One reader recently asked this hard question . . .
“Can you write about how to pray for someone (like a dad or brother) struggling with sin?”
I can read between those lines. That question wasn’t hypothetical. It wasn’t based on something happening to someone else. She wants to know how to pray for someone struggling with sin because she knows and loves someone who fits the bill.
When the people closest to us sin, it hurts. Sin is destructive. When we are standing close by, we often get hit with shrapnel. I deeply admire this girl’s willingness to pray instead of simply assuming the position of duck and cover. But I don’t blame her for wondering, How am I supposed to pray about this?
The truth is, we all have a sin problem. That’s why we need Jesus so much. But if someone you love is trapped in a pattern of sin, or refuses to repent from sin the stakes can seem sky high. When I don’t know what to pray, I pray God’s Word. With that in mind, here are ten ways to pray for someone stuck in sin straight from Scripture.
1. Pray for them to see their sin as God sees it.
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2).
2. Pray for their hard heart to soften.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).
3. Pray for them to recognize the kindness of God.
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
4. Pray for them to have a desire for God’s Word.
“But he answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”‘” (Matt. 4:4).
5. Pray for God’s Word to do surgery in their heart.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
6. Pray for the consequences of their sin to become clear to them.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Ps. 51:3–4).
7. Pray for them to be surrounded by people who will speak truth into their life.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20).
8. Pray for them to recognize that only God can satisfy their deepest needs.
“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Ps. 107:9).
9. Pray for them to know how much God loves them.
“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17–19).
10. Pray for them to repent.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).
Two prayers not to pray.
While you’re praying, here are two prayers not to pray . . .
1. Get ’em God prayers.
My pastor calls those prayers rooted in a desire for God to punish others as “get ’em God prayers.” If someone you love has sinned against you, these kinds of prayers may be tempting. Keep in mind that God has forgiven you of much, even though you don’t deserve it. Pray that He would do the same for others, even if they’ve hurt you.
2. Plank eye prayers.
We all sin. We all desperately need God’s forgiveness. This is important perspective when we are praying about sin in someone else’s life. If someone you know is stuck in sin, pray like crazy! But keep your own sin in mind.
Jesus put it this way, “’Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’” (Matt. 7:3–5).
God is in the business of dealing with sin. There is no sin too big for Him to forgive and no sinner too far for God to take them back. As you wait for Him to do the miraculous redemptive work only He can do, keep praying with great expectation.
Do you know someone stuck in a pattern of sin? Which of these prayers will you start praying on their behalf?