By Susan Nero
INTRODUCTION Good morning, My name is Susan Nero and the Lord has chosen me to talk about this subject, “Praying for the Lost.”
Originally I had chosen these verses because of my familiarity with the subject. I had assumed that as I had been married for 61, years and for that entire time to unbelievers, I would be able to talk about my difficulties in praying for them and then we could share with each other different encouragements. I had put together a lot of pages and a tremendous amount of scripture verses to share with you.
Sunday night, however, the Lord impressed upon me that I was to talk about these verses for His purposes. And that seems to be to tell all of you that we need to be filled with His Spirit in praying for the lost.
Our need because as we draw closer to the Lord’s return - our enemy Satan is “stepping up his game.” We are experiencing spiritual warfare! Opposition and hatred seems to surround us.
He then reminded me that He always waits for us to ask Him to to fill us. This fact was made clearer to me when I came across an example of what He meant in one of the commentaries that I read. More of a picture really. It was of a lot of believers standing under Niagara Falls with their cups bottom side up. He was waiting for them to turn them over so they could be filled. There is no lack of living water, just a lack of action to receive it.
So, I began editing my devotional a bit. I couldn’t do this without His help, so I began an exercise in praying to Him. I finished this task last night, late, peacefully.
There is not enough time to share the amazing blessings I have received as I have grown closer to Him in total humility. I pray you will all be equally blessed “as you tip up your cup.”
1st and 2nd Timothy are letters written by the apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy. Timothy had been an active and faithful member of Paul and Silas’ missionary team for many years. Their primary mission was to evangelize the lost.
Prior to the time of the writing of this first letter, Paul had established the church In Ephesus and had left Timothy to oversee the church as he continued his ministry in Macedonia. So Timothy was now in a position of leadership and was no doubt nervous about his new responsibilities, so Paul had written this letter to give him encouragement and advice.
The letter was also a very personal and loving one. Paul addresses Timothy as his true son in the faith. Paul also reminds Timothy that he had placed him in this position of leadership because he knew that Timothy would stand firm in the faith and the gospel message.
Now, even though the apostle’s letter to Timothy was personal, it was to be read to the entire congregation. As the false teaching had pretty much “muddied” the waters for these new believers, it had caused them great confusion. The congregation was often waiting on the latest letter from the apostle in order to answer their questions. So we can see that Paul’s letter not only encouraged Timothy in his pastoral position but it also empowered him in confronting the false doctrines.
What a blessing that we can share this letter and apply it to our own lives today!
In Chapter 1 of 1 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy of the importance of 3 things to have priority in teaching in the church.
- Teaching sound doctrine
- Proclaiming the gospel
- Defending the faith
So we see that Timothy was instructed to care for the church by winning the lost; teaching the saved and defending the faith.
Now in Chapter 2 of 1st Timothy, Paul begins by exhorting the church body on the first and most important necessity and that is PRAYER.
LET’S BEGIN WITH: 1 Timothy 2:1-2a
PRAY FOR ALL MEN
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for ALL men, for kings and all who are in authority,…
Now, the definition of the word exhort gives us a clearer picture of just how strongly Paul felt that prayer was of utmost importance!
EXHORT: (Biblical definition) is to urge by a strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice or appeal. An exhortation might use speech that encourages, incites or earnestly advises one to do something.
Next Paul lists several types of prayer:
- Supplications: strong seeking prayers
- Prayers: all of which are generally words addressed to God
- Intercessions: prayers on behalf of someone else
- And giving of thanks: for answers to prayer; and in worshiping prayer for who Gos is
All of these prayers were to be given for “ALL MEN”
Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary: Paul didn’t say to just pray for believers or people who agree with our political opinion, or leaders who are sympathetic toward Christian principles, but for ALL men and all who are in authority; remembering that they are in their positions of authority only by the predetermination of God. All rulers are used by God to fulfill prophecy and to accomplish His will ultimately.”
I guess if Paul could write this while Caesar Nero, a pretty terrible persecutor of Christians was in charge, we can find it possible to pray for the people today that are in authority. At least it helps us to look at our prayers from God’s perspective. He make it clear that no person on this earth is outside the influence of believing prayer!
The next verse tells us that we should pray in this manner:
VERSE 2b THAT WE MAY LEAD A QUIET AND PEACEABLE LIFE IN ALL GODLINESS AND REVERENCE….”
Now, this verse spoke loudly to me personally. In the process of studying for this devotional, the Holy Spirit instructed, convicted and corrected me in a few things. One thing in particular was the way I responded to unbelief and rejection. My husband and I are not only unequally yoked, but political “enemies.” Needless to say this makes for a very unfriendly atmosphere in my house! So I was very convicted by the following verse found in
2ND TIMOTHY 2:24-26 PAUL is warning Timothy to avoid arguments that create strife.
Let’s read it in NIV:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 TIMOTHY 2:24
The message was clear to me: Avoid arguments, they only create strife. Our purpose is not to win arguments but to win souls. I am in the process of following this.
