Praying for the Lost

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(Colossians 4:2-6)

INTRODUCTION: We are almost at the end of our message series on praying for various things. In this part of the series we are looking at the various people God calls us to pray for. Last week we looked at praying for church and family. Today we will look at praying for the lost. (Read Colossians 4:2-6 and pray.)
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So, today we want to talk about praying for the lost and our unsaved loved ones. We all have people in our lives who do not know the Lord, whether family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers or acquaintances. And the Bible tells us we should pray for them.

Once again this is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is a privilege because your prayers can make a difference in people’s lives for all of eternity. It is a responsibility, because they need the Lord in their lives, and it may be your prayers that make the difference.

Rosi and I have been blessed over the years to see many of our family and friends come to know the Lord, including her Mom and Dad, sometimes after years of praying. God loves to answer prayers for the salvation of the lost. The question we want to look at today is how we do that. How do we pray for the lost?

I want us to look at four simple prayers from the Bible today that will help you in praying for the lost and your unsaved loved ones. The Bible teaches us to pray for open eyes, to pray for open doors, to pray for an open mouth and to pray for open hearts. If you will start praying these four prayers for the lost people around you in your life, you will see people come to know Jesus. And there is nothing greater in life than that!

I. Pray for Open Eyes / Awareness of Need

So, let’s get started. First, the Bible tells us to pray for open eyes. Praying for open eyes has to do with awareness of need. Now when you pray for open eyes, you’re actually praying for two things. You are praying for your own eyes to be open to the need of the lost. And you are praying for the eyes of the lost to be open to their own need.

   A. Pray for your own eyes to be open (compassion for the lost)
      – John 4:35; 2 Corinthians 5:16

So, first, pray for your own eyes to be open. Jesus said in John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35)

When you pray for your own eyes to be open, you are praying for compassion. You are asking God to give you compassion for the lost and their need for a Savior. You are asking God to help you see people through God’s eyes rather than through the eyes of man.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) As Christians we no longer have the luxury of looking at people from a worldly point of view. Every person you meet this week will spend an eternity either in heaven or in hell. Pray for your own eyes to be open to the need of the lost.

   B. Pray for the eyes of the lost to be open (conviction of sin)
      – Acts 26:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4

And then pray for the eyes of the lost to be open to their own need. Do you ever get frustrated when people don’t seem to care about God or Jesus or the gospel? Well, the Bible tells us why they don’t care. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

When you pray for the eyes of the lost to be open, you are praying for conviction of sin. Satan has blinded their minds so that they cannot see. They cannot see their need for a Savior. They cannot see the light of the gospel of Christ who died for their sins.

Jesus told Paul in Acts 26: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 26:17-18) Satan is powerful, but God is more powerful. It is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin. And we can break through people’s spiritual blindness with the power of prayer.

So that’s our first prayer this morning. Pray for your own eyes to be open to the need of the lost. And pray for the eyes of the lost to be open to their own need. Pray for open eyes.

II. Pray for Open Doors / Opportunities to Share

Secondly, the Bible tells us to pray for open doors. When you pray for open doors, you are asking God for opportunities to share the gospel.

   A. Some doors are wide open (divine appointments)
      – Acts 14:27

Now some doors are wide open, and you can walk through them with ease. For example, God gave Paul and Barnabas a wide-open door for the gospel on their first missionary trip. When they returned to the church in Antioch, we read in Acts 14:27: “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14:27)

When God gives you a wide-open door to share the gospel, we often call these opportunities divine appointments. I remember running into someone I hadn’t seen since high school and asking them how they’d been. I can still remember their exact words to this day. My friend said to me, “Bad news, Ray. My whole life has been nothing but bad news.”

Well, folks, that is what we call a wide-open door. You don’t even need to knock for that one. I said, “I’m sorry to hear that, Mike. How would you like to hear some good news?” He said, “Ray, I would love to hear some good news.” So, I shared the good news with him that God loves him, that God sent his Son Jesus to die for his sins, and that God offers him new life in Christ. And Mike prayed to receive Jesus that day.

God will send you divine appointments when you ask for them. We just need to be aware of them and take advantage of them when they come.

   B. Some doors are initially shut (takes wisdom to open)
      – Proverbs 11:30; Colossians 4:2-6

So, some doors are wide open for the gospel. They are divine appointments, and there’s no need to knock. But other doors are initially shut, and these take wisdom to open. Proverbs 11:30 says: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)

Not everyone is open to hearing the gospel. Not everyone is ready to hear what you have to say about Jesus. You are going to run into some tightly shut doors in life, and you are going to need wisdom to open those doors for an opportunity to share the gospel.

And that’s why prayer is so important. Paul told the Colossians in Colossians 4: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:2-6)

That’s good teaching, isn’t it? Ask God to open a door for the gospel. Pray that you might share the gospel clearly. Be wise in the way you act towards non-believers. Make the most of every opportunity. That’s our second prayer when it comes to praying for the lost. Pray for open doors to share the gospel.

