Author Tim Barnett
Published on 03/06/2023
Christian Living

Should Christians Pray for Atheists?

God has invited us to pray for unbelievers. And when we do, it’s not arrogance; it’s kindness.


Original video: Question for the Christians. If your God—all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipotent God—made all of us by his own hand, he created us exactly the way that we are. That’s what you believe, right? If your God made me into the atheist that I am, and he gave me the free will to believe or to disbelieve, when you pray for me, asking God to save me, how is that not a contradiction of your own God’s will to have created me exactly the way that I am? How would he answer your prayer for me without directly voiding my free will, which is to remain religion-free? How would he do that? How is your prayer not a complete waste of your and his time? Because he can’t answer your prayer. You can’t void my free will that he’s given me. How is he going to save me? And why are you so arrogant to believe that you know better than your own God?

Tim: I want to draw your attention to three serious issues with this video. First, this video starts with a straw man. A straw man fallacy is when you misrepresent a view in order to refute it. It’s easier to knock over a straw man than a real man. What’s the straw man here? She says he created us exactly the way we are. That’s what you believe, right? Wrong. This is not the Christian view. Christians believe God made the first parents, but then something happened. We call it the Fall. The world isn’t the way God originally made it. Adam and Eve broke the world, and it’s been broken ever since. That includes our beliefs and our behavior. That’s the Christian view. So, no, God didn’t make you into the atheist you are today. On the contrary, God says his existence is clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, but there are some that suppress the truth. So, her atheism is on her, not God.

Second, there’s the issue that praying for unbelievers necessarily violates their free will. At this point, we need to ask, what exactly are we praying for? Here’s my answer: We’re asking God to act in such a way to make a difference. Now, this no more violates free will for God to draw believers than it violates free will for me to woo my wife into a relationship. I didn’t force her to marry me against her will. So then, why’d she marry me? Well, I wooed her. I made myself appealing—now, I had hair back then—so that she would like me and eventually fall in love with me. Call it wooing, or drawing, or attracting, or persuading, or whatever, but I act in such a way to help create a relationship without violating her free will, and if I can do it, then God can do it. When I pray, I’m asking God to do that.

Third, she claims it’s arrogant to ask God to save unbelievers because it goes against God’s will. Ironically, it’s God’s will for us to pray for the salvation of the lost. The apostle Paul tells us to imitate him, and he says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” I think Paul would be surprised to learn that his prayer goes against God’s will. This video is mistaken. God has invited us to pray for unbelievers, and when we pray for those unbelievers, it’s not arrogance; it’s kindness.