How Pilgrim’s Progress Changed the Way I Pray

If it wasn’t for wanting to make the post title an appropriate length, I would have specified that John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress changed the way I pray for lost people in my life. Let me go ahead and explain.

The book opens with a man. He grew up in the fictional City of Destruction, representative of the human condition of lostness. After reading a certain book, he’s made aware that his city and all its inhabitants are destined to be destroyed. He too would be destroyed if nothing changed. As he understood and believed the things written in the book, Christian (for that is the man’s name) developed a burden on his back.

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The vast majority of the people living in the City of Destruction we’re completely oblivious to their city’s fate. They lived care-free and enjoyed life. Most of them simply didn’t believe they would be destroyed. They thought Christian was going crazy when he spoke of the destruction to come. They didn’t have the burden that he had.

This is representative of a spiritual reality. People who don’t understand the eternal punishment of sin feel no burden for it. That was the difference between Christian and his fellow townspeople; he had a burden and they didn’t. His load was – as we see when we continue to read the book – the beginning of a journey. It was a literal burden but is representative of a spiritual burden that we, in the real world, must feel before we can begin our journey of the Christian life.

This idea isn’t foreign to Scripture, which is our first and chief authority. Listen to Paul’s words to the Corinthian church:

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it – I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow lead to your repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but wordly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

-2 Corinthians 7:8-11

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. Someone cannot repent for what they do not feel sorry for, and with no repentance, there is no being saved.

Praying for a burden

I’ve started to pray that the lost people in my life will feel the burden of their sins. I pray that they will feel the weight of their responsibility for it before God. I pray that they’ll experience that 2 Corinthians 7 kind of sorrow which leads to repentance and bears the fruit of salvation. This is the only way they will be successful on their journey to Celestial City, John Bunyan’s fictional city symbolic of eternal life.

Bearing a burden isn’t pleasant at the time. But I hope you’ll see that it’s a necessary part of God’s plan for the salvation of human souls. If you see the truth of what I’m saying, please join me in praying for the lost. Think about the names and faces that might be circulating through your mind. Pray that they would experience the burden of sorrow that brings repentance, leads to salvation, and ultimately leaves no regrets.

What do you think?

  • Is it strange to pray for (temporary) sorrow? Is it biblical? Is it a wise or foolish thought?
  • Can you see other places in the Bible that talk about godly sorrow? I can think of at least one other; can you?
  • Have you ever read a book that’s changed the way you pray or influenced your practical life in other ways?
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