III. Pray for an Open Mouth / Faith and Boldness to Share

So, how do we pray for the lost and our unsaved loved ones? 1) Pray for open eyes. 2) Pray for open doors. And then 3) the Bible tells you to pray for an open mouth. When you pray for an open mouth, you are asking God to help you speak up and actually share the gospel when God answers the prayer you prayed earlier for an open door. You are asking God to give you the faith and the boldness to share the gospel when you are given the opportunity.

   A. Trust God to give you the words (takes faith)
      – Exodus 4:11-13; Luke 21:14-15

What if you’re not sure what to say? You need to trust God to give you the words to share. In other words, it takes faith. When God told Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt,” Moses gave God all sorts of objections. “I’m not the right person. Nobody will listen to me. What if they don’t believe me? I’m not a good speaker. I’ve never been eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

Sound familiar? Have you ever said similar things to God? If so, you need to hear the same thing God told Moses in Exodus 4: “The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? … Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ 13 But Moses said, ‘O Lord, please send someone else to do it.’” (Exodus 4:11-13) Oh boy. How many of us have ever said that to God?

When you pray for an open mouth, you can trust God to give you the words to say. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 21: “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:14-15) That’s a promise from Jesus to any of us who will open our mouths and speak a word for God.

   B. Share the good news of Jesus (takes boldness)
      – Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:19-20

So, trust God to give you the words to share. That takes faith. And then when God opens the door of opportunity for the gospel, open your mouth and share the good news of Jesus. That takes boldness.

Paul writes in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) We can be bold and unashamed in sharing the gospel, because there is power in the gospel to save.

Paul told the Ephesians in Ephesians 6:19-20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19-20)

Part of praying for an open mouth is asking God for the boldness to share the gospel when you have the opportunity. The gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes. But how can they believe the gospel and be saved if we don’t share it with them? So, that’s the third part of praying for the lost and for your unsaved loved ones. Pray for an open mouth.

IV. Pray for Open Hearts / Faith Response to the Gospel

And then finally, the Bible tells us to pray for open hearts. When you pray for open hearts, you are asking God for a faith response to the gospel when you share. Here is where you need to understand the difference between your job and God’s job when it comes to sharing the gospel.

   A. We plant the seed (pray and share the gospel)
      – Luke 8:5,11; Acts 16:13-14

Our job is simply to plant the seed. The Bible compares the word of God to a seed that is planted in a person’s heart. You might be familiar with the parable Jesus told about the farmer and the seed. We read in Luke 8: “A farmer went out to sow his seed…. This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:5,11) So, that’s our job. We plant the seed of God’s word in people’s lives by sharing the gospel with them.

This is what Paul did on his various missionary trips. He simply planted seeds, and he let God do the rest. For example, in Acts 16 we read Luke’s account of Paul’s visit to the city of Philippi. Luke writes: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia…. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” (Acts 16:13-14)

How did Lydia get saved? Paul did his part, and God did his. Paul did his part. He shared the gospel with her. Paul planted the seed, but the Lord opened Lydia’ s heart to respond to the gospel.

   B. God brings the results (draws people’s hearts to Christ)
      – John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 3:6

We plant the seed, and then God brings the results. Our job is simply to pray for people and to share the gospel with them. It is God’s job to draw people’s hearts to Christ.

Jesus said in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)

No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them to Jesus. And so, when you share the gospel with someone, always make sure you talk to God before you talk to them. Ask God to open their heart to the message. You can’t make someone believe. That’s not your job. Your job is simply to plant the seed. God is the one who makes it grow.

Sometimes he makes it grow right away. Sometimes it takes years. Either way, we need to focus on doing our job, and then trust God to do his. God only asks you to be faithful. When you are faithful in doing your part, you can trust that God is faithful to do his part.

So, pray for open hearts. When you share the gospel with someone, ask God to open their hearts to respond to the gospel. We plant the seed, but God brings the results.

CONCLUSION: We need to pray for the lost people God has placed in our lives. Your friends and loved ones are caught in a spiritual battle for their souls, and your prayers make a difference. It is possible that no one ever came to Jesus without someone praying for them first. You probably came to Christ because someone prayed for you. And now you need to do the same for the people in your life. You may be the only Christian your unsaved friend knows. If you don’t pray for them, who will?

So, pray for your lost family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Pray that God would open their eyes to their need for a savior. Pray for open doors and look for opportunities to share the gospel with them. Pray for an open mouth when those opportunities come, and trust God to give you the right words to say. Pray that God would open their hearts to respond and come to Jesus for salvation.

Keep on praying, and never give up. Sometimes it takes years for someone to come to Christ in answer to prayer. But remember, your prayers always make a difference. And God loves to answer prayers for the salvation of the lost.

© Ray Fowler

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