Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Can I pray confidently for that?

The other day, one of my teenagers was astonished to hear about Calvinism in her history class. She heard that the Presbyterian church believed Calvinism, and asked what we thought of it.

"Well," I began (always a good stalling tactic, to draw out that first word, "way-y-ell"), I believe that nobody ever seeks God on his own (Romans 3), that nobody can come to Jesus unless God forces him (John 6), and that anybody who does so must have been chosen by God (Ephesians 1)." Naturally she then asked me about the other side -- does God choose people for hell?

Which is where today's reading comes in. 1 Timothy chapter 2 talks about praying for kings and for all those in authority.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 2.3-4
Except for very few cases (the king of Egypt at the time of the Exodus for example), the Bible doesn't say that God chooses or forces people to be destroyed.

It's on the strength of this passage that I believe -- and like the father in Mark 9 I have to say "Help me overcome my unbelief!" -- that we can pray in confidence for anyone to be saved.

Let me unpack that a bit.

John 15 and 16, and Matthew 21, all say that we can ask and receive; this is all the more sure if we pray anything according to God's will, according to 1 John 5. So of course you have to look at these passages yourself and examine the conditions on the promises. Anyway, if God wants all men to be saved (above), and if he hears us when we ask for someone to be saved (which the above says is in his will), then we can count on him to grant it.

I understand that George Mueller prayed all his life for some of his friends; one came to Christ at George's funeral and another some time afterward.

So why do I have to say "Help me overcome my unbelief!"? Well, I'm not sure I haven't oversimplified the intent of these passages or glossed over the prerequisites. And although the testimony of the Scriptures and of history (both mine and others') shows God to be trustworthy, there's a part of me that's just not quite sure. My friends talk about relatives who have virtually no exposure to the gospel (in a country of few churches) or have for decades been resistant to the gospel, and I wonder if God truly wants them to come to faith in him.

Guess I'd better pray. Which, come to think of it, is the point:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2.1-2

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