Shouldn’t we first and foremost pray for terrorists?

Question from a reader:

I appreciate the article, ”Biblical and Ethical Issues That Have Bearing on This Election,” but have a suggestion as regards terrorism.

We need to pray for the terrorists...for their conversion and repentance. Jesus died for them save them and give them a new chance at life. We never prayed for the destruction of Russia, but for its conversion. Imagine if a few key terrorists have an experience with the Lord similar to Paul’s....the terrorist movement will crumble from the inside. A converted terrorist is more valuable than a dead or imprisoned terrorist, don’t you think? They start converting their comrades, turning in the unrepentant...and no amount of security or punishment applied externally is going to make a difference to them anyway.

We know who controls the hearts and minds...only God. We know the power of the Holy Spirit....very mighty. We have been given access to the Spirit and it’s time we, as a Christian people, took advantage of what God has given us for His work. We need to come together as one and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out His Spirit....I think that’s all he’s waiting for before He makes His move. 

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

I agree. And I’m sure the writers of this statement would agree.

However, what you say doesn’t only apply to terrorists, but to abortionists, homosexual activists, persecutors, rapists, serial killers and everyone else who has an agenda that dishonors God and violates his Word. We should certainly pray for everyone’s repentance.

Meanwhile, until the day comes when all evil doers either repent or are stopped by God’s hand, we must simultaneously take action to prevent and resist the evil they seek to do, especially that which puts at risk the innocent.

I know you’re not disagreeing with that. But in defense of the writers of the statement, not every true statement can or must say everything that is true. E.g. a statement decrying the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians can be a valid statement without calling the world to prayer for the conversion of the persecutors. That prayer is good and right, of course, but not every statement decrying persecution need include that prayer, any more than every statement objecting to abortion needs to include prayer for the conversion of abortionists.

A Christian prosecutor could rightly argue for the death penalty for a murderer, without saying to the jury “I am praying for this man’s conversion.” Certainly as a Christian he should pray for the murderer’s conversion, it’s just that not every statement need contain those words in order to be valid. Sometimes the moral issue itself is the central issue, and needs to be discussed regardless of the private needs and personal conditions of those doing the crime (or regardless of our prayers and hopes for them).

I say all that largely because I have heard people say that instead of making all kinds of other efforts to stop abortion, we should just pray for abortionists. My belief is that we should pray for them...and meanwhile do what we can to stop them. We dare not simply pray and wait for all abortionists or terrorists to repent. There is no contradiction between prayer for criminals and decisively acting to prevent further crimes. Both are spiritual acts.

Scripture itself decries injustice in many places without simultaneously calling on people to pray for those doing the injustice (e.g. in Rev. 6 the martyrs call upon God to bring justice upon their persecutors, but do not mention bringing them to conversion).

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries