The Bible’s View
Is It Right to Pray for All Men?
THE apostle Paul exhorted “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, offerings of thanks, be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high station.” (1 Tim. 2:1, 2) Yet, there is a limiting factor, for the apostle John did tell fellow believers: “There is a sin that does incur death. It is concerning that sin that I do not tell him to make request.” (1 John 5:16) So, it may well be asked, What prayers are rightly offered in behalf of “all sorts of men,” and why?
In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul set forth the reasons for praying respecting “all sorts of men.” First he encouraged praying for rulers “in order that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Tim. 2:2) By reason of their authority, men in high governmental station can interfere with a Christian’s “leading a calm and quiet life.” If these men misunderstand the purpose of genuine Christianity and its message, they may impose legal restrictions on the activities of God’s people and authorize severe penalties for engaging in true worship. So it is most appropriate to pray that rulers might be kindly disposed toward Christians so that these might not be persecuted for serving God.
Normally, it might be very difficult to reach men in high governmental positions with the Bible’s message. Hence, it has served the purpose of Jehovah God and his Son to have Christians brought before these men for judicial investigation. For example, when calling Paul to be an apostle to the nations, Jesus Christ specifically indicated that he had in mind for this one to give a witness before rulers. We read: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) And Paul bore witness to kings by being brought before them to defend himself against false charges raised by opposers. Because the apostle Paul had Roman citizenship, he was able to make his defense before the highest earthly authority, the Roman Caesar.
The indications are that Paul’s first defense before Caesar was successful in ‘defending and legally establishing the good news.’ (Phil. 1:7) Respecting his confinement in Rome at that time, he wrote to the Philippians: “I desire you to know, brothers, that my affairs have turned out for the advancement of the good news rather than otherwise.” (Phil. 1:12) Truly, the prayers of fellow believers in behalf of Paul respecting his defense before the Roman Caesar were answered. (Eph. 6:18, 19; Col. 4:2, 3) Appreciating that the advancement of the “good news” is involved, Christians today rightly pray that judges and other men in authority might give favorable consideration to matters affecting true worship.
Continuing the discussion about praying “concerning all sorts of men,” Paul wrote: “This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”—1 Tim. 2:3-6.
According to these words, it is right to pray “concerning all sorts of men” because Christ died for all. (1 Tim. 2:1) The atoning benefits of his sacrifice are available to persons of all races, nationalities, tribes and stations in life. There is the same God and the same mediator for all who come into a covenant relationship with God. The Almighty, as the apostle Paul pointed out to the Athenians, “is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent.” (Acts 17:30) Hence, we should never lose sight of the fact that Jehovah God does not want to destroy anyone but desires that individuals come to repentance. Our eagerness to share the “good news” with others and our prayers for fellow humans demonstrate that we appreciate this fact. So, when God’s servants are brought before rulers it is also proper to pray that these men might be given a witness.
In view of the fact that Jehovah God wants as many persons as possible to be saved, Christians should certainly pray for fellow believers who may have slipped into sin and stand in danger of jeopardizing their salvation. The apostle John wrote in this regard: “If anyone catches sight of his brother sinning a sin that does not incur death [second death, from which no recovery is possible], he will ask, and he [God] will give life to him [saving him from the second death to which he would have been exposed had he continued in a state of unrepentance], yes, to those not sinning so as to incur death.”—1 John 5:16.
However, there are times when a Christian would not pray for one who has ceased walking in the way of the truth. The apostle John continued: “There is a sin that does incur death. It is concerning that sin that I do not tell him to make request.” (1 John 5:16) What is the sin that does incur eternal death, for which no forgiveness is possible?
This is the Scriptural answer: “Whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.” (Matt. 12:32) “It is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened, and who have tasted the heavenly free gift, and who have become partakers of holy spirit, and who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.”—Heb. 6:4-6.
Such persons reject the sole basis on which their sin can be forgiven and so their transgression stays standing against them. Hence, they must pay the penalty for their unforgivable sin—second death. The Scriptures tell us: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” (Heb. 10:26, 27) It would be wrong to pray for such persons, as they have knowingly and willfully rejected the only basis on which appeal could be made for them to Jehovah God. They have, as the Bible says, ‘trampled upon the Son of God.’—Heb. 10:29.
So it would be wrong to pray for individuals who have deliberately and knowingly rejected God’s provision to have their sins atoned for. Otherwise, in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, God’s devoted servants should continue to pray “concerning all sorts of men,” including erring members in the Christian congregation, that these might repent. Jehovah wants all to avail themselves of his provisions for salvation.—2 Pet. 3:9.