Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

How to Pray for the Lost

By Dennis Pollock


Today I want to discuss the idea of praying for lost people, those who have not yet found eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Is it right for us to pray for these people? Does it do any good, or is God so sovereign in this area that our prayers for their salvation are meaningless? And if we do pray for the salvation of unbelievers, how should we pray? Do we just say, "Lord save them, Lord, save them?"


One concept that has sometimes been preached is that God has already done everything He's ever going to do to save people. He has sent His Son Jesus, and Jesus has died for the sins of the world and risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to explain this work of Jesus in the New Testament, so God is now done. The work is over, and there is nothing left for God to do. The rest is on us; it is our job to receive Jesus. We should not expect God to do one more thing than what He has already done, toward our salvation. After all, did not Jesus say, "It is finished," at the end of His dying on the cross?


This sounds right, and we can all agree that the saving work of Christ is finished and is complete, and yet I would disagree with the idea that God has done all that needs to be done to save us. I am convinced that there is further work that God must do for anyone to be saved. God must work in and on our hearts to bring us to a saving faith in Jesus. If we look at our own lives, we realize that when we turned to Jesus, we did not simply stumble across Jesus or find Him on our own. In hindsight, we can see that the Holy Spirit was doing some powerful things in us to make us malleable and tender before God so that we would be receptive to the message of God's grace through Jesus.


Lydia's Heart


In the book of Acts, we read of a woman named Lydia who sold purple, which was the clothing of rich people and royalty in those days. She was in the crowd that listened to the apostle Paul as he preached Christ in the region of Phillipi. The Bible tells us:


Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)


Lydia hears Paul preaching Christ and quickly becomes a disciple of Jesus. But this is not due to her superior intellect or reasoning power, nor is it because she was a nicer, sweeter, person than most of the others. Why was she so receptive to Jesus? Why did she embrace all that Paul was saying and become a disciple of Jesus? Did she just get lucky? Did she have a certain religious gene in her that made her more receptive to the gospel than most people? We do not have to wonder about this. The Bible says: "The Lord opened her heart" to heed the gospel preached by Paul. Lydia became a believer because the Holy Spirit did a special work in and on her that resulted in her conversion to Christ.


It is no different today. For any of us to be saved, the very same process must occur – the Lord must open our hearts to heed the gospel of Jesus Christ, whether we are reading it in the Bible, hearing a television preacher, or listening to a powerful Christian song. Unbelievers are walking around in this world with closed, hard, locked hearts, and unless and until those hearts get opened by the Holy Spirit they will never believe.


Reading of Jesus and a Heart Transformation


When I was nineteen years old, I picked up a Bible and started reading the New Testament, mostly out of curiosity. At the time I was not a Christian; I wasn't even sure God existed at all. But within a couple of months, I was convinced, and I became a believer in Christ. This was no accident. I did not just stumble across Jesus, nor did I become a disciple because I had a sharp, logical mind. Just as happened with Lydia and every other believer who has trusted in Christ since Lydia, the Lord opened my heart to believe in Jesus, and my life was forever changed.


Here is a powerful prayer point as we pray for unsaved loved ones, that they might find Christ and be born again. We can pray, "Lord open their heart to hear and heed the gospel." You might say that sinners desperately need "heart surgery." They need open hearts, and this is one surgery only the Holy Spirit can do. No doctor on earth has the skills or the tools to do this kind of intricate and delicate surgery. Only God. Jesus was asked, "Who can be saved," and He replied, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26).


Another example of this one further work that God must do for men and women to be saved is found in the sixth chapter of John, when Jesus states: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…" (John 6:44). Jesus seems to be saying, "People will never accidentally run across Me and come to Me. No one will ever come to Me unless they are being drawn by the Father." Once again, the idea is that we need God to work on us and somehow magnetically draw us unto Jesus. If this does not happen, we will never come, not in our youth, not in our middle age, and not when we are old. In addition to the saving atonement of Jesus Christ, one more thing is needed. We must be drawn by God to His Son Jesus.


Praying the Scriptures


These things should saturate our prayer language as we pray for people to be saved. "Lord draw my son, daughter, father, mother, and friend to Jesus. Cause him to hear the gospel and open his heart to heed the gospel and be born again." Some may wonder, "If the Lord has to draw people to Jesus and open their hearts to believe in Him, why doesn't He do this for everybody? Why is it that some are drawn, and others do not seem to be drawn to Jesus? Some have their hearts open to hear the gospel, and others go through their lives with closed, locked, and spiritually cold hearts, and never show any interest at all in spiritual matters.


This is where prayer comes in. The extent to which the Father works on human hearts depends in great degree upon the measure that those who are already believers are willing to share the gospel with them and pray consistently for them. The Bible says that "God our Savior… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4). If God is not drawing, perhaps it is because we are not praying that He draw them.


It would seem that when we pray for unbelievers the Father dials up the divine pressure, increases the anointing, and turns up the measure in which His drawing, heart-opening grace is felt and experienced in them. He will never force people to believe, but He can and does move so powerfully upon our hearts that we want to believe, and it becomes easier and more natural for us to come to Christ than for us to continue to resist the gospel. The Bible says, "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." God can give us the will to draw near to Jesus, to desperately desire to have Him in our lives, and in fact, if He does not give us that desire, we will grow to old age without the least inclination to follow Christ. We still must believe; God will not do our believing for us. But it becomes natural for us to put our faith in Jesus when the Holy Spirit moves on our hearts and makes Jesus look incredibly attractive to us. Thus, we are drawn to the Savior.


And so, we pray for the unbelievers who are in our lives: parents, children, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. We ask God again and again to draw them to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we are faithful to share Jesus and pray for these people, God does His part and opens their hearts and moves with divine magnetism to draw them to His Son.


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