20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20 is a great reminder that as believers, we should place a high priority on praying for the lost – those who haven’t put faith in Jesus Christ and haven’t established a relationship with him.
This week, as we continue our series inspired by the Kendrick brothers’ book. The Battle Plan for Prayer, we’re focusing on how to do this: pray for the lost.
If we’re honest, we pray for ourselves more than we pray for anyone else. After all, who among our friends and family knows our hopes, struggles, and concerns more completely than we do? Our next prayer targets, after ourselves, are most likely the people closest to us, followed by other friends and relatives.
In Romans 10, Paul shared his heart’s desire and prayer for the salvation of the people. Then in I Timothy 2:4, we learned that God wants “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Even John 3:16 proclaims that God‘s love motivated him to send his son for the salvation of people all over the world.
So there’s no question God is pleased and glorified when people turn to him and receive him by faith, through Jesus Christ. It should challenge us to pray for the lost.
So we know we should pray for the lost. We know from 2nd Corinthians that God “reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”, so here’s a question: why aren’t we praying fervently and faithfully to that end?
One reason? The enemy stands against us and our prayers. His plan is to prevent as many people as possible from hearing and receiving the good news. 2 Corinthians 4: 3-4 says, “our gospel…is veiled to those who are perishing. 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 in the image of God.” Satan knows he’s lost the war. His desire now is simply to cause much damage as he can… While he can.
BUT…we can stand against him in prayer, asking God to open the eyes of the lost and reveal to them their need for a savior. We can ask him to send us and others to tell them about his love and forgiveness. When we embody the fruit of the spirit, and live gentle, patient lives with a clear testimony and lifestyle, Paul said “perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2: 25-26)
Our prayers against the enemy’s tactics, along with our obedience to Christ, can create opportunities for more people to hear and understand the truth of the Gospel. That’s why Paul asks the church: “devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of Thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may proclaim it clearly.” (Colossians 4:2-4)
God can be trusted to grant us these openings to share our testimony of how Christ has changed our life. Our story can open the hearts of others. We can pray for these opportunities! When we pray and look for them, we won’t have any trouble spotting them. But we must be ready and willing to take advantage of them when they appear. This leads us to the next part of our prayer strategy: readiness.
When the time comes to open our mouth and speak, we need the boldness to say what ought to be said. Paul prayed in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth will make known with boldness the mystery of The Gospel.” We need the same kind of readiness and confidence that Paul had. The challenge is to not allow embarrassment or the fear of rejection to stop us from sharing the most important message in the universe. Otherwise, we’re communicating, “my comfort level is more important to me than your salvation. “
That’s why we should pray for boldness like Paul…not to overwhelm people by our intensity…but so that we won’t back down from saying what God leads us to say with the right heart and demeanor. The Holy Spirit does what only he can do: bring repentance.
Jesus himself said the reason he came to earth was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10.) As part of his body on the earth today, we can view this as a critical part of our purpose. In everything we do, and every situation, we need to be ready to share the love of Christ with a lost, dying world.
But, our prayer shouldn’t be limited only to those within our area of influence. Let’s pray for people we will never meet. Pray for missionaries to be given the boldness to share. Pray for leaders to hear the gospel. Pray for those in the spotlight and who influence. Pray for the unreached people groups who desperately need someone to come share the good news with them.
So how do we pray for the lost? We pray for God to begin working in their hearts to prepare them to receive the truth. We pray against the enemy that he would be prevented from blinding their eyes and hearts. We pray for opportunities and boldness, both for ourselves and others, to share the gospel with them.
We pray for conviction of sin to agitate their hearts, bringing about true repentance and a desire for Christ’s cleansing. And we pray for God‘s blessing, guidance, protection, and the presences to be on all of those who obey him and who keep him.
The awareness that we were also once lost should raise our urgency to pray. Time is limited. Opportunities may be limited as well. So let’s obey what God has called us to do:
The word boldly and freely declares in Romans 10:13, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And we get to be a part of it. Through prayer.
Lord, give me a greater heart for the lost, a heart that doesn’t ignore them or work around them, but rather breaks for them. Hurts for them. Guard me from even subtly downplaying their need for you…or considering their salvation someone else’s job to worry about.
Open my eyes as I travel throughout each day, watching for you to open doors so I can give effective testimony to your goodness and faithfulness.
And do battle against our enemy, oh Lord; that he would not succeed in blocking the truth from getting through to those who are dying without it, without you.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this kingdom priority. Help me see it is a privilege, not a burden – willing to sacrifice for the incredible sacrifice you made for me.