Prayer is not, as is popularly believed, us talking God into coming over to our side; that is, it is not us persuading God to do what we want. Instead, prayer is us going over to God’s side. It is us praying for God’s will, not ours, to be done. Rather than persuading God to do our will, prayer is better understood as our partnering with God in the carrying out of His plans and purposes. As the late Paul Billheimer taught in his excellent little book on prayer, Destined for the Throne, prayer is the Christian’s on the job training for co-regency with Christ.
To truly understand how prayer is partnering with God in the salvation of lost souls, we must take up the biblical doctrine of election. In the Baptist Faith & Message, election is simply defined as “the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners” To help you grasp the ramifications of the doctrine of election upon your prayers for the lost, permit me to take a rather unorthodox approach.
The Bible teaches us that Christ not only bore our sins upon the cross, but our sicknesses as well (Isaiah 53:4-6). Some will undoubtedly protest at this point, arguing that it was only our spiritual disease (sin) that was borne by Christ upon the cross. Yet, Matthew makes it plain in his gospel that Christ fulfilled this ancient prophecy by healing the physically afflicted (Matthew 8:14-17).
Now, since Christ has borne our sicknesses upon the cross, does this mean that all sick people are healed? Absolutely not! Likewise, the fact that Christ bore our sins upon the cross does not mean that all sinners are saved. The only sick who are healed and the only sinners who are saved are those whom God elects to heal and to save! Those who are healed and saved need to thank Christ for it, since it is His atoning death alone that makes divine healing and salvation possible.
In James 5:15, we are told that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.” When can we pray the prayer of faith for the sick? Not until God reveals to us that He has elected to heal the sick person for whom we are praying. Then, and only then, can we partner with God in the healing of the sick by praying for their healing with absolute certainty.
Notice, James adds that “the prayer of faith” can also result in the sinner’s “sins” being “forgiven him.” When God reveals to us that He has elected to save the lost soul for whom we are praying, we can then partner with God in that sinner’s salvation by praying for him, or her, the prayer of faith.
All revelations of the divine will received by us upon our knees should be seen as God’s personal invitation to partner with Him in the carrying out of His plans and purposes upon the earth. By saving those He chooses through the prayers He burdens and reveals to us to pray, God enables us to become “laborers together with [Him]” in the carrying out of His good, acceptable, and perfect will (1 Corinthians 3:9). What greater thrill can any of us ever experience than to be laboring together with a sovereign God in the salvation of men’s immortal souls?
I praise you O sovereign God. I thank you for your Son Jesus Christ. I acknowledge this day that the gift of salvation you have elected to give me from your gracious hand is made possible by the atoning death of your beloved Son. I ask you now to speak to my heart concerning your elect so that I may partner with you in their salvation by praying for them the prayer of faith! Amen.