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Have you noticed?

with 4 comments

This may come as a surprise to some but have you noticed there is not one direct command or personal exhortation to pray for the salvation of the lost in the whole New Testament? You wont find one command given by Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, Jude, or John. The only references you’ll find are some “general’ exhortations to prayer that you could include praying for the lost under. Its really surprising how silent the New Testament is on this subject especially given the fact of how much time believers spend on praying for the lost or are exhorted by others to do so (not that its wrong to do so it‘s just not heavily emphasized in the scriptures). I believe there is a reason for this which I’ll share later.

Here’s a list of some of the general commands/exhortations to pray which can cover a wide variety of topics including praying for the lost:

1Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

1Ti 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

These few scriptures, along with a few others, exhort us to pray in a general way, in which praying for the lost could also fall under. However, it is still not a direct command or exhortation directed specifically to that subject..

One verse that is commonly misunderstood as an exhortation to pray for the salvation of all men is:

1Ti 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

The heart of the passage is that we should pray for those in authority that we made lead “quiet and peaceable” lives. This would allow us to further preach the gospel thus making a way for more people to be saved.

Rom 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

This is the only time we find Paul saying he prayed for the lost. And even here we know that Paul did not believe that God would save them all because he knew God had hardened their hearts because of their unbelief. (Romans 11:20) I believe it was, as it says, an expression of Paul’s heart to see his own people converted. Later we’ll see how Paul prays for himself which would be the means by which God would save men.

So if there are no direct commands or direct exhortations to pray for the lost what does the bible continually exhort us to pray for? THE SAINTS! Over and over again, in almost every letter, you’ll find exhortations (and examples) to pray for the people of God. Lets look at a few:

Rom 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

Rom 15:30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;

2Co 1:11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

 

Php 1:4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

 

Col 1:9-11 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

1Th 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

1Th 5:25 Brethren, pray for us.

2Th 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

2Ti 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

Phil 1:4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,

Heb 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.

Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Every one of these verses on prayer speaks of praying for Gods people. Notice that in each of these letters, which are designed by God to give us instruction for Christian living, we are shown that we are to spend our time praying for the saints through direct command and through the example of the apostles. Not once are we exhorted to have “nights of prayer” for the lost or to keep a list of lost people we are praying for to receive salvation (though these are certainly not forbidden by scripture – nor would they be wrong to do so if led by God’s Spirit – just looking at the biblical focus). We are  exhorted to pray for Gods people.

So why the OVERWHELMING exhortations to pray for Gods people and a real LACK of exhortations to pray for the lost? There are a couple reasons that I believe are very important. I believe if believers understood these truths we would see the salvation of more people and more life in Christ Church.

The whole bible, but especially the New Testament, shows that God is redeeming a people, from every nation, set apart for Himself. In fact, Paul says that is the mystery that’s been hidden “from ages and generations” (Col 1:26). That along with believing Jews God would redeem Gentiles and together they would partake of the gospel truth which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.

Col 1:26-27 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

It is this wonderful truth that Paul labored for the church to understand. Paul, by the Spirit of God, desired for the church to walk in maturity. For the Church to have a real and deep understanding of who they are and what they have in Christ thus bearing good fruit in Jesus name. That’s basically what you find in Paul’s prayers found in Eph 1:16-23 and Col 1:9-12. And as shown above you see prayer for the Saints is exhorted in almost every letter. In fact Jesus Himself said in John 17:9 “…I pray not for the world…”. The whole chapter is a prayer for the disciples and for those in the future who will believe because of their preaching.

John 17:20 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”.

What does He pray for?

John 17:21 “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”

This is really important!!! Jesus prays in essence for the maturity and unity of all who believe in Him so they may be one AND THAT THEY WOULD BE A TESTIMONY TO THE WORLD THAT JESUS WAS INDEED SENT BY GOD THE FATHER. The Church walking in maturity, unity, and love testifies to the truth of Jesus Christ! How does the world know you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? By your VISIBLE love for the brethren.

