Praying for the Lost

How do we pray for the lost? Perhaps I’m not the only one who has struggled with this question. God doesn’t make people believe the gospel. Nor does He keep them from believing the gospel. He has created us with a will. And He does want us to pray for lost people. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2 that we are to pray for “all people” (v1) and that God desires “all people” to be saved (v4). God wants our desires to be the same as His. So if we are to pray for the lost, what specifically should we pray for? I found seven things to consider in our prayers for the lost.

Pray for Conviction

No one can be saved apart from God’s work in an individual’s life. We would never seek God on our own. We would only slip further and further into sin and darkness. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”[1] God seeks us out first. Recall that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, they did not begin seeking for Him. They actually went into hiding, and God took the initiative in seeking them out: “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Gen 3:9). Thankfully, God seeks us out first. It happened with the first sinners (Adam and Eve), and it has happened with every sinner since.

But how does the Father draw people? He does this by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come (Joh 16:8), and so we can pray that the Holy Spirit will convict lost people of their need.

Pray for Circumstances

In Psalm 119:67, David says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Essentially, David is admitting here that a change in his circumstances led him to turn to the Word of God and obey it. There is a principle here that can also be seen in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The severe famine that arose in his country was a change in his state of affairs that ultimately led him to repent and return to his father, declaring, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you” (v21). So we can pray for circumstances to arise that will lead lost individuals to long for and seek God’s salvation.

Pray for Conversations

Paul’s request in Colossians 4:3 is instructive: “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.” We can all pray that the Lord will grant us opportunities to share the gospel with certain people in our lives. It may happen passively as someone asks you a question about your faith. But don’t miss opportunities for it to happen actively by initiating conversations that will lead to Christ and the gospel. You may be the only person in someone’s life right now who can reach them with the gospel. Don’t miss that opportunity.

Pray for Confidence

Another helpful prayer request comes from Paul in Ephesians 6:19: “Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel” (NET). Then he adds, “Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak” (v20 NET). When we become aware of opportunities to share the gospel, let us take advantage of them and be confident in the Lord who has obviously answered our prayers. We can pray for confidence to take that first step in sharing the gospel with someone and for boldness while sharing it.

Pray for Clarity

We need clarity in both sharing the gospel individually and preaching it publicly. We can see Paul’s strong desire for clarity in Colossians 4:4: “May I reveal it [the gospel] as clearly as I should!” (ISV). Sticking with the basics of man’s ruin, God’s remedy and man’s responsibility will keep us on track and prevent us from clouding eternal issues by wandering into unimportant subjects. If the gospel is not accurately and simply presented, how can we expect it to be obeyed?

Pray for Calling

We are in desperate need for the Lord to call and send out laborers who will spread the gospel message. We need other believers, we need co-workers, we need all hands on deck. Jesus gave this message to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mat 9:37-38). Now we are not to pray that the Lord would send out workers so that we don’t have to be workers ourselves. The very next chapter (Mat 10) shows Jesus putting His hand on those men and commissioning them with the preaching of the gospel. But we can certainly pray for the calling and commissioning of others because there are so many lost people that we ourselves cannot reach.

Pray for Conversion

This subject would not be complete without noting Paul’s desire for his own people: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (Rom 10:1 KJV). He prayed for the conversion of his own people, and we can follow his example.

How God speaks, how His Spirit convicts, and how often He does, we leave to Him. But we can and should pray for the lost. When we do, we share God’s desire, for “such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Ti 2:3-4 NET).

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.