Praying For the Lost
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach, but he refused. Because of his disobedience, he found himself in the belly of a fish praying for his own salvation (Jonah chapter two). Jonah did go to Nineveh and to his disappointment they did repent and God relented. Jonah knew that God would spare the Ninevites if they repented, and he did not want these enemies of Israel to be spared. Sensing his anger, God gave Jonah an object lesson. If Jonah was justified in being upset about the loss of a plant to whose existence he had contributed nothing, was not God justified in showing love and concern for the people of Nineveh, whom he created?
The story of Jonah forces us to examine our own hearts. Do we want the judgment of God to fall on all the lost people of this world, or do we want them to repent and believe? If the lost are our enemies the question becomes a test of our character. Do we have a heart like Jonah or do we have a heart like God? We are not all called to be full time missionaries or evangelists, but we are all called to share our faith and pray. There are two principles that we need to know in order to effectively pray for the lost.
First, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). If you have a burden to pray for someone or some group of people who don’t know the Lord, then ask God to send them a messenger. God has to work through His established means of bringing salvation to the lost people of this world. In Romans 10:14-15; Paul explains what that process is; “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?”
Second, John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life” (1 John 5:16). The context of this passage is clearly talking about spiritual life and death, not physical life and death. The lost people of this world are dead in their trespasses and sins. Jesus came that we might have life. So John is telling us to petition God to give them eternal life. Our prayers do not save them. They are saved by their own personal faith in the finished work of Christ. However, in His sovereignty, God has chosen to work out His plan of salvation through the Church. We choose to believe, but God saves us. God miraculously works in response to our prayers including the salvation of souls.
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