We all have people in out lives who are not followers of Jesus. They have neither called on nor accepted Jesus as Lord and they do not believe that He is raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9, 13). Paul shares the anguish and concern that he has for the lost in his letter to the Romans (Rom 9:1-3). He earnestly prayed for the salvation of others (Rom 10:1):
my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
As I lay convicted of my own prayer life in this area, I began to think through how I might specifically pray for the lost that Jesus came ‘to seek and to save’. We may offer a simple prayer that they would be saved:
God please save [name of person]
Having been immersed in a seminary class on soteriology I began to wrestle with this request.When we make this request what are we expecting God to do?
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost
For those holding a Reformed view of election, we might be asking God to change His predetermined choice, made before the foundation of the world, to not save the individual that we are praying for. If this person were not among the elect then our prayer would not be able to be answered because we are requesting something that is outside the sovereign plan and thus contrary to the will of God.
For those who do not hold to a Reformed view of election, we would be asking God to override the free will of the individual. The request would be asking God to remove the choice that an individual has, forcing them to accept what they have decided to reject.
In either case, it would seem that our request could not be answered by God because we are either asking Him to go against His will or against the will of the individual we are praying for. But if God wants us to pray for the lost and desires that none should perish than how should we pray for the lost?
Here are a few suggestions I think we would all agree on regardless of our theological views:
- We can pray for boldness to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 4:29-30; Eph 6:18-20, Rom 1:16-17).
- We can pray for opportunities to share our faith (Col 4:2-4).
- We can pray that we will be clear when we share our faith (Col 4:2-4).
- We can pray that we would make the most of our opportunities (Eph 5:15-16; Ezek 18:23; 33:11; Mat 23:37).
- We can pray for more workers to go and share the good news (Matt 9:37-38; Rom 10:14-17).
- We can ask God to add or remove situations in the life of the person we are concerned about so that their heart might be ready when they hear the Gospel (Mark 4:15-19).
- We can pray that God’s grace would convict the person of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11).
- We can pray that God’s grace would be active in the person so that it would soften a hard heart and remove spiritual ignorance (Eph 4:17-19), draw the individual and enable them to come to Jesus (John 6:44), remove blindness to the Gospel (2 Cor 4:4-6), and give them the knowledge that it is God’s righteousness and not their own that they must seek (Rom 10:3).