Charles Spurgeon wrote:
If we cannot prevail with men for God, we will, at least, endeavour to prevail with God for men. We cannot save them, or even persuade them to be saved, but we can at least bewail their madness and entreat the interference of the Lord. Like Jeremiah, we can make it our resolve, “If ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears.” To such pathetic appeals the Lord’s heart can never be indifferent; in due time the weeping intercessor will become the rejoicing winner of souls. 1
It is to the end of prevailing with God for the lost that we have been working towards this message, which is a summary of seven Specific prayer requests to pray on behalf of the Lost. For Christ has said, if we abide in HIM and His word abides in us, we can ask whatever we will and it will be given. (John 15:7 The meaning of this is that by staying in God’s word we will have the mind of Christ with which to pray – and thus our prayers will be fashioned after the revealed will of God- and firmly fixed on faith.
Ask God to open their eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
The rest of these prayers come, I think without any inherent order – but I begin with a part of the problem. They are blinded by the ‘god’ of this world. 2 Cor 4:3-4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case 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. ” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4)
If Satan keeps them blinded, then I can see no reason we shouldn’t pray like Elisha praying for his servant in 2 Kings 6:17 that God would open his eyes so he could see the power of God arrayed around them. As God answered that prayer, I believe He also answers this prayer because the evidence is all around us. Every Christian here was once blinded by the enemy. But by His grace He opened our eyes and we came to Him by His enabling. So ask God to open their eyes to the Truth of the Gospel.
Ask God to convict them (John 16:8)
In John 16:8 Jesus is speaking to the disciples concerning the Holy Spirit saying, ““And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; ” (John 16:8, NAS)
It is not up to us to convict unbelievers of their sin, that is God’s work. Our task is to witness to the truth, and let God do the convicting. And look at the tasks which God the Spirit has to do. He will convict of sin. That’s clear enough to understand, conviction of sin will lead to an intrinsic understanding of the fact that we have broken God’s commandments and therefore need redemption.
He will convict of righteousness, meaning he will show them what true righteousness is – lest they think that they are “good enough”. Righteousness as you well know isn’t found in us by being good enough; it is found only in Christ. It is the Spirit who convicts us in our soul that we have need of righteousness.
And it is The Spirit who convicts of judgment. Again we can and must speak the words of the gospel, and part of that is warning people about the coming judgment, but we will never convince a man by our sound reasoning, for these things are all spiritually discerned. The Spirit of God alone can convict.
Since this is something that God wants to do already, we know that we can plead with God to convict them of sin and righteousness and judgment.
Ask God to Draw them to Him. (John 6:44,65)
Paul has clearly said that nobody seeks after God, not one. (Rom 3:11-12) Quoting the Psalmist the Apostle tells us that nobody seeks after God on their own. Left on our own, NOBODY would choose God, this is the heart of the doctrine of total depravity. NOBODY has the capacity to choose God apart from God enabling them to do so.
God must call them. Jesus said in John 14:6
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. ” (John 14:6)
Then he says in John 6:44, ““No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… ”
And again he says in John 6:65, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Since nobody comes to Jesus without the Father’s call. Does it not behoove us to ask the Father to draw them, to call them and to bring them thus to Jesus? When you’re praying for the lost therefore, ask the Father to draw them.
Pray against their resistance (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
Look then in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Again a careful look at the context here would show us that Paul is speaking of some in the church who are setting themselves up against Paul and therefore also Jesus. But this principle together with the reality that men are blinded by Satan brings us to this conclusion that the unsaved are held captive to what many call strongholds of false belief. This is as true of those held captive to a cult as it is of those who do not know much or any religion at all – just as it is true of those who believe they are Christians but who do not in reality know Christ.
Paul says that he himself and his companions demolish the arguments and pretension’s that are set against the knowledge of God. They take captive. How is this done? It is accomplished through the proclamation and teaching of God’s word. But the word of God is spiritually discerned – it does not make sense to the godless man (2 Cor. 3:14, 4:3).
Therefore we can and must pray that God through the preaching of his word, the conviction of His Spirit and his effective call will break through their resistance to the gospel message and grant them faith to believe His message.
All of those prayers above are in a sense easy to pray because we’re targeting someone else, but it’s this next one which will truly test you – because at it’s core it does not target the lost, it targets you.
Ask God to Send Someone, you or ANYONE to share Christ with them. (Matt 10:1ff)
Matthew 9:36-38 contains a famous prayer for gospel workers, “Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”
As Warren Wiersbe wrote, “It is a serious thing to pray for the lost, because God will want to use you to help answer those prayers.”2 This is evidenced in the next chapter (Matthew 10:1ff) where Jesus then sends the disciples out to do ministry.
I’m reminded of a story I heard of a church which was continually praying for the conversion of the town drunk. When an evangelist came and heard of their frequent prayers he asked, “when is the last time someone witnessed to him?” nobody knew, the evangelist ordered the church to continue praying until he returned and not to stop. He returned a short time later with that man proclaiming new faith in Christ.
Didn’t Paul ask in Romans, “How can they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) We can pray until we’re purple but if someone doesn’t actually speak the gospel to someone, they will not come to Christ! God has ordained to save people through the foolishness of preaching. We must partake of foolishness and risk being thought a fool if we will ever save someone.
It is here under the proclamation of the Gospel that eyes are opened, The answer to the first part of the prayer (praying that God will open their eyes) is a mixture of the divine interplay between God and man. God in his sovereignty works with and through the proclamation of His word through weak human flesh in order to display his glory to those who were formerly blinded. But we too often stumble over what we should say. Therefore….
Pray for the Opportunity, the Words and the Boldness to speak the gospel (Colossians 4:2-3)
In Colossians 4:2-3 Paul is instructing the church to pray and reminds them to pray for him to have opportunities to proclaim of the gospel “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; ” (Colossians 4:2–3, NAS)
Then in Ephesians 6:19 he prays for whatto say and the boldnessto say it.
“and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, ” (Ephesians 6:19, NAS)
That is a prayer we could all use!
Pray For God to be glorified (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
And finally we should pray for the glory of God to be made known. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 teaches us to “Pray for the Advance of the Gospel in Order that God Be Glorified”3
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; ” (2 Thessalonians 3:1, NAS)
Ultimately the gospel is not about our comfort or even our neighbor’s comfort in heaven, it is about God’s glory. We love to come together and worship God with songs that move our hearts. But what truly brings Glory to God is when men, women and even children turn away from their sin and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord – to the Praise of His Glorious Grace.
When praying for the lost, we may need to begin by praying for our own passion to be fanned in to flame. We will have to pray with faith and trust God for the impossible. Pray with every type of prayer, asking God to open their eyes, convict them of sin and righteousness,to draw them to Him.
Pray also against their resistance and blindness, and ask God the Father to send someone to witness to them (but be prepared to be the answer to your own prayer.) Ask God to give you the words to say. And above all seek fervently for the glory of God.
1Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Lectures to my students, Vol. 1: A selection from addresses delivered to the students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle. (45). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
2Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (43). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3Beale, G. K. (200). 1-2 Thessalonians. The IVP New Testament commentary series (235). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.