I have a relative who is one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. He is caring and good. But he doesn’t know the Lord Jesus. He came from an atheistic family, and he simply does not believe that there is a God.
I have been praying and praying that his eyes will be opened. I’ve talked to him about the Lord–as much as he will take. My husband and I have tried to do practical things to show him God’s love. We are hopeful that one day he will turn to Christ. But in the meantime, we wait–and we continue to pray.
We all have hopes and dreams for our loved ones, whether it be for their salvation, for their physical health or for other concerns. And the most important thing we can do for them is to pray. Some people think, “My prayers don’t matter.” They feel as if their prayers simply evaporate into space. We need to remember that prayer is powerful. God promises that when we pray in Jesus’ name, He will answer.
If you are praying for a loved one but are wondering if you are “doing it right,” or if you are wondering why you haven’t seen any answers, here are some simple but important principles that may help you.
First Things First
Consider how you spend your time with the Lord. Many times we come to God with a list of requests. But it’s best to first praise God for who He is and what He has done. Starting your prayer time like this helps put the emphasis on God right away.
Then, present yourself before God. Say, “Lord, I give my life to You today. I want You to be in charge of every single thing. I want to hear You speaking to me.” Pray that the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart will be acceptable in His sight (Cf. Psalm 19:14). Confess any sin to Him; un-confessed sin will hinder your prayers (Cf. Psalm 66:18). Proclaim Him Lord over your life, and then come to Him with your needs.
Beyond the List
Having a list when we pray helps us to remember things, but when we’ve gone from reading our lists to real praying, sometimes it’s as if our words start sailing out. Our hearts know what to pray.
The Holy Spirit will help us in our praying (Cf. Romans 8:26). We may ask Him for help, saying, “Holy Spirit, help me in my praying. Show me how to pray. Pray through me.”
When this happens, you will experience fervency in your prayer. You’ll feel the burden and the pain that other people feel. You may weep from the burden you feel. The more you pray, the more you’ll see things from God’s perspective.
When one of my uncles was on his deathbed, I was praying. He was a believer, but he was really suffering. I prayed, “God, please heal him. I would love to have him healed and whole and have him with us for another 15 years. But, Lord, if it is Your will that he goes to be with You now, I pray that Your will be done.”
Keep God’s will in the forefront of your thoughts. I have seen people make demands on God. When they didn’t get what they wanted, they thought that God had let them down. Their prayers weren’t tempered with, “Your will be done, Lord.”
A Life-Changing Encounter
When you pray for unsaved loved ones, pray exactly as you would pray for believers. Pray for every aspect of their lives.
Pray that God will bless their work and their health. Pray for them to have clear minds and to be able to discern the truth. Pray for their relationships and for their attitudes. Pray for them to resist temptation.
And let them know that you are praying for them. Most people like to hear that they are being prayed for. Even if they don’t believe in God, they appreciate all the help they can get.
You might say, “I know that you are having a problem at work. I’m going to pray that the problem will be straightened out.” Even if your loved one hasn’t professed faith in Christ, he or she may be willing to accept your prayers. Then, if something great does happen with the work situation, the person may wonder if your prayers had anything to do with it.
Finally, when you are praying for someone who does not know the Lord, ask God to open that person’s heart to the truth of God’s Word, and ask that God would grant a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Keep praying that way–because that’s what God wants to do.
Making an Impact
When we pray for others, our prayers can enable them to hear God better. I don’t know how God does it, but prayer can clear away the noise of the world. It may seem as if your prayers are not doing anything, but they are–even if you don’t see the person respond right away. Some people have a strong will, or they’ve been hurt, or they have been indoctrinated with atheism, which has caused them to be hardened toward the Lord. But we can know that our prayers have an impact because the power of the Holy Spirit is flowing through us.
Praying With a Group
There is great power in praying together with others. When you share your needs with a group and they pray along with you, you feel yourself buoyed up, and you sense the power of the prayers. Be careful, however. With group prayer, only a fine line exists between “sharing” and gossiping. Crossing this line is not worth the risk–don’t share anything that could be construed as gossip. If someone is struggling in his or her marriage, for example, ask the person first before you pray about the situation in a group. I would also ask, “How much do you want me to share?” It’s better to ask up front–so much hurt can happen otherwise.
It’s also easy to neglect your personal time with the Lord when you pray with a group. You might be tempted to think, “I’ll pray with the group tomorrow” instead of spending time alone with God today.
Remember that powerful prayer comes from one-to-one time with God. The more time you spend alone with God, the more powerful your prayers will be when you’re with other people. If all the people in a group are spending quality time with the Lord separately, then what a powerful dynamic exists when they come together, bringing the Holy Spirit in with them.
When We Don’t See Answers
How heartbreaking it is when we pray and pray but don’t see any fruit before a person dies. But if we’ve done what we could, we can hope that in the moment of death there was a confession. All it takes is a moment to cry, “Jesus, save me. Jesus, I want you in my life.” We won’t know until we get to heaven whether there was repentance in the spirit.
Even when people lose consciousness, they may have an awareness that we don’t see. If you’ve been praying, remember this: Your prayers were heard. God gives people every opportunity to come to Him because that’s what He wants.
Don’t Give Up
If you continue to pray for your loved one until his last breath, it will be worth it if he spends eternity with Christ. Who knows? Maybe all those prayers were necessary to break him down to the point that, during his last hour, he received the Lord Jesus. Don’t give up. You never know what seeds you are planting. Your prayers may be making something grow so that on a person’s deathbed he will remember your words and pray, “Jesus, I want You in my life. Save me.” He will.