One of the questions most often asked concerns our prayers for another person. We wonder if we can pray effectively that God will change or save them.
Can Our Prayers Override the Will of Another Person?
No. God has given man a free will, and God will never force a person against his free will.
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
God gives everyone a will. We can say yes or no with our will. It's a dubious privilege to be free to make the wrong choice. People must choose God for themselves. If you have a wayward child, a husband, a friend, a neighbor, you can pray for that person, but you cannot force your will upon them.
Why, then, do we pray for the unsaved? Because there's spiritual warfare taking place! And we can bind the powers of darkness in prayer. We can bring God's influence to people in prayer. Let me give you an example from Jesus' ministry.
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a certain man, kneeling down to Him [Jesus], and saying, "Lord, have mercy upon my son: for he is a lunatic and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him unto Thy disciples, and they could not cure him." Then Jesus answered and said..."Bring him hither to Me." And Jesus rebuked the devil and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour" (Matthew 17:14-18).
Notice this child had Jesus sovereignly working from the outside upon him.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, "Why could not we cast [the demon] out?" And Jesus said unto them, "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. Howbeit this kind [that is, demon possession] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (v.19-21)
Here was a child who was hopeless and helpless apart from the prayer of someone else. This was not a case of forcing the child's will but freeing the child from demonic oppression or possession. We have a hell-bent world in the grip of Satan. When we pray, our prayers do not force people to be saved but free people to be saved. We bind away the blinder who blinds their eyes.
If God were to force just one person to be saved, He'd have to force all 6.7 billion people on earth. God does not force salvation. "Forced love" is a contradiction in terms. They must individually receive Christ. But God frees people to be saved through our prayers. I still don't understand it all, but I do believe prayer can bring a person to the place where he can say yes to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our prayers do not override their will. But God enables us to bind away the power of Satan, so they may come to Christ.
May We Expect Miracles When We Pray?
Never get in the habit of saying what God cannot do. There's nothing too hard for God; He is a God of might and miracles.
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out Thy arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee" (Jeremiah 32:17).
In a sense, all answered prayer is a miracle because the supernatural is moving into the natural. Anytime prayer is answered, in the classic sense that is supernatural.
But there are other kinds of miracles: miracles in nature where God turns water into wine, heals cancers, etc. Do I believe God does that? Yes, I do. But these are not normative. In the Bible miracles had certain things in common.
• They gave glory to God.
• They did not glorify men.
• They validated the claims or the identify of God, and
• They advanced God's work significantly.
God is a God of might and miracles. If God has a miracle for you, He'll give you miracle faith. I never discount miracles, but miracles are not normative or else they would not be called "miracles."
This leads us to our last discussion on prayer for this series: "How can I know the will of God in prayer?" Join us next time for that.