If you contend for the faith, you may have heard this from those who question why you would dare to question the teachings of leaders – teachings that don’t line up with Scripture. This phrase is nothing more than a post-modern guilt trip, designed to make sure you look more loving and virtuous than those who put into practice what Jesus, Paul and others preached.
(Notice what I didn’t say: I didn’t say it is wrong to pray for your enemies. The real issue is the accusation, which becomes a very creative, politically correct way to say, “pipe down and shut up about the wolves.”)
Imagine if you will, the following scenario:
A shepherd guarding his sheep observes a wolf among the flock cloaked in sheepskin. He stands up and yells “Wolf! Wolf! Run! Run!” And immediately the sheep begin to scatter, but not all. A small group turn to the sheep dog and, with an arrogant smirk plastered across their faces, respond, “But did you pray for the wolf?”
Bewildered as to why these sheep were ignoring his warning, the shepherd reiterates the danger of the wolf’s presence with an even more impassioned plea for the sheep to escape the impending doom that’s about to befall them. However, they stand firm and go back to their grazing on the plush green grass beneath their feet.
Mumblings of,”Who is he to judge?” and, “As for me I’ll be praying for the wolf” can be heard among them as they reassure themselves of their peace and safety while the wolf takes them out one by one until there are none left.
There are many one-liners regurgitated by ‘wolf defenders’ designed to silence those who would try to warn the flock. If you’ve ever exercised your discernment regarding a false prophet, there’s no doubt you’ve encountered the all famous “judge not” defense ripped and twisted from its context.
However, there’s another less popular but equally insidious argument used by wolf defenders that’s designed to put shepherds, sheep dogs, and watchmen on the defense. The diversionary tactic I speak of is “Are you praying for_________?”
This trite platitude is usually employed in the context that we’re not supposed to expose the wolves but only pray for them, and if we have not prayed for them then we are somehow committing a greater wickedness than the wolves themselves if we dare criticize them (woe to those who call evil good and good evil).
This often-used excuse to avoid defending truth and to–conversely–help further the advance of those devouring the flock got me wondering; are wesupposed to pray for the wolves?
First of all I want to say up front that I do not believe praying for a wolf is wrong, a sin, nor am I saying that you shouldn’t do it. Furthermore, this post is not intended to discourage you from doing so, but only to raise the question are wesupposed to pray for the wolves?
I would also like to preface this thesis by clarifying that when I speak of wolves in this post, I am not referring to the rank and file who have fallen under the spell of their leaders, but the leaders themselves (Think: Helen Ukbato, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, et al).
With that said, allow me to present some thoughts on this matter.
Although false teachers and their false teachings are addressed in almost every book of the New Testament, strangely absent is any command or even example in which we are to pray for them. There seems to be no precedent foror allusion to God’s love and grace in the writings of holy writ being applied to false prophets. I am not saying that God’s love and grace is not capable of reaching any and all whom He chooses to bestow it upon, but what I am saying is that there seems to be a vast chasm between His love/grace and the false teachers–a chasm commonly traversed by God in His dealings with the common sinner, but never seen traversed for the wolves.
We see in the New Testament time and time again where the sinner has repented unto life, but we don’t ever see where a wolf (one who is actively shipwrecking the faith of believers) has repented unto life. Additionally, wolves are spoken of by Jesus and the Apostles in some of the harshest, condemning tones found in all of the Bible (and rightly so because the damage they cause is eternal).
I have found nowhere in Scripture that we are directly or expressly commanded to pray for those who seek to shipwreck our faith and damn our souls to Hell for eternity. The argument in favor of praying for the wolves is commonly couched in our command to love and pray for our enemies, but are false teachers what Jesus was referring to when He said this? Do they fit in the context of His use of the word “enemies” in that text?
I submit that when one looks at the context of “your enemies,” He is speaking of those persecuting you, and not false teachers or prophets.
