Prayer for the Unbelieving

A few weeks ago, journalist, cultural commentator, and atheist provocateur Christopher Hitchens issued a statement announcing the personally devastating news that he has esophageal cancer.

If all you know about Christopher Hitchens is the title of his bestselling book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, then you already have a considerable glimpse into his views on Christianity.  One of the so-called “New Atheists”, Hitchens has become a hero to the radical secularists—mostly angry young men—who want to see the eradication of Christian influence from society.  Hitchens has earned a global reputation attacking Christianity.  Indeed, we have debated him three times: Edinburgh, Scotland, St. Louis, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama.


And, yet, in spite of his blasphemous rants, I have a soft spot for Christopher Hitchens.  I certainly cannot speak for others, but in my experience Christopher has always conducted himself with honesty and fairness.  There is something rather disarming about a fellow who openly admits that he has been beaten, as he did before 1,400 people at the Edinburgh International Festival after his debate with John Lennox.  Furthermore, in my many private discussions with him, I often leave with the impression that he is not as far away from the Gospel as one might suppose.  Oh, I am not suggesting that Hitchens is near a conversion.  The fact is, I don’t have any idea.  Rather, I am saying that he often seems prepared to listen.  (To put this in some perspective, I have also had numerous conversations with Richard Dawkins, but he has never demonstrated anything but a hardness of heart toward Jesus Christ.)

So, given my relationship with him, it seemed appropriate to wish Christopher Hitchens well and a full recovery from his cancer.  I did that in two ways: in personal conversation with him and with a video blog (see it here).  The latter was released on You Tube the day after he announced his condition.  In addition to offering him an encouraging word, it was an effort to shape Christian public opinion.  The video is a mere two minutes long and simply states our desire to see Christians pray for him.  I also added playfully my desire to use him in a future debate where he represents the Christian position rather than the atheist one.  All in all, the video is nothing especially remarkable.

Within days, however, the video had several thousand hits.  If you watch the video, be sure to read some of the comments.  It will open your eyes to the hatred many have for God.  The level of hatred expressed by atheists toward Christians in general and me specifically is startling.  The irony is, these people assumed wrongly that Christopher would be deeply offended by the offer of prayer.  I knew otherwise.  I had talked to him.  As if to confirm what I had said, Hitchens gave an interview only today in which he said:

… there’s some extremely nice people [who] have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.” (For full interview: click here)

Of course, Christians are to pray for the lost whether they want it or not.  One misguided fellow who reckoned himself a Christian wrote that we should not pray for Christopher Hitchens because he deserves God’s wrath.  Indeed he does.  And so do we!  Colossians 1:21-22 says:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

To desire to see someone punished by God is not Christian.  On the contrary, we must never forget how great is our salvation!  Christ gave his life for us and we are to boldly proclaim this hope to a fallen world!  Let us pray for Christopher Hitchens and for the many other people in our lives who have not experienced the grace of God.

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