As we continue our series on praying for lost loved ones, we find a wonderful, beautiful promise of God in our scripture that should encourage us as we pray. What is this promise? Paul utters it three times.
In verse nine he writes, “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (ESV).
In verse ten he says, “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame’” (ESV). And finally in verse thirteen, Paul quotes Joel 2:32 as he says, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (ESV).
Wow! This is a wonderful promise, isn’t it? Such a promise should encourage us during those times in which it seems like our prayers for lost loved ones are going nowhere. Such a promise should challenge us to persevere in prayer.
But notice what Paul then writes in Romans 10:14-15. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed” (ESV)? The prayer for the lost that I want us to consider this evening is the prayer that they would believe in Christ. More accurately, I believe we should pray that the lost would be prepared to believe in Christ.
To pray that someone would make the change from not believing Christ to believing in Christ is huge. But Paul mentions several issues in this verse that could result in faith being impossible for the lost person. What do I mean by this?
Well, continuing on in verses fourteen and fifteen, we read, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent” (ESV)?
I think it would be too strong to say that these questions point at conditions or pre-requisites for a person to have faith in Christ. But these questions do logically note hindrances to saving faith that need to be overcome in order for the unbeliever to be saved.
The first question Paul asks is, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard.” As we pray for unbelievers to be prepared for faith in Christ, we should pray that our lost loved ones would be given opportunities to hear the Good News.
We are privileged here in America because of the great Christian heritage of our nation. We are privileged because of the abundance of churches. Yet while our nation does have a Christian heritage and while many of our fellow citizens have heard the Gospel message, there are many people even in the United States who do not really know much about God or Jesus except as cuss words.
The point is simply this: we should pray that our lost loved ones would be given opportunities to hear the Good News. Now, sometimes Christians have told me that their lost loved one grew up in a Christian home and knows what they need to do in order to be saved. This may be true. However, I am afraid that we don’t realize how spiritually blind sinners can be. I am afraid that many unbelievers who have a Christian heritage have more of a “works” understanding of salvation than that of faith in Christ.
So, I would suggest to you that it is crucial that we pray for our lost loved ones to be given opportunities to hear the Good News. Yes, maybe they have heard the Gospel before, but it does not seem to have penetrated. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will arranged more God-encounters in the hopes for our lost loved ones in hopes that the truth may finally sink in.
The next question Paul asks is, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching” (Romans 10:14, ESV)? We should pray that believers would use their opportunities to share the Good News. While I believe the role of the preacher – whether as pastor, evangelist, missionary, etc. – is very important, I do not believe Scripture is teaching that in order for a person to become a Christian, they must hear a preacher in the sense of having to go to a church service like this in which a preacher preaches and gives an altar call.
Yet this scripture does point out the obvious. Unless the unbeliever hears the Gospel presented in some way – be it through a sermon, a song, a Sunday School lesson, or in conversation with a friend, how will this person ever learn that God loves them, that they are a sinner, and that Jesus died for them?
The problem that plagues the church in America today is that many Christians seem unwilling to share the Good News. There are a variety of reasons why Christians are unwilling to do so. One reason why Christians do not share the Good News with others is that they are afraid of being rejected. It hurts to be rejected. However, if some is unwilling to listen or accept the Good News, the one being rejected truly is not us; it is Christ. Yet, because we are the ones doing the sharing in Christ’s name, it can hurt us as well. But may I suggest that some Christians have never shared the Gospel, not because they have been rejected in the past and it hurt, but because they are fearful of being rejected.
[No Book Data for this Book Number] Several years ago, Thom S. Rainer and a team of researchers surveyed 306 unchurched Americans from a wide variety of areas in which they lived, ethnicities, and income levels. The results they found were often surprising.
When these unchurched people were asked about their attitudes toward the church, 11% had a very friendly attitude, 27% were friendly, 36% were neutral. 21% were resistant and only 5% had an antagonistic attitude toward the church.
How many opportunities do you have to befriend an unchurched person, a neighbor, a coworker, or even a casual acquaintance? Yet most Christians today commit the sin of silence. They use excuses that say they do not want to impose their beliefs on others, that they do not want to offend others, or that the unchurched are not really interested in the church. Our research, however, shows quite the opposite, Many of the unchurched are looking for Christian friends. They are open to an invitation from church. They do want to know what Christians believe. And you could be that person who will make the eternal difference in the life of an unchurched person.” (Rainer 45, 46)
Rainer’s research estimates that there are about 160 million unchurched people in America. This is based on surveys of more than 2,000 people. If the people said they attended church less than five times a year, they were classified as unchurched. With that assumption and the responses gained to this survey, Rainer suggests that “[o]ver 17 million people will accept Christ if presented to the gospel. Another 43 million are close” (Rainer 46).
What is the point? We need to pray that believers will use their opportunities to proclaim the Good News. We need to pray for ourselves that we will not be intimidated by the unknown, but will be faithful to tell others that Jesus loves them and wants to deliver them from sin and give them real hope in life.
We need to pray for fellow Christians, people whom we may never know, but may have an opportunity to speak with our lost loved ones about the Gospel. We need to pray that they will have the courage to speak of Christ. We need to pray for these believers and ourselves that we would continue to be faithful in sharing the Good News even when unbelievers act uninterested.
In verse fifteen Paul asks a final question, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent” (ESV)? We should pray that believers would be prepared to share the Good News. One of the most common reasons Christians give why they do not share the Good News with other people is that they feel unprepared. They feel like they do not know what to say. They do not know enough to answer objections. They do not know how to lead a person in a prayer to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
Quite frankly, many such Christians underrate their ability and their state of preparedness. After all, this Christian has accepted Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior, right? It would seem like this person should be able to tell his lost friend how he was saved – that he recognized that he had sinned, that he believed that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for his sin and then rose from the dead on the third day, proclaiming victory over sin and death, and that he accepted by faith Jesus’ offer to forgive him of his sins and to give him eternal life. Most Christians probably know enough that they could share the Good News.
However, there may be some truth in this objection of being unprepared. Some Christians may need to be trained in how to share the Good News. Furthermore, while I think it would be difficult to be completely prepared to handle any and every objection to the Gospel that might be raised, it might be helpful to be trained how to handle certain objections to the Good News.
But the greatest preparation the believer needs is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we share the Good News with lost people, we engage in spiritual warfare. We need the help of the Holy Spirit for such battles. Therefore, as we pray for the lost to be prepared for faith in Christ, we should pray that believers would be prepared to share the Good News. Let us pray that believers would understand the basics of the Gospel well enough to give a simple presentation of the Good News. But let us also pray for wisdom during witnessing encounters.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would show the believer exactly what he should say and how he should approach the subject. Most of all, let us pray that the Holy Spirit would send believers to share the Good News with our lost loved ones.
Romans 10:1-17 contains a wonderful promise for us as we pray for lost loved ones. The Bible says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But as the apostle Paul notes in verse fourteen, a person must believe in Christ before he or she calls upon Christ for salvation. Therefore, we should pray that the lost would be prepared for faith in Christ.
And, as we pray that the lost would be prepared for faith in Christ, we should also pray that…
- We should pray for lost would be given opportunities to hear the Good News.
- We should pray believers would use their opportunities to proclaim the Good News.
- We should pray believers would be prepared to share the Good News.
Rainer, Thom S. The Unchurched Next Door. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
© 2009 – David G. Woods, Used by permission.