1 John 5:16
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.”
Prayer is a critical part of our relationship with God. It is the means by which we are involved in the work of God on earth. Scripture reveals the things God desires to do when we join in prayer; as a result we get to see God work. There are many texts in Scripture making it clear that when we fail to pray, we fail to experience the works of God. Perhaps the most well-known is when James declares, “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2c) Because of the importance of prayer, as it relates to the work of God, John instructs us on how to pray. Verse 14 tells us what to pray for,
1 John 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
The purpose of prayer is to get the will of God accomplished. When we look into the Word of God we will see the things that are important to God. When we ask Him to accomplish those things, we will begin to see our prayers answered. We know the salvation of our loved ones is on the top of God’s list, so we should put them on the top of list, and be praying for them regularly.
In verse 16, John addresses things that we should not pray for. He refers to them as the sins that lead to death. Sometimes, I wish there were a few more verses in Scripture. I wish John would have added a sentence or two explaining exactly what he meant. Since he did not, we are left to do a little digging on our own. What does the Bible say we should not pray about? I think the clear answer is, we should not pray about the things God has told us not to do. When my children were little, they would often ask for something, and not receive the answer for which they were hoping. Instead of accepting the answer they received, they would continue to ask, and at times even plead, beg, or ask with fervency. Their continued asking, after they had been told NO, did not change our minds, it only got them into trouble. In the same way, there are things God, because of His love for us, forbids us to have, or be involved in, and it is wrong for the Christian to ask for those things.
While all that is true, it is clearly not what John is talking about here. He is talking about those times when a friend gets involved in sin, and how we should respond to him. He tells us, if his sin is a deadly one, don’t pray about it. That is, if his sin is so dangerous, and able to destroy them, or their relationship with the Lord, don’t pray. Since I am not sure exactly what John means, I think the best application for the text is, instead of standing back waiting to decide what God wants me to do, I should take the advice of Paul who said, “. . .when a brother is overtaken in sin you who are spiritual restore him in a spirit of meekness. . .” (Galatians 6:1) Rather than letting our loved ones continue down a road that is taking them away from the Lord, we should step in, and do all we can to get them back on track. We already know God loves them, and He wants to restore them, the only question is, how we can help?