, then that prayer must be according to his will, 1 John.5:14.
Prayer in its most pure form, is asking God to act in the way he has promised. That's why faith is involved, for faith is reliance upon the revealed will of God, a will clearly revealed in the scriptures. So, for example, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them a list of the things they could pray for, Luke.11:1-4.
So then, what about praying for the salvation others? We could use the old formula, God will answer our prayers, "Yes, no or not yet", but that's not what the Bible says. If the prayer of faith is according to his will, then he will say "Yes". So, we would have to find some Biblical support for the view that God has given us the authority to determine who is saved. The trouble is, no such authority has been given us. Our only authority is to offer forgiveness of sins to those who respond to the gospel, John 20:21-23.
What about 1 Timothy 2:4, "God wants all men to be saved"? Clearly God desires the salvation of all, but then it is only the gospel which is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes", Rom.1:16. God's desire for the salvation of all is exhibited in: the cross of Christ, his command that the gospel be proclaimed to the ends of the earth and his promise that he will save all who believe in Christ.
With Paul we can pray that "the message of the Lord my spread rapidly and be honoured", 1Thes.3:1. So we pray, "may my friend hear and understand the gospel in all its clarity, having the fullest opportunity to believe in Jesus." By the way, given that Jesus is the Lord of time, among other things, can we pray that our friend "has heard and understood the gospel..."?