The irony of the free will position is prayer. Every time you pray for the salvation of another you are praying against that person’s will.

When you pray for the salvation of someone you are essentially asking God to intervene in that person’s heart and mind, to have them change their decision and feelings about Christ. Think about how you pray for the salvation of another. “Lord, open their eyes. Make them understand. Please save them. Make them part of your people.” When we do this we essentially ask God to change that person’s mind about Jesus against their natural sinful state of rebellion against God. So what of free will?

It is the normal state of people to decide against Jesus. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). Left to our own devices we would never choose to submit ourselves to Jesus—it is against our nature. We can only choose things which are not contrary to our nature. It takes an act of God in the person to enable us to believe in Christ. “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Notice what Paul says, the faith we are saved by, that is, the belief in Jesus to trust him for salvation, comes from God and not from us.

Consider also the position of the Old Testament on this question. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1). In the heart of the person who makes a decision there are real choices to make and real consequences of those choices. The person making the choices always feels they are acting of their own free will. But the scripture tells us his decisions are not completely his own—God is directing him according to his plan.

There is always an outside force working in our lives to direct us to live our lives according to God’s great plan. For the Christian that force is not outside, but inside, through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Whether for salvation, or sanctification, or ministry, God is working in and through us to accomplish all he desires—not necessarily what we desire.

When you pray for the salvation of another go ahead and ask God to miraculously intervene in that person’s life and change them against their will. When you think about it, that’s what you are praying for anyway.

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