We are told in Scripture to pray for ALL MEN. “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for ALL MEN” (1st Timothy 2:1). Surely the Lord would not exhort to do this if it would not “help them with their situation.” Notice, there are four things mentioned regarding praying for all men:

1) Supplications…This has the thought of praying earnestly for a “specific need.” For example, you may have an unsaved relative, neighbor or friend that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. We can go to our heavenly Father with that need and pray for them.

2) Prayers…This is praying for “general needs” that people always have; for good health, safety while traveling, enough money to meet their needs, and other “necessities of life” that people need daily. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father, “Give us this day OUR daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The word “OUR” teaches us that we should pray for others too and could this not also include unbelievers?

3) Intercessions…This carries with it the idea of “presenting to God the case of someone in need, praying on ‘their behalf’.” Verse 2 goes on to say “for kings and all who are in authority” which means we have the privilege to “intercede on their behalf,” to pray for them to be given wisdom to govern and to make the right decisions that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” In most cases they may very well be nonbelievers, but God may answer our “prayers of intercession” by sovereignly working in their heart for their good and our good. Proverbs 21:1 speaks to this, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

4) Giving of thanks…Our prayers should always include “thanking God with grateful hearts for those that we are praying for.” The apostle Paul was known for this, and he expressed this beautifully in his letter to the saints at Thessalonica, “We GIVE THANKS TO GOD always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father” (1st Thessalonians 1:2-3). In this prayer Paul was thanking God for believers but I’m sure he was also thankful at times for family, friends, and acquaintances that were still unbelievers.

We can be sure that when he thought of unbelievers he would also pray earnestly for their salvation, which is what we see next in verses 3-5, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL MEN to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom FOR ALL, to be testified in due time.” We were exhorted in verse 1 to pray FOR ALL MEN and here we see that the greatest need men have, who are still unbelievers, is “to be saved.” You asked, “Does praying for a nonbeliever to help them in their situation do any good” and the answer is a definite YES. God “desires ALL MEN TO BE SAVED” and He “desires that we pray for ALL MEN.” If they become saved then God has answered our prayer by saving them which is surely GOOD; in fact, it is the very best thing that can happen to them. Let me end by saying it may be hard to find it in our hearts to pray for some to be saved if they hate us and are persecuting us. In those cases, we must ask our heavenly Father to give us the ability to “love them as He does” and then we will pray for them. The Lord Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I say to you, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, bless those who curse you, DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU, and PRAY FOR THOSE WHO SPITEFULLY USE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (DO)  (519.3)