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 that 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 we desire. Well, that's not the Bible's view. The Bible tells us that God will do what he says he will do. So, when it comes to communicating with Jesus, we lay everything before him, but only expect him to do what he has promised to do
Prayer in its most pure form, is asking God to act on his promises. That's why faith is involved, for faith is reliance upon the revealed will of God recorded 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; we call this list the Lord's Prayer.
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 is based on a promise from God, then he will say "Yes". So, we would have to find some Biblical support for the view that God has promised to save those we ask him to save. The trouble is, no such promise exists. When it comes to salvation and the gift of eternal life, God's promise is that a person can only find forgiveness, and thus eternal life, by asking Jesus themselves.
What about the verse in the Bible that says "God wants all people to be saved"? Clearly God desires the salvation of all, but then it is only the Good News about Jesus which has "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. God's desire for the salvation of all is exhibited in his determination to make known his love for humanity in the Good News about Jesus, and his promise that he will save all who believe.
So, when it comes to praying for the salvation of others, I pray that they may clearly see the love of God in Christ Jesus, and having seen, may take hold of Jesus' outstretched hand.