There is nothing inherently wrong with such a request … except to say that it is not a request you find more or suggested in Holy Scripture.
“WHAT? Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t be praying for our friends and loved ones to be saved?” I’m not suggesting anything, but I am saying hat if evangelism were as simple a matter as praying people into Heaven, wouldn’t we be commanded to take such action?
Curiously, we are never told to pray for unsaved people to be brought into the Kingdom of God; we are, however, to pray for opportunities to share the gospel message with the unsaved.
Consider the following:
- Jesus said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ (Luke 10:2). Shouldn’t Jesus have said, ‘The harvest is great, pray that the Lord save the harvest,’ but He doesn’t.
- Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matt 28:18-19). The Lord missed it again. He didn’t say, ‘Pray that people will be saved when you go …’.
- Acts 1:8 records the last words of Jesus before ascending into Heaven. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The emphasis is on the empowering of the Spirit in the believer to share the Word, not the empowering of the unregenerate listener to accept the Word.
- We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20). Here Paul goofed like Jesus did. He should have written something like, “We are ambassadors for Christ. We pray that people will receive the message of reconciliation when we share it.”
- Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you (2 Thess 3:1). The Apostle to the gentiles asks for prayer for himself and his missionary companions that they be given opportunities to preach – not that people to whom they preach will accept the message.
- One more prayer request from Paul: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak(Col 4:2-4).
- And consider John 17. Jesus prays from Himself, His immediate disciples, and His disciples in years to come. The Saviour blew it by not praying that people would be saved. Instead He specifically prays, As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (John 17:18). Then after the Resurrection Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.‘ (John 20:21).
Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if God had just told us to pray people into Heaven? It would certainly be so much easier and less costly. And think of the personal embarrassment saved if we only had to pray for people to accept the gospel. The emphasis in the New Testament, however, is not on the field, but those going into the field, that we be given opportunity and boldness to share.
“Prayer Evangelism” if such a thing exists, is not in praying for the lost to be found, but praying that we, God’s children, take every opportunity we have to share our faith.
Why aren’t we told or even hinted in the direction of praying for unsaved people to be saved? I have an idea, but it will have to wait for another day.
As always, desirous for your thoughts.