PITTSBURGH, PA – “Aunt Myrtle’s bursitis is acting up again.” “Tom lost his job at the mill last week.” “Alvin left Sylvia again on Thursday.” “The Wilsons’ kids got into trouble with the law; they broke into three cars down the road.” “Tammy’s sixteen, pregnant, and has a big GED test tomorrow.” “Franklin really needs the Lord. His whole life is messed up.”
When you read the above list, you may be asking, “What is this?” If you have spent any time in evangelical America, you know that these are typical Sunday School/prayer meeting/cell group prayer requests. Most churches would be willing to pray for all of these. Most, that is, except Three Rivers United Methodist Church.
Rev. Harold Jacobs, senior pastor at Three Rivers, has decided that the church needs to be more biblical in the way it prays. The church body is generally in agreement with him. Because of this desire, they are now restricting their prayer ministry. Specifically, Three Rivers will no longer pray for anyone to be saved.
Pastor Jacobs explains, “I will be the first to admit that our denomination is in the toilet. That’s because we have turned away from the scriptures. Well, like John Wesley before us, we want to live according to God’s word. When we pray, we want to be consistent with the bible. We know that God is not willing that anyone perish (II Peter 3:9), has made atonement for everyone (I John 2:2), and has given man free will to choose him (John 3:16). We don’t want to get in the way of this, so we will no longer pray for anyone to be saved.”
Church council member Edith Miller told TBNN, “I’m just not sure how I feel about this. My neighbor, Suzy Murphy, is not saved and is in desperate need of Jesus. I want to pray for her salvation, but Pastor Jacobs told us that it wouldn’t be fair if we did. He said that God might violate her free will, and we certainly wouldn’t want that to happen.”
The new program, entitled “Praying by the Bible,” is being promoted heavily by the church staff. Assistant Pastor Betty Harris said, “Before this program, our folks weren’t praying for much of anything. Now they are lifting one another up on a daily basis. The only restriction we have given them is that they cannot pray, under any circumstances, for anyone to be saved. We know that God cherishes the free will of man, and is too much of a gentleman to violate this. We wouldn’t want to tempt God to do this by praying for him to do so.”
As TBNN was investigating this story, a church member who wishes to remain anonymous said to us, “Look, I want to obey the church leadership and all. But I just don’t feel right about this. I mean, God answers prayer. So what if it’s not totally fair? I want my lost brother Roy to get saved and I’m praying for it to happen. I hate to be unbiblical, but if that is what it takes for him to come to Christ, well, then I’m going to do it. I hope I don’t face church discipline for this. It’s a risk I’m willing to take for Roy.”