What to Pray for Non-Christians
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Sunday, September 8, 2013 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1670
Pastor Don Horban

God calls us to pray for the lost. And He does so, I think, for two reasons. First, such praying forces a deeper remembrance that we can not effect the kind of spiritual transformation we long to see in the lost. Prayer keeps pressing our pursuits deeper than external behavior. When we pray we are forced to think of cleaning the inside of the cup, not just the outside.

And second, prayer keeps the door open for hope. Just as prayer forces the realism that only God can change the heart, it also reminds us that we have resources beyond our own efforts and words. People who keep praying never give up.

So prayer brings two practical reminders. It is foolish and frustrating and unrealistic to expect unsaved people to act like saved people. It’s like trying to teach a cat to fly. But it is equally true that there is always hope for the kind of miracle required because prayer links the human situation up with the power and inward working Spirit of God.

1 That God draws them to Himself John 6:44 - "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” This drawing is further explained in John 12:32 - “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Also John 3:14-17 - “ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The chain of events in these three texts establishes the need for prayer. Salvation is a work of God, not man. We believe firmly that only God can initiate regeneration. No one can come unless first drawn by the Holy Spirit. No one has to prove to me that mankind does not and can not initiate his own conversion. God’s work assumes the prayer of His people for the lost.

But how does this drawing take place? That’s the crucial question. John explains. People are drawn as the Son’s saving work is proclaimed and Jesus is lifted up. John tells us this drawing work isn’t arbitrary. Notice that all people are drawn as Jesus is lifted up just as the serpent was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. This is why Jesus said we were to pray for laborers to lift up the name and work of Jesus Christ.

2 That they seek to know God Acts 17:27 - "....that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us....”

Deuteronomy 4:29 - "But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Pray that God uses the circumstances - even very painful circumstances (that’s the Deuteronomy text) - to cause the lost to see their lostness and desire grace. Notice the beautiful promise that God stays close - “not far from any one of us” - to all people, even in their rebellious state.

3 That they believe the Scriptures 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

Romans 10:17 - "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Many unsaved people hear the word fairly frequently in our North American culture. They have conditioned themselves to hearing it lightly. Pray that, perhaps for the very first time, God’s truth is heard as though it mattered greatly. Pray that they don’t resist the first stirrings of restlessness the Holy Spirit churns in their minds.

4 That Satan be prevented from blinding them to the truth Matthew 13:19 - "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 - "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

A. W. Tozer writes: “Sin has done frightful things to us and its effect upon us is all the more deadly because we were born in it and are scarcely aware of what is happening to us. One thing sin has done is to confuse our values so that we can only with difficulty distinguish a friend from a foe or tell for certain what is and what is not good for us. We walk in a world of shadows where real things appear unreal and things of no consequence are sought after as eagerly as if they were made of the very gold that paves the city of God.”

The unsaved have no idea how much of their alleged freedom isn’t as free as they think. There is a spirit of this age who works to make them take sin lightly. He works to make them think anything you say from God’s Word is just “true for you.” Satan keeps his work hidden from their eyes. Pray that God opens their eyes to their spiritual slavery.

The Bible is graphic in its portrayal of the slavery of the Fall - Ephesians 2:1-3 - “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Without the work of the Holy Spirit the hallmark of the unredeemed mind is it will always treat your works of faith as just being your opinion. This is the only retreat they have from the Word of God. We cannot educate people out of this bondage. Raising their standard of living won’t fix this. God is looking for intercessors.

5 That the Holy Spirit works in them John 16:8-11 - "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; [10] concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; [11] concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

You and I can only do so much for the lost. They need more than mild moral reform and we need to remind ourselves of that. New birth isn’t a human accomplishment. They need to be “born of the Spirit,” in John and Paul’s terminology.

6 That God would send someone to reach them Matthew 9:37-38 - "Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

Recognize that it may not be you who reaches the one closest to you. If your words are brushed off because they’re heard too frequently pray God brings a fresh voice into that hard heart.

There is great hope here. How often do we remind ourselves that we can actually pray others in the loving outreach of your own loved ones. You prayers can mobilize the feet of fresh witnesses.

7 That they will believe in Christ as their Savior John 1:12 - "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God....”

John 5:24 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Our culture is brainwashed into believing that just because we protect the right of all religious expression that all religions are equally true. There is a dark and strong bias against the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. This is a huge obstacle to saving faith.

Students in university and college and school are turned against the uniqueness of Christ on a regular basis. Hollywood and the whole brainwashed celebrity culture are united to make the unique saving role of Jesus Christ seem intolerant and unreasonable. Pray that God gives the strength required to profess the saving greatness of Jesus Christ.

8 That they would turn from their sin and disobedience Acts 17:30-31 - "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Acts 3:19 - "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out....”

Every so often I read a sentence that preaches a whole sermon. I read a sentence that captures a truth that seems too big for the number of words stating it. Four days ago I read this gigantic idea in A. W. Tozers’s “That Incredible Christian” - “The delight experienced in forgiveness is equal to the degree of moral repugnance felt in repentance.” I submit this is the explanation for the flatness and emptiness of many a modern conversion. Pray that the lost see and feel the ugliness of sin as sin against God - “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned!”

9 That they would confess Christ as Lord Romans 10:9-10 - "....because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

“Accepting Christ” is quickly becoming an empty evangelical slogan reduced to whatever might bring a quick positive vote by people who have no intention of changing the way they live. And only the earnest prayer of the church can bring the Lordship of Jesus back to center stage in the convert’s mind.

“Accepting Christ” means loving what Christ loves, hating what Christ hates, It means placing our wills at His disposal. It means His friends are our friends. It means His ways are our ways. And yes, it means gladly renouncing the acceptance of the world that has no time for Christ. His life is our life and His future is our future. Pray that the lost see the bigness of accepting Christ as both Savior and Lord.

10 That they would yield all to follow Christ 2 Corinthians 5:15 - "....and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Philippians 3:7-8 - "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Pray that the lost see the “surpassing worth” of knowing Christ. Pray more and more that Christ comes to capture the imagination of the lost for whom you’re praying. Pray that all else become small and trite and boring.

11 That they would take root and grow in Christ Colossians 2:6-7 - "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, [7] rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Pray that the life of Christ be multiplied in the convert’s life. Pray that like seed in fruitful soil there may be increased influence of the Holy Spirit. Pray for fruit that remains. Pray for an ongoing reordering of the entire life. Pray for a growing delight in separation unto Christ’s lordship.