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Five Essentials When Praying for the Lost, Week 3
by Tom Goodman
February 5, 2009

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 1 Timothy 2:1-8 (Msg).  These words can teach us how to pray for the lost:

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 5 essentials when praying for the lost:

On the first week we looked at the first essential: the right priorityLast week we began to examine the second essential: the right perspective.  Today, let's spend some more time on the perspective required for evangelistic praying.

"He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know," Paul wrote to Timothy, "everyone to get to know the truth we've learned."  Paul said that God wanted "everyone saved."  Both of those words are important: everyone... saved.  Without the right perspective that both of those words provide, you won't have the kind of prayer life that makes any sort of impact.

In last week's LeaderLines we looked at that word "saved."  Now let's reflect on that word "everyone" -- God wants "everyone saved."

Usually, discussions about this verse revolve around the extent of God's responsibility for saving the lost.  But this verse inspires you to address your responsibility; it wasn't meant as simply kindling to debate God's responsibility.

Now, I'm not evading the debate most folks have over this verse.  You see, Scripture is clear that we are spiritually deaf, spiritually blind, and spiritually dead -- other than that we're okay!  Only God's intervention saves.  Even the faith that we place in him is a gift of God and not of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9).  So, those who know this to be true get to 1 Timothy 2, and they want to know, "If God's call is effectual and if God wants everyone saved, then why isn't everyone saved?"

This is a vital question, and the answer lies in the harmony between divine sovereignty and human responsibility -- a harmony we can't see now, but we'll eventually understand.

But, as I said, this verse inspires you to address your responsibility; it wasn't meant as simply kindling to debate God's responsibility.

That word "everyone" in our Scripture text expands the scope of my prayer work and my witnessing work.  I should lift up in prayer the name of every single person around me who does not have a vital relationship with Christ.

That word "everyone" stands in judgment over many of us, because we can allow ourselves to believe that there are people around us for whom we are not responsible -- in other words, we do not feel it is our job to share the gospel with them.  Maybe you've decided that you are not responsible for those who are not in your income level, or those who are not in your education level, or those who are not of your nationality.

The opposite can happen, too.  We can make it our job to share the gospel with those who are not like us and leave alone those who are closest to us.  I've seen people go off on mission trips to share the gospel and go into prison to share the gospel but neglect those they see every day.  We'll readily acknowledge that the "bad" people need saving.  We'll share the gospel with people "over there" (wherever "over there" is), but not with our neighbors, not the people we take lunch breaks with at work.

The Oxford professor C.S. Lewis said something interesting about that.  He said, "A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world -- and might even be more difficult to save."  Lewis probably described a lot of people in your world: nice, but content in their niceness and looking no further.

So, we all have our ways of categorizing people, determining which ones need to be the subject of our prayers for salvation.  But then one word from the scripture comes out of the sky like a guided missile and destroys all our categories -- that word is "everyone."  God wants us to pray for everyone we know because God wants everyone saved.

Isn't it refreshing to read in Scripture that God wants everyone saved?  We have to admit that we are indifferent toward some of people around us -- in fact, we have to admit that sometimes we're indifferent toward all of the people around us.  But not God.  Rest assured that the moment you start praying for the lost, God will bend down toward you with intense interest in what you have to say.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you get the impression they are just politely tolerating you until you get on to a particular subject, and suddenly you have their full attention?  They lean toward you, elbows on the table, eyes suddenly alive -- you've found a topic they're passionate about!

I hope I'm not misunderstood when I say this, but I believe that sometimes in our prayers, God just politely tolerates us.  We're late for a meeting and we mutter, "O God, let there be a parking space next to the building."  Or we're selling our car, and when we hear on the voice mail that someone has responded to our ad, as we return the call we whisper, "O God, let this person be the one to buy my car!"  And in heaven I imagine God just politely tolerates our prattle.  But on the authority of 1 Timothy 2 I can assure you that when you start praying for every lost person around you to become a saved person, you'll have God's full attention.  Because God wants everyone saved -- and when you gain that correct perspective on things, you're prayers will have impact.

Next week we'll look at a third thing that needs to be right so that your prayers will have impact:  You must know the right solution to a lost person's condition.


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