By: Beth Doohan
“Then Jesus used this story to teach His followers that they should always pray and never lose hope.” (Luke 18:1)
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
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When you hear a message on witnessing or sharing Christ’s love, who comes to mind? When you pray during devotions, who are you praying for? As believers, God calls us to intercede on behalf of unbelievers who need Him and His help. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” In Romans 10:1, the Apostle Paul demonstrates his heart of prayer for unbelievers in Israel. “The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.”
The other day, I had a conversation with a friend about her son and daughter-in-law. She expressed her disappointment that they were not following the Lord and how she witnessed the effects of foolish behaviors in their lives regarding finances, married life and parenting. As the conversation continued, she said something that struck me—that she just can’t imagine with these behaviors that their marriage will last. This simple statement weighed on my heart as one of hopelessness for her loved ones.
We all have relationships with people who do not know our Lord or who knew Him but chose their way instead of God’s. It can be extremely painful to watch their lives unfold in brokenness from sin and a life apart from Christ, especially if that person is a loved one. Can I encourage you to bring them in their brokenness before the Lord? He longs to heal them and asks us to intercede for them in our prayers. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are commanded to “Never stop praying.”
When my friend shared her feelings of hopelessness for her son and daughter-in-law, I was challenged to think of my own loved ones and relationships with people not following the Lord. Was my heart in a hopeless state for them? Or was I bringing them before the Lord in faith that He could come and completely change their lives by drawing their hearts to surrender to His lordship?
During reflection, the Lord brought a passage of Scripture to mind. “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). This verse demonstrates God’s omniscience, or all-knowing character. He knows each person who is not following Him and sees how their life will unfold without Him. But God also sees the beautiful hope for them should they choose to follow Him. He knows their past and present; dreams and desires; hurts and needs. God sees where they are headed and is drawing all men to Himself. As Christians, He asks us to pray in faith and hopefulness for God to be at work in unbelievers’ lives. Our prayers are spiritual intercession for them to come to Jesus and accept His love and forgiveness.
As we intercede for those not following God, we are saying, “Lord, I know _________’s heart is far from you, but I ask that You would be at work in his/her life. Speak to their heart, Lord, that they might come to know You. Use me as an instrument of Your Holy Spirit in their life by giving me influence with them and the right words to say in our conversations. I know You long for them to come to You even more than I do, Lord, and in faith and hope I pray that they would have their eyes opened to their need for You, God. May they come to surrender their heart to You, Jesus, and receive Your healing and wholeness.”
This is just an example prayer for an unbeliever, but you see that the perspective is fixed on Jesus and asking Him to be at work in their life. As we pray, we should in faith know that God will answer and work through our prayers to draw on their heart. In this way, we can “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). God is fully able to work in our loved ones’ lives as we intercede for them in prayer and minister to them with our words and deeds. God is in the details and is working in ways we cannot see.
Another vital component of interceding for unbelievers is being willing instruments to minister and share our faith as the Holy Spirit leads. When we show Christ’s love to those around us and pray for them, God will give us opportunities and boldness if we ask Him to use us. Luke 12:11-12 says, “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” The Holy Spirit is our Advocate and “will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own, but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me” (John 16:13-14).
I once heard God’s omniscience compared to an artist who sees the entire canvas. He knows the next steps to create His masterpiece and how the paint that has already been laid will come together. He also knows how the devil and sin try to mar or tear His work, but He will ultimately reign the victor and deliver a completely beautiful canvas for His glory. As humans, we are stuck in one section of the painting. We see the brush strokes that we form and those directly around us and may wonder sometimes what God can be thinking. What is His plan and purpose amidst all these strokes? Can He truly redeem and restore this brokenness to something beautiful? But God’s plan is perfect and He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
About two months ago, my husband and I started a new habit of praying for our family members on Sundays. Some of them are believers and some are not. We have influence with many of them, but with others we do not. Corey and I felt it was important to pray specifically for each of them once a week. As I reflect on these prayers, I find that my state of hopefulness for believing and unbelieving relatives alike has been strengthened. In faith, I know that God is and will continue to be at work in our lives. Even if we do not see fruit at this time, we stand believing that He is at work behind the scenes as we intercede for them. This gives my heart confidence and hope as I fix my eyes on our Lord and put my trust in Him.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Psalm 42. In verses 5 and 11, David commits his worries and concerns to the Lord, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!” Ladies, our hope for unbelieving friends and loved ones is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is faithful to work in their lives as we intercede on their behalf. God is fully able to reach them and as Jesus told many a person He healed, “Have faith in God” (Mark 5:36, Mark 11:22, Luke 8:50). Commit today to praying for your loved ones, calling them into the Kingdom of God and interceding for them to seek and follow Him wholeheartedly. Ask God to use you and be a willing vessel of Christ’s love and truth in their lives. The Lord will answer and be at work through your deeds and prayers.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).