We can all apply this verse to a lot of situations with unbelievers.
- Now I am sure we all have found that one of the most difficult battles in dealing with unsaved family and friends is the struggle we have with our responses to their rejection of Jesus. We also have a lot of “flesh” reaction to their rejection of ourselves.
It helps to remember the words of Jesus; “He who hears you, hears Me; he who rejects you, rejects Me; and he who rejects Me, rejects Him who sent Me.”
Or in Luke 10:16, when Jesus tells us to remember, “When they reject you, they are in truth rejecting Me.”
2. Often we hesitate to reach out to others to share the Gospel message because we are actually aware of our inadequacies. Right here, we need to remember that our faith is in Jesus, not in our own strengths or resources.
I know I am apt to either forget how I should respond or what scripture applies. Most often I think of the proper response, after the chance has come and gone. We think, “If only I had thought of that verse.” So many of us have…then left the “battle” thinking only of how we have “failed” or “lost the chance.” Exactly what Satan wants us to believe.
I believe that ultimately what is most important is not having all the answers; not knowing more, but knowing Him…..and praying for the infilling of the Spirit!
One of my favorite verses that has constantly run through my memory while studying Paul’s letters to Timothy; is in ZECHARIAH 4:6. It is God’s message for Zechariah to give to Zerubbabel when he was faced with what seemed to be an impossible task. “NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT SAYS THE LORD.”
This is vital to be remembered as we struggle in our own efforts to break through those barriers to reach the lost, because as Paul writes in another letter, our biggest difficulty in sharing the gospel message lies with Satan:
“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.” 2CORINTHIANS 4:4
As we recognize the need we have for the Holy Spirit to fill and empower us, we can be sure that our Father will answer that prayer.
Our last verses are:
“FOR THIS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD OUR SAVIOR, WHO DESIRES ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.” 1 TIMOTHY 2:3-4
This is an important verse, especially if you’ve prayed for unsaved loved ones, and been discouraged by their lack of response. We know from Scripture that not everyone will be saved. But we know that God wants all to come to know Christ. This means that when you pray for any individual’s salvation, you can have great confidence. You are praying according to God’s will.
Then the next thing to consider is the Scriptural evidence that God has created us in His image and so we have control of our free will. Man can choose to believe Him or reject Him. This of course confronts us with the fact that anyone we witness to or in this case pray for, can either believe or reject Him.
This can be very discouraging for us except for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses…..”
Looking at Zechariah 4:6 again: “Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit.” The verse is often quoted when speaking of doing the work of God. When God does something, it is not done through physical strength.
I don’t often quote verses from the Message, but I liked their interpretation: “You can’t force these things. They only come about through My Spirit.”
Oswald Chambers wrote: “We are not sent to do battle for God; but to be used by God in His battles.”
Praying for the Lost is one of the biggest battles we face! And we need the Spirit of God to enable us.
CHUCK SMITH’S COMMENTARY OF 2 CORINTHIANS 4:3-4
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.”
“In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe, less the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
Pastor Chuck thought this was a very interesting passage of scripture; and thought it would be a key that would help in our praying for our loved ones who are not saved.
“As it is written, we have been created in the image of God, and one of God’s characteristics is that He is self-determinate. That is, He has a will and the capacity to exercise that will. The power of choice. And God created you in His image and gave to you the power of self-determination so that you can determine your own destiny. Having given us the power of choice, it was necessary that God then respect the choices that we make. The moment God would no longer respect my choice but force me to do something against my will, then I am not really a self-determinate creature. So, for this self determination to be valid, it was necessary that God respect the choices that I make and that there be an opportunity to make a choice.
So, God gave the opportunity for Adam to make a choice, and then God did respect the choice that he made. So with you. You can choose to love God, or you can choose not to love God. You have that choice.
Therefore, if God respects the choices that a man makes, we really cannot pray, “Oh God please save John.” Unless John himself asks the Lord for salvation, he can’t be saved. That sort of creates a dilemma in praying for the lost. But since we are told that, the god of this world, Satan, has blinded their eyes and their minds so that they cannot see the truth of the
salvation that God is offering, and find it impossible to think rationally about their relationship with God through Jesus Christ; we realize just what the direction of our prayers for them should be! “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in this world.” Prayer to the Holy Spirit!
Pastor Chuck concludes his commentary this way:
“So, the way to pray for your loved ones who are not saved is to pray that God will bind that work of Satan that has blinded their mind and is holding them captive, and that has prejudiced and poisoned their minds against the Gospel, in order that they may be able to consider the truth of God. And then pray that the Holy Spirit will convict their hearts and draw them to Jesus Christ. There has to come their change of will; that desire in their heart to know Jesus, and that asking of God for salvation.”
“And whosoever comes unto Me,” Jesus said, “I will in no wise cast out.” (JOHN 6:37)
SO, OUR PRAYERS ARE TO SET THEM FREE SO THAT THEY CAN SEE.”