Pray v. Prey: The Christian’s Responsibility Regarding Sin

In our world today, there are many meaningful Christians who do things in an effort to make the sinner more like them, rather than like God; Christians who think God should smite the sinner dead for what others are doing; they will get on their bandwagon in an effort to get other Christians to prey on the other person who has sinned. But, what does God say we should do when someone sins?

As I was reading 1 John 5 recently, there was a verse that jumped out at me. In verse 16 of that chapter, the writer says:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. 1 John 5:16a(NIV)

The first thing I noticed is that when a brother or sister sins, my responsibility is to pray for that person. Is that what I am doing? Am I praying or am I preying?

If I get on the social network and try to get everyone to do the same thing I am doing, it is probably preying. Or if I develop an organization condemning the other person, I am probably preying. If I am the first to post the other person’s sin, do I like getting other people to “like” it? Doesn’t that make me feel really good? When I prey on someone, I want other people to think more highly of me than the other person. I want them to condemn the other person, just like I am condemning them.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the writer recorded these words of Jesus:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5(NIV)

In the time in history when this was written, the synagogues and street corners were the social media of the day. The hypocrites wanted the maximum exposure to what they were saying. They get their reward, their short period of gratification…just like I would get on the social media or the organizations I may try to start.

However, that is not how I am supposed to pray. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stop there with His instruction for praying, He continued with these words:

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:6-8(NIV)

You will also notice that this scripture indicates that God knows what the other person needs; we do not have to tell God how to answer our prayer.

This brings us to the second important concept mentioned in 1 John 5:16. Once we pray, it is not our responsibility to change the other person. God is the one who brings life, not us. Somehow, as Christians, we want to confront that person (prey on that person) so we can have the satisfaction of changing that person to our way of thinking.

Has it ever occurred to you that God may have already answered your pray and is in the process of changing that person? If we attempt to put words into God’s mouth, we may be hindering God from changing that person into the person He wants them to be.

When we pray and give God multiple choice answers that he should give, we are babbling like pagans because God already knows how He is going to answer your prayer.

Galatians 5 tells us what the acts (sins) of the flesh are:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21a(NIV)

These sins mentioned in Galatians is the sin of the flesh (self). Every sinful act mentioned is a side effect of living in the flesh. As Christians we have a tendency to condemn the side effects of the sinful act and not the sinful act itself. In fact, in many cases, we are acting in the flesh when we condemn the other person’s ‘sinful act’.

Galatians 5 also tells us how we should respond to the person involved in the sin of the flesh:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26(NIV)

If you want to help the person who commits sin, these are the tools you will use with that person. When used properly, these are the tools that cause the person who sinned, want the life that God has to offer.

When you use flesh to fight flesh, the only person to win is the one acting in the flesh. Let us fight flesh with spirit. In other words, let us ‘pray for the sinner’ and not ‘prey on the sinner’.

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from unless otherwise noted.

The Model Prayer: Developing a Relationship With God

Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15(NIV)

In Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew 6, Jesus has just talked to the people about sins against others: murder, adultery, divorce, promises, vengeance, loving our enemies and giving to the poor. Jesus is attempting to teach his disciples about their relationships to their ‘neighbors’.

After these instructions, the disciples ask how they are to pray. So Jesus gave them a model to use in their prayers.

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us a model for prayer.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

First, Jesus tells us to honor God, Our Heavenly Father for who he is, what he has done, and will do. He is talking about our relationship with God. In Christ’s ministry, He taught that the Greatest Commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37(NIV))

Second, Jesus is addressing the second greatest commandment. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39(NIV))  Just as God loved us enough to forgive our sins, we must also love our neighbor enough to forgive them of their sins against us.

It should also be noted that in the model prayer, the act of forgiving our neighbor is in the past tense. It is not something that needs to happen in the future but rather something that has already taken place prior to praying. We cannot properly worship God if we have not forgiven our neighbor.

Just prior to Jesus giving the disciples the model prayer, Jesus was talking about forgiving others, which is an act of worship, he said:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24(NIV)

Immediately after giving the model prayer, in verse 14 and 15, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. It needs to be noted that in these verses when Jesus is talking about forgiveness, he is talking about the forgiveness of the sins (debts) between us and other people. If we want God to answer our prayer, we need to forgive others.

Jesus  goes on to say that if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive your sin. In other words, He will not hear our prayer if we have not forgiven others.  We cannot expect God to forgive our sins if we are unable to forgive others of their sin against us. We cannot demonstrate our love for others until we can forgive others.

In the model prayer, we are asking God to forgive us just as we have already forgiven others. In other words, if we haven’t forgiven others, we are asking that God not forgive us. When we continue to live in sin, our relationship with God is weakened.

God also knows that we are going to be tempted not to forgive others. Therefore in the model prayer, Jesus says that we are to ask for God’s help in protecting us from those situations that cause sin; those situations where Satan would interfere with our relationship with God.

The model prayer was not given to everyone, it was given to the disciples and, followers of Jesus. It was given because the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Because they were followers they already had a relationship with God, the reference about forgiveness is not talking about a prayer of salvation but a prayer of a believer or person that is already a follower of Christ. In other words, this prayer is not about losing one’s salvation if they don’t forgive others. But rather it is a prayer about maintaining a closer relationship with God by forgiving others.

The Lord’s prayer takes us in a complete circle. The goal is to have a relationship with God. For us to have a relationship with God, we must (1) worship him. For us to worship God, we must first (2) forgive others. Because we have difficulty forgiving others, we must (3) trust God to keep us from sin. When he keeps us free from sin, we are free to worship him.


Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from unless otherwise noted.