5 Steps in Praying for the Lost

1. Cultivate genuine concern and love for the lost.  Pray to see people like God sees people.  Christian history is full of men and women whose burning hearts so yearned for the salvation of the lost that they sacrificed health, comfort, and even family to gain for God.

Ask God to impress on you the penalty of rejecting Christ.  As we Christians grow older, our security in the hands of God sometimes does the opposite of what it should do: it leads to a comfortable indifference to the awesome eternity of hell instead of a grateful acknowledgment of our salvation in the form of witnessing.  Ask God to increase your horror of hell and give you a renewed vision of Christ suffering your own judgment.

2. Discover specific persons in your circles of relationship who are lost.  Prayer for the lost should be specific.

3. Pray appropriately and in detail for these people.  Things like:

  • Lord, bring effective witnesses across their paths.
  • Savior, arrange circumstances in their lives so that the details of their lives will point to Christ.
  • Lord, send your Holy Spirit in great power to convict them of their sin.
  • Father, cause them to understand through your Holy Spirit that Jesus is adequate for their salvation from sin.

4. Persist in prayer.

5. Thank God for each step God takes in moving them to salvation.  Regularly thank Him for progress that might not be visible.

Facing the Reality of what we are like without God

Titus 3:3,

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

The rejection of God affects everything.

  • our thinking–we were foolish and deceived.
  • our behavior–disobedient and enslaved.

This is something for which we are responsible (foolish and disobedient) and we are victims (deceived and enslaved).

How is this possible? Our individual choices create a collective culture that deceives us. Our choices have created patterns of personal behavior that enslave us. We are trapped by our habits, but they are formed through our actions. As a result, we are helpless. We need someone to save us. Often people will admit they need help. But we need more than a helping hand. We need complete rescue.

Because our relationship with God is a mess, our relationships with one another are a mess. In foolish disobedience, we have “lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Malice is wishing bad things would happen to other people; envy is wishing good things had not happened to people or to you instead.

Today’s culture is all about self-esteem, self-fulfillment, self-image. It is all about me and how I feel about myself. So if anyone threatens that with a dose of uncompromising truth, then it feels like an attack on me. We pretend we are wonderful people, and ignore and excuse all evidence to the contrary. But because of the good news of Jesus there is no pretending.

The reality is that we will never understand the depth of God’s love until we face the reality of what we are like without Him.

God Doesn’t Measure Gifts with a Scale but with a Thermometer

Luke 21:1-4…

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

God doesn’t measure gifts with a scale, but with a thermometer. He looks at the size of the sacrifice, not the size of the denomination. People can only see that which is given, but God sees that which is kept. This woman has given more than all the rich because she has kept nothing.

Do you give to God and the needs of the world based on what you can afford or out of the abundant blessings of God which He calls us to self-sacrifice?

Grace never said, “What we do does not matter.”

Grace does not mean that what we do does not matter. It does not mean that we can live how we choose since God will always forgive us. Paul is quite clear: we need to reject ungodliness and worldly passions.

Just read Titus 2:11-15,

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

The three positive virtues in verse 12 refer to all our relationships:

  • to be self-controlled is for ourselves.
  • to be upright relates to other people.
  • to be godly relates to God.

Grace teaches us to control ourselves and our passions. It teaches us to treat others in an upright or just way. And it teaches us to be godly–to relate to God rightly.

But what empowers and energizes this life is God’s grace. If you have to tell people what the good life looks like then show them Titus 2:1-10. But if you want them to actively live it then do not emphasize the good they must do but the good God has done for them.

We can summarize how this works by highlighting three things from verses 13-14:\

  1. We live the good life, but we wait an even better life. There is both a push and pull in the Christian life. We are pushed from behind by the wisdom of grace and we are pulled forward by the hope of glory.
  2. We await a Savior “who gave Himself for us” (vs. 14). Why do I serve my wife? Not because I must. I do not have to win her love. She has already given herself to me. i serve my wife because I love her, and my love for her is fed by her love for me. Why do I serve my Savior? Not because I must. I do not have to win His love. He has already given Himself for me. I serve my Savior because I love Him, and my love for His is fed by His love for me (1 John 4:19).
  3. We await a Savior “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).

Who are we? We are God’s people, God’s very own people, purified for good works. Who are you? You are God’s child, His own child, purified by the blood of His Son for good works, made pure to be pure, set apart for a good life.

Legalism says: What we do leads to who we are. That if we live a righteous life, then we can become righteous people. The gospel rejects this. The gospel declares that being righteous is God’s gift to us. This is the grace of God.

But grace does not say: What we do does not matter. That is the cry of antinomianism. The correction to legalism is that Grace says, “Who we are leads to what we do.”

The Heart is not Sanctified through Ties, Tithes, or Church Attendance

Jesus taught in Matthew 23:25-26…

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Christians today are not so much different than the Pharisees of yesterday.  We are more concerned with what people see on the outside than what God sees on the inside.  The inner life, which determines our motives and aspirations, demands our attention.  It is easier to ignore the cry for inner cleansing as we frantically respond to the external expectations all around us.  But once again, the bottom line is: “Who is your primary audience?”  Are you playing for God, who looks at the inside or for people (even religious people), who are really only able to see externals?

The heart is not sanctified through ties, tithes, or church attendance.  Cleansing simply must be from the inside out.

Poverty is Complicated

The poor are not those who lack stuff.

The poor are not those who lack knowledge.

The poor are not those who lack justice or power.

The poor are not those who lack God.

It’s all that and more!  Poverty is complicated.  It is the natural outcome of a fallen world.  And each of us is impoverished in one way or another: materially, spiritually, relationally, emotionally, physically, mentally.

“Sin,” not the specific kind, but the fallen condition of humanity is the cause.  Poverty is the distortion of relationships (to God, self, community, other people and God’s creation).

There are lots of ways to begin to alleviate poverty. But not one way can eliminate poverty. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try but the reality is that poverty is complicated and more than just about stuff. So use your gifts to alleviate poverty  in the ways God has equipped you to do so.

Don’t assume you’re not “poor.”

I know you are.

I know I am.