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I believe God is preparing our congregation to be his "power tool" to reach Austin with the Gospel. To that end, across the next five weeks of LeaderLines I want us to "camp out" in the words of
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.... He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we've learned: that there's one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us -- Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth. Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray -- not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.
According to this text, there are five essentials when praying for the lost:
Prayer should take precedence in evangelism. There's an old saying among prayer giants: "There are a lot of things you should do after you've prayed; there's not a thing you can do until you've prayed." And that's true when it comes to influencing people with the Gospel. There are many things that can and should be done after you've begun praying for them; but there's not a thing you can do until you've begun praying for them. Prayer must have priority -- Paul writes, "The first thing I want you to do is pray -- in every way you know how, for everyone."
Paul had the same priority in his own life that he expected others to maintain. In Romans 10:1 (Msg), he says, "Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what's best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time."
Now, if you replaced the word "Israel" with the name of someone you know, would it still ring true or would it sound hollow and hypocritical? Try it. Read the verse aloud right now and replace the word "Israel" with the name of a lost friend or relative: "All I want for is what's best for : salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time." When you read it aloud, was it the truth or a lie?
Back in 2000 I read about a little seven-year-old boy from Spring, Texas, whose first name is Cody. Doctors discovered a baseball-size tumor on the right hip, and that began months of tedious treatment. Someone who knew Cody got the bright idea not simply to ask people to pray for him but to let him know they were praying for him. So they gave Cody a beeper, a pager, and got some little cards printed with the pager's toll-free number. The cards urged people to pray for Cody and then page him. Not so he would call them back -- just to let him know someone was praying for him. The first couple of months after Cody got the beeper it went off nonstop. Then the pace slowed to 20 or 30 times a day. One of the doctors noticed it when examining Cody and said, "He gets more calls than I do!"
If your friend were wearing a beeper indicating how many times you were praying for him, how many times has it gone off in the last month? Prayer must have priority if your prayer life is to make an impact on others.
Next week, we'll look at the second essential when praying for the lost: the right perspective.
LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.