Should I pray for my children’s salvation if they might not be “predestined”?

Q.  Please explain Paul’s statement in Romans: “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Does this mean that not everyone can be saved?

Later in Romans, Paul says that God will cause some people to refuse to listen, such as Pharaoh. (“Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”)  I constantly pray for my children, I need to see results, I guess my faith is not strong enough.

To go right to the bottom line first, I don’t think that any of us should conclude, if our prayers for the salvation of loved ones haven’t been answered yet, that God has not predestined them to be saved, but has hardened their hearts instead, so our prayers are of no use.

I’ll address those two statements by Paul in my next post.  They come within a long, complex argument about which there is much disagreement among interpreters. I want to say here that I think we do much better to draw our conclusions about the value and efficacy of our prayers for loved ones from biblical statements that are much clearer and more straightforward, such as what Peter writes in his second letter:  “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  In Psalm 103, David presents a similar picture of God graciously extending salvation:  “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He . . . does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

So I would encourage you to keep solidly in mind a picture of God as a loving heavenly Father who wants to fold your children in His arms and welcome them back into His family.  Thank you so much for your prayers for your children!  They’re accomplishing far more than you realize.

And don’t be concerned about how much faith you have.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  So take the faith that you do have and put it to use in continuing to pray for your children, keeping a picture of our loving God in mind.  You can even thank God by faith for the work He’s doing your children’s lives, even before you’re able to see it. 

It’s been aptly said that faith is like a muscle.  The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets.  And I can’t think of a better way to put our faith to work than by using it in prayer for those we love, asking that they will understand and accept God’s own love for them.


Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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