Have you been praying for the salvation of a friend, neighbor, or family member? Maybe God has placed several people on your heart, calling you to intercede and share the love of Christ. It is an awesome privilege to participate in the growth of God's Kingdom. But it is also mysterious.
Though we know God is at work, most of the time His movements are hidden from our view. In the waiting, it is easy for us to lose patience when we pray and see no fruit. Questions rise up within us: "Don't they see the Truth? Don't they want a relationship with God? Why haven't they accepted Christ as their Savior?"
If we truly understood the power and blessing available to us in prayer, perhaps we would never stop praying.
When we begin to lose heart and are tempted to give up, what should we do to persevere in prayer? We can rest in some important truths that will strengthen us to "not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).
TRUTH #1 – THE BLIND ARE BLIND
First, we must remember that the lost are spiritually blind and cannot see God's goodness. As Scripture tells us, "their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21b).
C. S. Lewis crafted a helpful picture to illustrate this truth. Imagine a sighted man standing next to a blind man out in the mountains. The man with sight comments about the brightness of the sun, the green of the grass, the blue of the sky. But the blind man retorts, "What are you talking about?" Not only can he not see it—he also doesn't have the context or vocabulary for the beauty of the scenery.
This is the same circumstance that the lost are suffering. They are blind to the glory of God, His character, and His Truth. This is why we need to be patient, loving, and concerned. We need to be compassionate toward those who have not experienced what we have experienced.
Humanity is so utterly depraved that we cannot come to Christ without the work of His Spirit in our hearts. Persuasive messages and brilliant theological debates are not enough to win souls; the lost need the power of God to open their spiritual eyes to the Gospel. That's why we must pray.
TRUTH #2 – CHRISTIANS ARE SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE
God's Word says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). If you are a Christian, God is the one who sovereignly called you, chose you, and saved you. Though our pride balks at such a notion and clamors to take credit for our salvation, we owe everything to the grace of God. Armed with the knowledge of God's amazing grace—that God the Father chose us, God the Son redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit sealed us—we will be empowered to persevere in prayer for the lost, trusting God to do the rest.Abraham approached God for the city of Sodom, praying, "though I am but dust and ashes" (Genesis 18:27). Daniel boldly prayed not for himself but in pursuit of the glory of God: "For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name" (Daniel 9:19). When we put ourselves in a right posture of humility before God, we will rely on His strength instead of our own as we pray.
TRUTH #3 – PERSISTENT PRAYER BEARS FRUIT
We are weak, impatient, finite beings who forget the perfect wisdom and timing of our Creator. We often struggle to persist in prayer. But if we give up, we will miss the great blessing of seeing prayers answered, of growing in intimacy with God, and of learning to trust our Lord.God wants us to intercede boldly because we have a mighty God. He wants us to pray persistently because, when we do so, we imitate our Savior. Even during the agony of the crucifixion, Christ was interceding (see Luke 23:34). This kind of continual prayer not only bears fruit in the lives of those we are praying for, but it also increases the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives as we learn to depend on God. And when we grow in godliness, our witness for Christ and our prayers are even more effective.
TRUTH #4 – GOD IS AT WORK, SOVEREIGNLY
Opening spiritual eyes and softening hearts to the Gospel is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He who convicts of sin; it is He who brings the harvest (see John 16:8-11; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). God doesn't need us to pray in order to bring people to His saving grace, but in His wisdom and love, He has ordained that we participate in the growth of His Kingdom.
There are some people who think that because God is sovereign, we should take no action to change circumstances. This is simply not Biblical. Rather, the promises of God should spur us on to do our part.For Daniel, God's divine promise drove him to pour out his heart to God in prayer. It was not an excuse to disconnect from the spiritual battle at hand. Because God is sovereign, we can pray boldly and yet with a sense of deep peace, knowing that He will take care of the rest.
TRUTH #5 – WE ARE AT WAR
When you pray, you are engaged in an unseen spiritual battle. Don't despair when you face spiritual opposition. Scripture tells us that Daniel had been praying, mourning, and fasting for three weeks when God came to him and said, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them" (Daniel 10:12).Like Daniel, God hears you from the very first moment you pray. Let this knowledge rally you to fight, remembering that your struggle is "against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" and the weapons you fight with "have divine power to demolish strongholds" (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4). Let it empower you to persevere as you stand firm in the power of your King.
DON'T GIVE UP
Has your heart grown weary? Have your prayers become stale?
The power of prayer is the power of God working in response to a whole-hearted commitment to Him. If we want our prayers to be effective, we need only abide in Christ. Only then can we move mountains. Only then can we be sure that we will ask only those things that are glorifying to Him. Only then will we be empowered to imitate the love of our Lord, who did not give up on us.
It is incumbent upon each one of us to cry out to God on behalf of the lost. And the more we know the power and blessing available to us in prayer, the more we will press on when the battle gets tough.
Are you not refreshed and revived for the task? Let us pray.