Remember those old movies, the ones from the 40’s and 50’s? The tough kid whose brother is in the hospital, or the troublemaker who finally comes to terms with his own anger when the only girl he ever loved is dying, and they go through this kind of a speech:
“Lord, you know I ain’t no praying person, and I always kinda thought you were there, and if you are now, and you’re listening, please save (place name here.) S/he’s better than I am , I ain’t never been any good, so take my life and give it to him/her.”
I’m almost crying now, just thinking of those heart-wrenching prayers.
Get real, people! God doesn’t make deals, you can’t swap your life for another. Each person who sins must deal with their sins; first, by accepting them (you can’t give away what you don’t own) and then by wanting to be rid of them. When we realize our own sinfulness and realize, at the same time, our inability to overcome it, that’s when people come to God and ask forgiveness for themselves. Praying for others is fine, interceding is godly, and asking God to forgive others is good to do. However, when it comes down to it, each person must have their moment with God. Each of us must form that relationship, that personal relationship, with God, and that has to start by asking forgiveness for ourselves.
This is clear throughout the Bible:
- Jeremiah 31:30 (Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes–their own teeth will be set on edge.);
- Deuteronomy 24:16 (Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.);
- Ezekiel 18:20 (The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.)
These are some examples I found in the Tanakh, and even if it isn’t stated specifically in the B’rit Chadashah (Good News / New Covenant) Yeshua didn’t say or teach anything differently that what is in the Tanakh.
I am not saying that to pray for someone else’s forgiveness is not valuable or good to do- far be it for me to deny the power and goodness of interceding. If Moses hadn’t interceded for the Israelites, and more than once, we would all be remembering father Moses instead of father Abraham.
What I am saying is that God is not going to swap out your righteousness for someone else’s sinfulness. You can pray for them, I often pray for my kids (like every day often), and lift them up to the Lord. Ask His forgiveness of them, which He will do by sending others to show them the path to Him. They still need to come to Him on their own, and He can (and will) send angels of mercy to direct them, and (as in most cases) human beings who know the Lord to help those you pray for see the truth. I know that if not for the people who were mature of spirit and could approach me without telling me I had to convert, I would not be saved today.
Isn’t it best when we follow the rules? The Bible tells us what to do:
- Ask forgiveness for yourself, so that through the cleansing that comes from Yeshua’s sacrifice you can approach the Lord:
- Ask the Lord to save these people from themselves by forgiving them, not because they deserve it but because He is God, and ask that He do so for His names’ sake;
- Ask that God send angels of mercy to lead these people away from sin; and finally
- Pray that you are a better example to them of the peace and joy that is found only in God’s salvation, brought to us through the Comforter (the Ruach HaKodesh, Holy Spirit), so that they will become jealous of your peace and how you find comfort even in the midst of troubles.
Of course, you may have a better prayer, or something you are more comfortable with. The above is my prayer, it’s how I try to intercede for my loved ones who don’t know the Lord.
Don’t try to make deals or swap out your salvation for someone else. It makes for good fodder in the movies, but not in real life. In real life we all have to deal with our relationship to God and others, and what we do is what we will be held accountable for.
As I have said before, and will (no doubt) say again: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. God will hold us accountable for what we do, so pray for others, and pray that they come to know the Lord so they can turn from their sin. God will always answer prayer, I believe that He will send angels and people to help those we pray for, but always understand and accept that each of us must come to the Lord, on our own.
Trust in God to answer your prayer but remember that He will not force anyone to worship Him, so as much as God works to lead others to Him, most will reject Him. Get comfortable with that truth, that Biblical truth, because you will see many you love turn against you and against God when the Tribulation comes.
We need to pray for others, accept that God is listening and working on their behalf, but it is, ultimately, up to them to come to God.