There are different types of sin, and some more serious than others. Apparently we should pray for those who do the lighter sins, but not waste time praying for those who do the bad ones.
Ever heard that? It comes from this verse:
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. (1 John 5:16)
What is the sin leading to death and why should we not pray for people doing this sin?
Sin unto death
Some say the sin leading to death is the unforgivable sin, which is unbelief. But why wouldn’t we pray for our unbelieving friends and family members? (We can pray that the eyes of their hearts would be opened to the gospel. We can pray that they would hear Jesus knocking on their door.)
Or the sin that leads to death is the sin you did knowing full well that it was sin when you did it.
Or it’s the sin you keep doing again and again because you’re an unrepentant rebel.
In short, the fatal sin is so bad and so offensive to heaven that there’s no point asking God to forgive you. You are so far gone that God can’t help you, and you are not worth praying for.
Let’s get two things straight: First, Jesus bore all our sins, big and small, and there is no sin greater than God’s grace (Rom. 5:20). No matter what you have done or how often you’ve done it, there is grace for you.
Second, when we see others destroying themselves in sin, we should pray for them. They need help. Why wouldn’t we pray?
“But some are beyond help. Don’t waste your breath praying for those guys.”
Again, nope. There is no sinner beyond the reach of God’s mighty grace. Not one.
The worst sinner in the world
Look at Saul the Pharisee. If anyone was beyond the reach of grace it was the chief of sinners. Do you think the early Christians wasted time praying for him? Of course they did. Didn’t Jesus teach us to love and pray for their enemies (Matt. 5:44)?
And their prayers were answered. Just look at what happened to Saul.
But I digress. Back to John.
When not to pray
There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.
John is not talking about different types of sin. He’s telling us when to pray and when to quit praying.
When our brothers and sisters are stumbling in sin, we should not condemn them but pray for them. Pray that God would lead them on to the path of life. “You should pray and God will give them life.”
Someone who is sinning needs life because sinning is destructive. When we sin we are sowing death into our lives, marriages, and families (Rom. 6:23). But the good news is that Jesus gives life.
Imagine you have a friend who is on a destructive path. They are making bad choices and sowing the seeds of death.
They keep sinning.
You keep praying. It’s not complicated.
But what if the sinning brother or sister makes choices that bring their life to a premature end? What if they drive themselves over the proverbial cliff? If they’re dead there’s no point praying any further. Our responsibility to pray ends at the grave. What happens after that is God’s concern.
Don’t pray for the dead
What is the sin leading to death? It could be just about anything, but once they’re dead you can stop praying for them. Your part is done. Now they are in God’s hands.
This is obvious, right? Only for many it’s not obvious at all.
Some religions and even some Christian denominations pray for the dead or the “faithful departed” even though there is nothing in scripture to support this.
Praying for the dead is a dead work. Start praying for the dead and your prayer lists will only get longer. (How would you know if the prayers were answered?)
Short version: Don’t pray for the dead, but pray for those who have lost their way. Pray that God will lead them in the path of life.
Got questions about tough scriptures? Check out our FAQs page and find answers to 400+ questions about God, church, the Bible, and more.
Be the first to know. Get notifications by email: