Before I go one word further,let me make a disclaimer: I am very aware that I am a sinner, and I very much want other people to pray for me about that. By saying “I pray for sinners,” I am not in any way suggesting that I am above all that! I need prayer very much and anyone who wants to pray about sins they observe in me is most welcome to. In fact, please, please do!
There, now that that’s settled, let me explain. This week I discovered a verse in that I’d never seen before. Well, actually, I’m sure I had seen it before, but I always got so tangled in the thorny second part of the verse that I never noticed it. Here’s the verse:
“If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that” (1 John 5:18).
This time, instead of getting caught in trying to figure out what the sin that leads to death is, I focused on the good news: There are sins that do not lead to death. And if I pray for people who commit those sins, God will give them life!
I have a number of sinners on my prayer list right now. (Well, actually everyone on my prayer list right now is a sinner. That’s not really news, right?) And several of the situations I’m praying about directly involve the painful consequences of sin.
The good news from 1 John is that I can pray for these people and God Word says He will give them life! To someone who sometimes overthinks about the interplay between human free will and God’s sovereignty, this is reason to celebrate. I don’t have to figure all that out—I can simply pray.
“But wait a minute,” I can hear you saying. “What about the ‘sin that leads to death’? How do you know the people you’re praying for aren’t committing that one?”
You know what? I’m not going to worry about that anymore. For one thing, until a person is dead, there is always the possibility that they will repent. And if my prayer encourages God to convict that person so they’ll be quicker to do so, then I will pray! For another thing, I’m not one to judge who is in which category. I lose nothing by praying. But if I misjudge, my failure to pray costs way too much.
And if those aren’t good enough reasons, Moses never fails to inspire me. After the golden calf fiasco recorded in Exodus 32, he didn’t just say, “Well, they’ve committed a sin that leads to death, so I guess there’s no hope; I might as well give up.” No, the Bible says that “Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people” (11-12).
And, isn’t this amazing? God agreed! Verse 14 says, “Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”
So, I’m really glad God brought that verse to my attention this week. I needed that encouragement to pray—with faith and hope—that God will intervene in the lives of people I know who are suffering (or destined to suffer) because of their sin. Lord, give them life! And I know I have blind spots, so please give me life, too!