As Christians we are taught that we should pray. Pray in the morning for protection on our day, pray for others as God’s Spirit lays them on our heart, pray before meals thanking God for His provision, and ‘pray continually’ as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us. In fact, if we claim to be followers of Christ and do not exhibit a strong prayer life, there is something amiss in our spiritual life. For Christianity and praying goes together like peanut butter and jelly—it’s hard to enjoy the one without the other.

But can there be such a thing as ‘wasted prayer’ or prayer that is worthless?

We can read in 1 John 5:16-17 the following: If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

The Bible clearly shows two “types” of sin—one that leads to death and one that John mentions as “not unto death.” John tells us to pray for the brother and sister who is in a sin that does not lead to death. However, he tells us not to pray for sin that leads to death.

It is apparent from the Scriptures that the sin that leads to death is attached to the person who has never repented of their sinful state in order to receive the free gift of salvation. Therefore, all of their transgressions could be considered “sin unto death.” So, how do we pray for these kinds of people?

Let’s take a look at an Old Testament account. In the book of Jeremiah in the 7th chapter, we read about the people of Judah who were so involved in their religious practices but whose hearts were far removed from Jehovah God. God called them idolaters, adulterers, liars, and thieves, and he told Jeremiah this: So do not pray for these people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Jeremiah 7:16

What I believe God is saying here is this: Don’t bother me with your prayers for these people, because I am not going to listen. Until these people repent, I cannot hear the prayers for them.

Now imagine if we do pray for someone who has never repented and we pray that they stop watching pornography or they stop lying, or stop stealing. Now imagine for a moment that God does answer our prayer and they do stop watching pornography, stop lying and no longer steal; but they never repent of their sinful state. Was our prayer truly effectual?

I think as Christians we need to pray and pray more fervently and pray more often, but we also should pray more effectively. If we are to pray for someone who is in a non-repentant state, the only prayer I feel that is worth our time and energy is for that person’s salvation. Then after the person repents and trusts Christ for their salvation, then the door is opened for us to pray in all matters for them.

Prayer is a gift from God to us, and it offers us the opportunity to partner with Him to change people, situations, and the world. But as good stewards of any gift, I believe that we must not be wasteful with our prayers. Let’s pray God’s will and not others' will.

Your kingdom come Lord, and YOUR will be done…