How should we approach praying for the lost?
First of all, we need to believe God. Mark 10:27 says, “With God all things are possible.” Genesis 18:14 says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” God can save the uttermost and the guttermost. He came to redeem lost man. His death paid the price for sin. When we pray, we should ask for, pray for and claim all that the blood of Christ has purchased. In the KJV, Psalm 78:41 says, “They limited the Holy One of Israel.” We can limit God in our praying or in our unbelief. It’s time for intercessors to believe God for the impossible and to expect the unexpected. In Matthew’s gospel we read where Jesus could not do many great works because of their unbelief. Do you really believe God wants to save the lost? Do you pray believing?
Secondly, we need to be persistent in our praying. Salvation is not up to us, it’s up to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. We’re not trying to persuade the Lord. We’re standing on behalf of those who are lost. It is our duty to fight for the souls of those who are lost and perishing. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. In prayer and evangelism we battle for others. As we pray, we should pray specifically. We should pray for people to come into their lives who will bear a witness for Christ. We should ask God how He can use us in their lives. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to convict of sin. Let’s remember, our weapons are not of flesh. Our authority is not in our name, but in the strong name of Jesus.
I heard E. V. Hill speaking at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism in 1975. He said, “If you get people praying, God will put on their hearts what is on His heart. What is on His heart is a lost world. You can’t be a praying person and not be burdened about what burdens God.”
Third, we should remember that Satan is a defeated foe. When Jesus came out of that grave, He overcame the world, the flesh and the devil. We are called on to appropriate His victory through believing prayer. We should bind what He has bound. We should loose what He has loosed. If it’s God’s will for men to be saved, then we should deal with Satan the way Jesus did. In the name of Jesus we should rebuke Satan and bind Satan. We should remember that the work of Christ is a finished work. Jesus died to pay for sin.
The lost person is bound and blinded by Satan. Paul writing to the Corinthians said, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul writes, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “The unsaved person does not understand the Christian; they live in two different worlds. But the Christian understands the unsaved person.” We can pray for the lost because we know what it was like to be lost. We remember what it meant to be dead in trespasses and sin. We pray for God to open their eyes, their minds and their hearts to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus and Jesus only can emancipate the person who is bound. Jesus and Jesus only can reveal the truth to an individual who has bought into the lies of this world’s system.
Ron Dunn, in his book Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something, wrote, “An unsaved person does not have the capacity to see himself as a lost sinner or to understand the gospel message. No amount of human power, logic or argument can penetrate the darkness of the unsaved mind. We can’t explain the way of salvation simply enough for him to believe. The devil doesn’t have to make a drunkard or a murderer of a person to keep him from being saved. He only has to keep him blind to the gospel of Christ. In praying for the lost person, we are not forcing the person’s will – we are freeing his will from the bondage of Satan.” Jesus came to set captives free, so pray that way!
Four, we must put feet to our prayers. It may be us that God wants to use in the life of that lost person. We need to always pray with the attitude, “Lord, here am I, send me.” Pray for the lost by name. Ask others to join with you in believing prayer. Pray the lost person will come under conviction. Pray for those who God will put in their path as a contact or a witness. Pray for more laborers in the harvest field. Pray for their hearts to turn. Pray in faith for their salvation. Pray thanking God for their salvation, even before they are saved.
In Romans fifteen we read, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” That word ‘strive’ means to agonize. Our problem with evangelism today is we can organize but we don’t know how to agonize. Could it be the difference between success and failure in evangelism is the level of praying we are doing? We’ve got more methods, programs and media than ever. Yet, the world is more lost than it has ever been.
I read an illustration of a young lady who said, “I can’t get interested in missions.” Another said, “No, you can hardly expect to. It is just like getting interested at a bank: you have to put in a little something first and the more you put in–time, money or prayer–the more the interest grows.” George Sweeting says, “I have four sons whom I love dearly. Suppose our lawn needed mowing. I could say, “Boys, can you see the need? The grass is high. It’s above my knees. Soon I will not be able to get out of the garage. Don’t you see the desperate need?” But in the final analysis, they get out the mower because their father says, “Mow the grass!” World evangelization is an imperative because our Father said so. Prayer is an imperative because we are told to ask, seek and knock. That applies more to others than ourselves. We are called to pray for the lost because Christ has paid for thier sin with His blood. We are asking, seeking and knocking to claim what is rightfully His.
S. D. Gordon, in Quiet Talks on Prayer wrote, “Without any doubt, we may assure the conversion of those laid on our hearts by such praying. The prayer in Jesus’ name drives the enemy off the battlefield of man’s will and leaves him free to choose right.”
(copyright 2008, Michael Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.