John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

This is what we see happening in the book of Acts. You see a group of Spirit filled believers who are daily taking in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, fellowshipping with each other, and taking care of each others needs (Acts 2:42-46). What was the result of this true unity and visible love demonstrated among the brethren?

Acts 2:43 “Fear came upon every soul”

and

Acts 2:47 “Praising God, and having  favour with all the people

and
Acts 2:47 “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Basically the Church became a visible testimony to the truth of Jesus Christ. The believers were walking in love and growing in maturity and the Lord was saving people and adding them to the Church. The Church is and should be the visible manifestation of Gods glory on earth. We partake of Gods glory and we manifest that glory to the world. That’s what we see in Acts and that’s what we should see in the fellowship of the Saints. Thus we see Paul praying that believers would grow in understanding and love. We too should spend our time in prayer for the Saints of God. After all, Christ is not coming back for the world. He is come back for a spotless bride. He is coming back for a people who have been conformed into His image. A people who share in and manifest His Glory. This is what we have been called to. To pray for the maturity of Gods people, for their own growth, for Gods glory, and for the Church to be a testimony to the world.

WHAT ABOUT THE LOST?

So if the bible comes up short in directly exhorting us to pray for the salvation of the lost what are we to do? While we do see one reference in Romans 10 of Paul saying he prayed for Israel we primarily see Paul asking for direct pray for himself!

 

Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Col 4:3,4)

and

 

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:18-20)

Paul requested prayer for himself. He prayed that “he” would speak boldly and that “he” would make known the mystery of the gospel as “he” should. He prayed that God would open the door for him to speak. Paul knew that preaching was Gods means for saving those who would believe (Cor 1:21). In fact Paul said “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” 1 Tim 2:10. Paul would ENDURE all things so that he might preach and that the elect of God might be saved. This is what is greatly lacking in today’s church. People are not willing to ENDURE ALL THINGS for the sake of the elect. People are unwilling to preach boldly as they should. I think for many its easier to pray for the lost in the security of their own home than to endure all things and to speak the word of God boldly as they should. Remember God saves men through preaching (Romans 10:17). Even Jesus did not say to pray for the lost to be saved. Jesus did tell us to pray though. He said:

“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Matt 9:38)

Jesus did not say to pray FOR the harvest He said to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would SEND LABORERS into the harvest! Pray that God would send forth men who would suffer all things and PREACH the gospel. It is through labourus preaching by men filled and empowered by the Spirit of God that men are saved. Notice again how Peter and John prayed in Acts 4:

“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” (Acts 4:29,30)

Again their prayer was that THEY would speak boldly and that God would testify to their preaching with power. Their preaching with and by the power of God would be the means that God would use to save men. They prayed and acted in the same way we see the apostle Paul praying and acting. Which is the same way we should be praying and acting. Just as Paul says “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1)  Christ prayed for the Church and suffered all things and preached the truth that men might be saved.

This same thing is needed today. We should labor in prayer for the church of Christ. Praying that men would grow in grace, grow in maturity, grow in love towards each other, know who they are in Christ and what He has given us, and all the other things we see the apostle Paul laboring in prayer for the people of God to receive. This should be our daily concern and burdened until Christ comes or our earthly lives are over (2 Cor 11:28). We should ever be concerned that Christ be glorified through His church. This happens as His people walk in love towards each other and grow in maturity in understanding and experiencing the truths of Gods kingdom (Eph 1:17-19). And if this is a continual command and exhortation in the word should not our time be consumed with this very thing?

