Praying for others
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life-to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 1 John 5:16
Here's another passage Bible experts argue about. What is a “sin that leads to death”? It could be sin that leads to physical death; in other words, there's no point in praying for those who have already faced God's judgment. It could be a sin for which the sinner won't or can't repent; elsewhere, the New Testament says it's impossible to be forgiven for “blaspheming the Holy Spirit,” which is also a statement that generates a lot of controversy. It's a good question to wrestle with - if only so you can avoid it! - but John himself tells us that it's not the most important part of this verse.
His main point is that we ought to pray for our brothers and sisters when they sin, because God forgives those who repent. Loving the family of God in this way is good for us and for them.
John tells is, in addition, God does not forgive those who have committed “sin that leads to death” but says, “I do not say that one should pray for that.” Notice that he's making a suggestion, not handing down a commandment. He isn't forbidding his readers from praying about “sin that leads to death,” but he doesn't say we ought to, either.
The point is that we ought to pray for one another to repent when we sin. If you are convinced that you know what is “sin that leads to death,” you are not required to pray about it, but you may. If you are unsure, you can pray for all of your brothers and sisters, leaving the forgiveness part in God's hands.
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. What do you think is “sin that leads to death”?
2. Do you see sin in a brother or sister’s life? Are you praying for him or her?
Dear God, the gift of repentance and the ability to forgive sin are only In your hands. Protect us from ignoring or gossiping about other’s sin; instead, let us help one another In prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.