“God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3b,4
One thing I have been challenged on by some folks is the legitimacy of praying for the lost. Some contend that there is no biblical basis for it, although Jesus prayed for those who would believe and Paul asks for prayer for the gospel to spread.
Others say it essentially makes no difference, God is going to save the elect no matter what, so why bother?
The foundational truth in this issue is that God commands us to pray about everything all the time (Eph. 6:18). He says that we should be praying according to His will and if we do so, He will answer (1 John 5:14-15). So what is His will?
1 Timothy 2:4 states clearly that God would like all to be saved, so we should pray for that. It also states that some will not be saved because of unbelief, so not all will respond to God’s work or our prayers—but many will.
Then we must ask, “What is God doing to bring people to a point of making a clear decision for or against Christ so that I can join Him in this through prayer?” The Word gives us a number of things we can pray for.
1. 2 Corinthians 3:16; 4:4 — God must remove the veil that Satan has put before the eyes of unbelievers.
2. Romans 1:20 — God wants people to see his attributes displayed in nature.
3. 2 Corinthians 4:6 — God must make the light of the gospel shine in the hearts of unbelievers so they can know His salvation.
4. John 16:8-11 — God the Holy Spirit is at work convincing unbelievers of guilt because of their sin of not believing in Jesus as God and Savior, because of Christ’s righteousness and of judgment for the prince of this world is condemned—and with him all who don’t believe in Christ.
5. Following examples in Scripture, I also ask that God would speak to them through whatever means He chooses: dreams, visions, tragedy, blessing, fear of death, terrors, questions and statements of truth, etc.
6. 2 Timothy 2:25, Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8, Colossians 1:5–Then I ask Him to grant them faith and repentance.
7. And finally I ask Him to pin them down, as He did king Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, and Paul in the NT, so they have to face the issue of believing or not.
So I ask God to do these things for the unbelievers on my prayer list. This is no magic formula, but it is joining Him in His desires, cooperating with God in what He is doing, and asking Him to do what He says He wants–therefore such prayer will be effective. Some I’ve prayed for have come to Christ after 20 years, some after 50 or more of prayer. Perseverance is important! As is then sharing the gospel with those we are praying for!
Prayer: “Lord, help me to join you in your great work of sweeping as many as possible into your Kingdom before they perish. Help me to be, in your power, consistent in prayer, persistent in sharing, insistent in being a living witness for you. Amen.”
Picture from ABWE