Compare the references to “your enemies” in Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28, Luke 6:34-35, and Romans 12:20 (in which all are referring to those who persecute you and in which we are instructed to feed them, lend to them, love them, and pray for them) with the admonition about deceivers in 2 John verses 9-11. Here we are instructed to not even to permit them into our homes or even greet them. You will notice a stark contrast between how we are to treat those who persecute us (who can only kill our bodies) and those who bring a false gospel (who can drag our souls to eternal torment in the Lake of Fire).
There is a blazing distinction between those who persecute us and who spitefully use us, and that of the wolves. Nowhere does Jesus nor any Apostle precede, interrupt, or conclude the teaching against a wolf in order to pray for them; nor are we instructed to. When Jesus warns us to beware of the wolves He doesn’t conclude by telling us to pray for them.
Unlike the anonymity of the elect who we do not know–and so we proclaim the Gospel to all as we are instructed to do—the wolves we can know because they are said to be easily identified by their fruit (Matthew 7:15).
So why is the Bible silent on whether or not we’re supposed to pray for false teachers? Perhaps the reason can be found elsewhere in Scripture.
Jude 13 and 2 Peter 2:17 tells us that they’ve been “reserved” for darkness and Paul tells us in Galatians 1:6-9 that they’re “accursed.” This does not sound like there’s any hope for them, but that their fate is already sealed, thus rendering any prayers for them–although commendable–of the utmost futility.
We can no more pray into Heaven an “accursed” false prophet who’s “reserved” for destruction any more then we can stop God through prayer from burning up this present earth that He’s “reserved” for fire (2 Peter 3:7).
We also see that there’s an imperishable inheritance “reserved” for those born again (1 Peter 1:3-4). I would as soon expect man to be capable of altering this “reserved” blessing as much as he would be able to derail the “reserved” judgment of a wolf, in addition to being able to derail the hope that believers are “destined” not for wrath but for salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
The surety of something being “reserved” by God cannot simply be glossed over. We see this again in 2 Peter 2:1-4 in which God’s judgment of the wolves is from “long ago” and is “reserved” for them just like it is for the angels who sinned.
If both Jude and Peter tell us that these men are “reserved” for Hell, and Paul tells us they’re “accursed,” then I can conclude and fully understand why we are never commanded or shown by example to “Love false teachers and pray for them.” Anyone, including our enemies, can be granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:18), but it seems to me that Scripture reveals those “reserved” for darkness cannot.
We’ve all heard stories of Christian persecutors coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ, but can anyone recall a wolf who ever turned from their ways to embrace the Truth? Is there any record of these men or women repenting of their spreading of “another gospel” and turning to the True Gospel?
How about Joseph Smith? Brigham Young? Gordon B. Hinckley? Charles Taze Russell? Judge Rutherford? Mary Baker Eddy? Ellen G. White? David Koresh? Marshall Applewhite? L. Ron Hubbard? Herbert Armstrong?
As far as history shows, all of the above men and women died rejecting the true Christ and His Gospel and dragged countless souls to an eternal fiery damnation with them. And their false doctrines of demons continue to seduce and deceive millions today.
I know that my thesis of not praying for a false teacher may be atrocious to some of you. “After all” you say, “God would never not have us pray for someone. But is the idea really inconceivable?
I submit the following precedents for your consideration:
As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16
Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster. Jeremiah 11:14
So the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.” Jeremiah 14:11-12
Although I don’t believe it is wrong nor a sin if you pray for a wolf, I do believe, however, that the argument that unless you’ve prayed for a false prophet then you can’t speak out against a false prophet is nothing more than a straw man. It’s a weak attempt by those protecting the wolves to divert the attention away from the wolf and his wicked ways, and putting the one exposing him on the defense . . . a clever tactic I would expect Satan to employ.
I’m also not saying that I’ve never prayed for a wolf, nor am I saying that I never will pray for a wolf, but if you have not prayed for a wolf I see nothing that would exempt you from exposing and resisting one.
At the end of the day, which shepherd will have more sheep: The one who actively guards his flock with stern warnings about who the wolves are and how to spot them, or the one who sits under the tree praying for the wolves while they are preying on his flock?