John Piper: “What I am saying is that it is not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners. On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ. For ‘no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father’ (John 6:65,44).
Only the person who rejects human self-determination can consistently pray for God to save the lost. My prayer for unbelievers is that God will do for them what He did for Lydia: He opened her heart so that she gave heed to what Paul said (Acts 16:14). I will pray that God, who once said, ‘Let there be light!’, will by that same creative power ‘shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (II Corinthians 4:6). I will pray that He will ‘take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26). I will pray that they be born not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God (John 1:13). And with all my praying I will try to ‘be kind and to teach and correct with gentleness and patience, if perhaps God may grant them repentance and freedom from Satan’s snare’ (II Timothy 2:24-26).
In short, I do not ask God to sit back and wait for my neighbor to decide to change. I do not suggest to God that He keep his distance lest his beauty become irresistible and violate my neighbor’s power of self-determination. No! I pray that he ravish my unbelieving neighbor with his beauty, that he unshackle the enslaved will, that he make the dead alive and that he suffer no resistance to stop him lest my neighbor perish.