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Praying Effectively For The Lost: The Biblical Basis

By Lee E. Thomas

    One of the most powerful means of praying effectively involves presenting strong reasons to God why our prayers must be answered. He even commands us to do this in Isaiah 41:21, "Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons...."

    The strongest reasons are always Biblically-based, and there are many such reasons concerning prayer for the lost. I like the way F. J. Huegel expressed it, "If we find a way to harness our puny plea for help to the great purposes of God in the proclamation of the Gospel and the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom, then we begin to pray with the spirit and vigor of a Paul or a David Brainerd or a George Müller or a Praying Hyde, and we must be heard and great things will be wrought."

Our Love for the Lost

    One of the foremost reasons for praying for the lost is our love for them. Prayer has been described as "love on its knees." Certainly, it was God’s love for mankind that brought Jesus to the cross; it was love for his five brothers that compelled the rich man in hell to pray for them "lest they also come into this place of torment" (Luke 16:27-28); and love will lead us to the place of intercession.

    The historic Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago has been mightily used of God to rescue hundreds of souls tottering on the precipice of hell. And it is no surprise to me that the eighteen foot neon sign "PACIFIC GARDEN MISSION" included the reminder "MOTHER’S PRAYERS HAVE FOLLOWED YOU." Only eternity will reveal the incredible number of souls that have been saved through the tears and prayers of a mother’s love! Indeed, love is our greatest asset in the saving of souls.

Our Faith in God’s Ability to Save

    Faith is another Biblical basis for praying for the lost. Jesus said, "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). "All things" certainly include the salvation of souls. If you can believe God for someone’s salvation, you shall have it.

    Four men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus and, seeing their faith, He said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mark 2:5). Though they brought him to be healed, he also received forgiveness of his sins. This is a wonderful display of the power of faith. Indeed, faith is the coin of the kingdom.

    One of my favorite reasons for praying for the lost is the mighty power the Bible ascribes to prayer. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," according to James 5:16. We cannot even begin to understand how incredibly powerful prayer really is, for it exerts the most potent influence of any kind in all the universe.

    "Prayer is work of such a sublime order that it lies beyond the imagination of men. For when the Christian prays, his capacity to achieve and his power to do good are multiplied a thousand, yea, a hundred thousand fold. This is no exaggeration, the reason being that when man prays, God works." (F. J. Huegel)

    When Assyria besieged Jerusalem causing King Hezekiah to cry out to God on behalf of his people, He sent an angel that slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. If prayer is strong enough to destroy armies, how much more certain is its power to save souls!

God Seeks Intercessors

    If we had no Biblical basis for praying for the lost other than the fact that God expects us to, this would be enough. God was "stunned" when He could not find a single intercessor for Israel (Isa. 59:16). This tells me that He was expecting to find some.

    Listen to Andrew Murray’s comments on God’s seeking for intercessors: "He often had to wonder and complain that there was no intercessor, no one to stir himself up to take hold of His strength. And He still waits and wonders in our day, that there are not more intercessors, that all His children do not give themselves to this highest and holiest work, that many of them who do so, do not engage in it more intensely and perseveringly. He wonders to find ministers of His Gospel complaining that their duties do not allow them to find time for this, which He counts their first, their highest, their most delightful, their alone effective work."

    God has placed praying for others the number one priority in our lives. Hear the cry of God’s heart, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men...who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Biblical Examples of Intercession

    Also among the powerful incentives for us to pray for the lost are Biblical examples. The greatest example of all is the Lord Jesus Himself. The prophecy in Isaiah 53 says that Christ "made intercession for the transgressors." This prophecy was literally fulfilled when on the cross He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

    Jesus should be our constant pattern in praying for others because He is still doing it! He is our Savior and Lord, King of kings enthroned in heaven and yet He continues to pray for others even now. "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

    The Apostle Paul is another good example to follow. "My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved" is his compassionate confession in Romans 10:1. In Born For Battle, R. Arthur Mathews describes "my...prayer" as the "end of the divine search for a man to stand in the gap and to intercede for a people doomed to destruction by their own sin and headstrong rejection of God’s authority in their natural life." The only question for us is, "Will we follow their example?"

Our Responsibility to Intercede

    Although there are many other strong Biblical bases we could cite for this type of intercessory prayer, I want to mention just one more – God has made it our responsibility!

    Being members of God’s "holy priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:5) makes us responsible for others because priests represent earth to heaven. Our primary task is to stand between mankind and God pleading their case to Him. This is exactly what Aaron did when he took a censor and stood between the living and the dead to halt the plague of death caused by Israel’s sin (Numbers 16).

    Since all of us who are saved are priests, all of us have the responsibility to intercede for the lost, and if we do not, they will spend forever in a lake of fire. Let S. D. Gordon’s poignant plea speak to our hearts: "I cannot resist the conviction – I greatly dislike to say this, I would much rather not if I regarded either my own feelings or yours. But I cannot resist the conviction that there are people in that lower, lost world who are there because someone failed to put his life in touch with God, and pray."

    My prayer is that you will allow these powerful Biblical reasons to inspire you to pray for the lost as never before.

    – Taken from Praying Effectively for the Lost by Lee E. Thomas. Copyright © 2003. Edited and used by permission.