The third ranked goal of the Strategic Plan for the Churches of God (Holiness) as presented to the General Convention in June 2005 is to encourage prayer. COGH.net will be promoting this goal in the next few weeks with a series on “Prayers for the Lost”, inspired by this article by The Navigators. For this week, we will focus on what John 6:22-66 teaches us about praying for the lost.
John 6:22-66 would have made a good story for the late-Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story.” The events immediately preceding this scripture are well known. A huge crowd had followed Jesus into the mountains seeking his healing and listening to his teaching. When it got late, Jesus tested his disciples and then miraculously provided food for the people to eat. The people wanted to make Jesus their king, but Jesus avoided their schemes by sending the disciples away, dismissing the crowd, and going up into the mountain to pray.
While the disciples were rowing across the sea, Jesus walked on the water and came near to the boat. The disciples thought he was a ghost, but Jesus revealed that it was he. He got into the boat with them and they were immediately at the other side.
The next day, those who had remained on the other side of the sea realized that Jesus gone. They went around the lake looking for Jesus. Jesus challenged them about their inferior motives – they were looking for him just because they wanted more food. They were not interested in spiritual things, just material.
The crowd asked Jesus what kind of works they should be doing to please God. Jesus told them to trust the one who God had sent to them. The crowd asked Jesus to show them a sign, referring to the manna that Moses gave the people in the wilderness. Note that what the people wanted was for Jesus to solve their material problems. The Israelites in the wilderness had it easy not having to work hard for bread. These people wanted an easy life as well.
Jesus told them that the Father gave them true bread from Heaven. The Jews asked for this bread. Jesus told them, “I am the bread that came down from heaven…” (John 6:35, ESV). Jesus knew they did not believe him and so he continued, saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37, ESV).
The Jews didn’t like it that Jesus said he was the bread from heaven and began to question how Jesus was born.Jesus responded by saying, “No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44).
Jesus upped the ante by telling them that in order to have eternal life they must eat him – the bread of life. The Jews really began to argue with Jesus then. Jesus again told the Jews that it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh cannot give us eternal life. Jesus said, “That is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”
At that point, many of Jesus’ disciples left him and went away. Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave him also, but Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
What should this story teach us about praying for the lost? Simply, we should pray the Father would draw unbelievers to Himself. In John 6:22-40, we see that these Jews desire was preoccupied with the flesh. What these Jews wanted was bread and, metaphorically, an easy life. In John 6:41-59, we see that their understanding was also based on the flesh. When Jesus said that they must eat him, they could not grasp the spiritual reality in which our life spiritually is dependent on Christ. And so in the last six verses, we see their response was also according to the flesh. Many deserted Jesus.
As you pray for lost family, friends, and neighbors, pray that the Father would begin drawing them to Himself. Pray that God would do what it takes to get your lost friends’ attention and to create in them a desire for more than material, physical life.
Most of all, be faithful to pray for the lost.
© 2009 – David G. Woods, Used by permission.