And with the lost we should labor in preaching that they might be saved. We should pray that we would preach boldly, clearly, and with the power of God. That we too would suffer all things for the elects sake. Knowing that it is the preaching of the Gospel that saves men. I’m not saying its wrong to pray for one who is lost, clearly its not as we are to pray for “all things – and always”, I’m just pointing out that the scriptures, for the most part, have a very different emphasis (there have been times where I‘ve been greatly burdened to pray for unsaved individuals – and I believe this was from the Lord. Again Spirit inspired prayer is ALWAYS right). But again we are CONSTANTLY exhorted and commanded to pray for the SAINTS and to PREACH AND SUFFER for the ELECT (those lost who will believe). I’m convinced that if Gods people would walk in these truths we would see a church that walks in maturity and love, manifest Gods glory to the world, and we would see more people come to Christ as believers labor and suffer in preaching the Gospel.

I exhort you to go through the scriptures on these topics in detail for yourself. See what God primarily emphasizes on these topics. Know there is wisdom in why God says what He says.

IN Christ,

Sean Scott

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Written by Sean Scott

May 23, 2010 at 12:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Just to be clear, because I fear some may take this post the wrong way, I’m in no way saying you should not pray for the lost. I believe the Spirit will inspire us to pray for the unsaved. There is a family we are preaching to right now that we also lift up in prayer to God. I just believe the scriputes greatly highlight some things that are SO lacking in the Church today…….praying for the Saints and suffering and preaching for the elect.

    Sean

    May 23, 2010 at 2:38 am

  2. Hey bro, how uncanny, we both posted on the same subject simultaneously.

    i think i agree with you, there’s far more exhortations in Scripture for praying for our brethren than for praying for the lost.

    Btw, i don’t think i’ve ever been in a fellowship (apart from our own) which takes the time to pray for lost individuals by name. only general prayers for revival.

    Our children carry a number of lost people on their hearts in intercession. it blesses me to hear them pray.

    I also hear them praying for the full healing of your hand every night, and i say amen.

    ian vincent

    May 23, 2010 at 3:29 am

    • I appreciate your exhortation, Sean. Funny, but the other day, I was thinking along the same lines as your wife wrote about not too long ago. The Lord brought you all to mind, and I thought I ought to share that with you both.

      I was grieving about how (so often) Christians who experience fellowship in line with New Testament principles in some small way, do not seek to see more than that … to go on to see the whole body functioning AS A BODY. I think that’s what your wife’s post was about recently. It bothers me that we won’t press on (here in a small group we have) because IT IS POSSIBLE … but a little fellowship is what people are satisfied with, even those who know better (unfortunately). I do see simple fellowship as a legitimate expression of the body of Christ (church), but I too long to see the whole body come together: not so much in one building, but in a region, so that the Spirit ORGANICALLY brings believers together in a fashion seen in the New Testament so that ALL MAY FUNCTION according to their calling.

      In that vein, the verse you mentioned in John 17 is one of my favorites. More and more, God is speaking to me about living with other Christians as a community. Proverbs 30 is instructive in this regard: it tells us to prepare for famine (verse 25) and adversity (Proverbs 22:3), seek the protection of more remote locations (which serve as natural fortifications to insulate us from the cities—verse 26), and to come together in small communities (verse 27). Of course, this will require humility and maturity, but as Christ said to Peter (who was repenting):

      Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

      –Matthew 21:18-19

      In other words, to do the will of God is to care first for others: for the principal signature of spiritual maturity is a concern and willingness to endure suffering for others in the body of Christ. We see this in the life of the apostle Paul:

      Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

      –Colossians 1:24

      Too prepare for great tribulation, we must think of others, not only ourselves—else we will fall short of the will of God—and not prosper:

      If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.

      –Proverbs 24:10-14

      Helping others will necessarily involve hardship and sacrifice, but those who pant after righteousness are hungry to be filled: “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet,” (Proverbs 27:7).

      I have a new friend in the Lord: we are both feeling called to come together and develop a wholly self-sufficient (off-the-grid) lifestyle—to prepare to help others in the days to come—and to live among one another as a community of believers. We are acting on this as we speak.

      I thought this might be interesting to you …

      Peace,

      Mark

      Mark and Vicki Finger

      May 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm

  3. Is God speaking to you guys about living in a community of believers (in any way)?


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