Does Everyone Deserve to be Prayed For?

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Asking if everyone deserves to be prayed for is a legitimate question.  The answer may be more revealing and personal than expected.  We need to consider our motives when praying for someone else.  It’s more about the “why” than the “who.”

People who may not deserve prayer in our opinion may very well be the ones who need it the most.  But who are we to determine who deserves prayer or not–isn’t that the role of God?

So, does everyone deserve to be prayed for?

Yes, everyone does deserve to be prayed for.  But not because of who they are, or what they’ve done, or even what they believe.  Everyone deserves to be prayed for because that’s what God desires.  Moreover, praying for people is an expression of God’s character, through us.  

Praying for someone else may not be about what we think it is.   Let’s take a closer look at what prayer isn’t before we dive deeper into the question.

Prayer Is Not About Our Feelings

We may not want to pray for someone else because we really think they don’t deserve it.  We may have thoughts such as, “Why should I pray for that person?  He/she doesn’t even believe in Jesus!”  Or, “I don’t want to pray for this person because I don’t like them or what they’ve done.”

Feelings such as these, or similar emotions, are natural and we shouldn’t ignore them.  Yet, we can’t simply live our lives being led or controlled by what we feel, can we?  Shouldn’t we want to do what Jesus asked of us?

Jesus commanded us clearly, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44, NIV).

While it may be natural to be angry with someone else for who they are or what they’ve done, we are called to let go of such emotion and latch on to the truth of our Lord.  It doesn’t matter what other people are telling us to do, we are to love in the face of hurt, and pray in the moment of pain. That means praying for those who harm, steal or lie to us just as we pray for those we love.

Praying for someone else is less about our feelings, but more about our faith.

Prayer Is Not About Whether The Person Deserves Forgiveness

We pray for someone else regardless of whether or not they are seeking forgiveness.  Praying and forgiveness are two separate things.  While praying can lead to forgiveness issues and a process of forgiving someone, we are focusing on praying for someone who we think doesn’t deserve to be prayed for.

As the Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, noted, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.6-7, NIV).

Anything can be brought to God in prayer, and should!  Praying for everyone isn’t about you or me forgiving them; it’s about being faithful to pray to God about anyone, and anything.  In doing that, we receive peace in our hearts.

Praying For Others is Intercession

When we pray for another person, we are undertaking a vital role in the life of faith called intercession.  It’s called intercessory prayer. We are intervening on their behalf, taking their name and life and behavior to God.  This isn’t done with spitefulness, but with a servant’s heart.

We can see how important it is to pray for other people, whether we think they deserve it or not, by looking at Jesus, the Christ.  Our Lord Jesus offers us the example to follow when it comes to prayer.  In John’s Gospel John 17, we see Jesus praying his disciples then, as well as his disciples later–followers of Christ like you and I.

If our desire is to be more like Jesus, then we’ll pray for other people.  If we subscribe to the popular notion that we should do what Jesus would do in any given circumstance, then it stands to reason that we should pray for others, even if we don’t believe they deserve to be prayed for at all.

One of the most widely read devotional writers, Oswald Chambers, offers a straightforward insight on intercessory prayer.

As he points out, when we pray for someone else, we are bringing that person into connection, into contact with God.  What better place is there for another person to be?

One of the leaders of the early church, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter that’s found in the New Testament.  He writes pointedly about the need to pray for not only for ourselves, but for others, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. . .Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord”  (James 5.13-14, NIV).

Notice the words?  “Anyone.”  Any one person who is in trouble, any one person who is sick is able to be prayed for by others.  Anyone means every one.  Wouldn’t that include a person who, in our opinion, may not deserve prayer?

James continues, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (5.15, NIV).  The prayer being offered in faith is not offered by the sick person, or the sinner–it’s offered by the person praying–you.  The sick and the sinners surely includes people who don’t merit being prayed for, but are lifted in prayer anyway, wouldn’t it?

Finally, James provides a clear reasoning for why we should pray for others, undeserved or not, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (5.16, NIV).

Praying for other people isn’t about whether they are entitled to be prayed for, or whether their life or actions merit receiving prayer.  Praying for someone else humbles us before God, which is a help in living a righteous life.

Who Is Deserving of Prayer?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that no one deserves to be prayed for.  No one is entitled to be prayed for, or merits being prayed for.  As the Bible clearly points out, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6.23, NIV).

As well, we see:  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8, NIV).  Even when we weren’t deserving, God made a way out for us.  Shouldn’t we do the same for other people?

We’ve all sinned and fallen short.  We’re not entitled to anything, nor do we deserve anything.  But, through the love of God, we are set free in Christ, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9, NIV).  This is grace.

Grace is simply receiving what do not deserve.  Mercy is simply Not getting what we Do deserve.

Does everyone deserve to be prayed for?

The clear answer is yes, everyone does deserve to be prayed for.  But not because of who they are, or what they’ve done, or even what they believe.  Everyone deserves to be prayed for because that’s what God desires.  Moreover, praying for people is an expression of God’s character, through us.  Don’t we want to bear witness to the grace and mercy of God in our lives?

Praying for people who we think don’t deserve prayer extends mercy, God’s mercy, as an act of grace.  It’s not about us, or our feelings towards the other person.  Praying for someone else is about God–what God wants for that person.

If our inclination is to not pray for someone, then our motives become suspect.  Do we hate the person?  Are we angry at what they’ve done (or not done, as the case may be)?  Do we believe that they are so bad or evil that they are beyond the reach of God Almighty?  Do we really and truly believe that someone should be excluded from the opportunity to experience the loving touch of God?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3.16-17, NIV).

We cannot claim the love and grace of God in our own life, if we are unwilling to extend that grace to someone else, can we?  Praying for others reveals the level of grace we have received and acknowledge in our own lives.  None of us really deserve anything from God because of our sin.

Yet, because of the freedom given us through Jesus, we can intercede for other people graciously.  When we pray for other people, we live into the grace given to us freely, and we manifest the mercy extended to us by the love of Jesus Christ and we help promote a more peaceful world.

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