As a Calvinist, I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has said to me, “If God is sovereign, there’s no point in praying.” Of course, the immediate rejoinder is obvious: “Only if God is not sovereign is there no point in praying.” Still, the typical meaning behind the statement seems to be, “If God has determined everything that will happen, then it’s pointless to pray because God has already made up His mind about what will happen.”
I think it’s time to turn the tables though. Especially regarding Arminians who pray for the salvation of other people. Indeed, not only do I think these prayers are utterly pointless, but if God really is the God that Arminians imagine, then such prayers demonstrate an utter lack of faith in Him.
I make that claim due to the following claims that Arminians—at least those I’ve interacted with—have asserted. First, Arminians claim that God loves every person everywhere with a universal and benevolent love. Second, Arminians claim that God wants every single individual person ever created to be saved. Third, only those who freely choose can believe in Him; God does not want robots.
So given these claims, it becomes fairly straightforward to demonstrate that it is futile for an Arminian to pray for the salvation of anyone. The most obvious way is by looking at the third claim. Since God wants us to be free and He does not want robots, what exactly is the prayer supposed to accomplish? Is the Arminian praying that God violate someone’s freewill? Obviously not. But what, precisely, is the prayer for salvation supposed to do?
Perhaps it is designed to ask God to bring about more opportunities for someone to be saved. Let’s examine that for a moment. Suppose an Arminian has a friend we’ll call Jim Bob, and the Arminian prays “Lord, I ask you to bring about more opportunities for Jim Bob to be saved.” But doesn’t God already want everyone saved? And if He does, why does He need you to prompt Him to try extra hard in Jim Bob’s case? Is He not already doing all that He can for Jim Bob?
Or look at it this way. Jim Bob and Billie Sue are both unsaved individuals. If you pray for Jim Bob to be saved, but not Billie Sue (because you’ve never met her and don’t know she exists), does this make it more likely for Jim Bob to be saved than Billie Sue? Does God give more attention to Jim Bob than Billie Sue? Certainly God doesn’t love Jim Bob more than Billie Sue, because of the first claim of Arminianism that God loves all universally.
So what, precisely, does the Arminian’s prayer accomplish when he prays for Jim Bob? God was acting toward Jim Bob in a specific manner before the prayer, and according to Arminian precepts, He acts in the exact same manner after the prayer too. Not only that, but God was acting the same way toward Billie Sue too. Thus, such a prayer is completely ineffectual. It accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever.
Except it’s worse than that for the Arminian. It’s not so much that such a prayer accomplishes nothing, but rather that it accomplishes the proclamation that the Arminian does not actually believe in Arminianism! After all, what would prompt an Arminian to pray for Jim Bob except that he doubts God really loves everyone with the same universal and benevolent love? In short, by praying for Jim Bob, the Arminian is ultimately saying, “God, I don’t really think you love everyone the same, so please save Jim Bob.”
Of course, I would anticipate an Arminian to say, “No, we believe God wants all saved, but we are just lifting up that request for Jim Bob in particular for…reasons.” Well, in that case, the Arminian is not mimicking the God he claims is real, for the Arminian is being very particular in asking salvation for one person and not for another. But that aside, the Arminian would be asking God to do…what God is already doing. This seems to me to fly in the face of Matthew 6:8, which in the ESV states: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The “them” in the first clause is the Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases” in their prayers: “Lord, I ask you to please keep doing what you’re doing that I know you’re going to be doing whether I ask or not but I’m going to ask it anyway because this is in no way a heaped-up empty phrase.”
After all, it’s not like Arminians can use the Calvinist concept of God ordaining the means as well as the ends. See, a Calvinist can argue that God uses the means of prayer in order to enact His will, choosing to not do something until He has moved His people to pray for it. Hence, the means to the end are established. But that doesn’t work for the Arminian here, because God is going to love everyone universally and He is going to want all saved and He is going to do all He can without violating their free will, irrespective of what anyone prays.
Or do Arminians really think that God would have saved Jim Bob if only we had prayed for him, but since we didn’t pray for Jim Bob then Jim Bob never got the chance to believe? Really? God’s going to withhold salvation for a person because someone else failed?
No, any way you look at it, the conclusion resounds: Every time an Arminian prays for anyone to be saved, he has torn down the foundation of his own worldview and proclaims that he knows in his heart that Calvinism is true.