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Five Essentials When Praying for the Lost, Week 4
by Tom Goodman
February 12, 2009

We're taking several weeks in LeaderLines to "camp out" in the words of 1 Timothy 2:1-8 (Msg).  If you're a regular subscriber, you've seen the following words for a month now, and, as the old saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt" -- or at least complacency.  But take a pause in your busy schedule and read these words once again, slowly, as if you're reading them for the first time.  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:

This week let's look at the third essential:  You are more likely to pray for your lost friends when you know the right solution to their lost condition.

What is the right answer to their problem?  What is the right response to what is keeping them from God?

The Scripture I quoted above says, "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."

Our world's greatest problem is sin, which separates us from God.  The cross was God's way of laying a bridge across that deep ditch.  According to the Scripture we're looking at today, the cross was the place where a great trade took place:  Christ offered himself in exchange for us.  He put himself in our place and took on the penalty we deserved for the ways we've rebelled against God.

In his 1908 book, The Russian Conquest of the Caucasus, John Baddeley described the fierce leader, Shamil, who led the Caucasian resistance against imperial Russia in the area that is now Chechnya.  Even as he led daring guerilla strikes against the Russians, he had to fight the spirit of defeatism among his own countrymen.  He once made a proclamation that whoever advocated any capitulation with the Russians would be beaten with a hundred heavy lashes.  Shortly after the severe edict, an offender was caught and brought before Shamil.  To the warlord's shock and grief, it was his own mother who had called for a treaty with the enemy.

He retreated into solitude for three days to decide what to do.  Due to the blatant disregard of his order and its potential impact on morale, he instructed that the penalty should be carried out.  After the fifth stroke ripped into his mother's back, however, he called a halt to the lashing.  Then something remarkable took place:  He stripped to the waist, knelt down by his mother, and took the remaining ninety-five strokes upon himself.

The story of Shamil's actions wound its way up the mountain passes, carried in astonished whispers from village to village.  Impressed by their leader's uncompromising justice and costly compassion, none of his tribesmen ever again mentioned negotiations with the enemy.  It's a story that resonates in the region to this day.

God did the same thing for us.  He bore the punishment himself, in the person of his own Son, "so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).  The cross became that place where God showed both his justice and his love.

When you bow in prayer for lost people, it should be with the hope and the expectation that those you know will come to the same conclusions about the cross that you have come to.  You need to know the right solution.

In next week's LeaderLines, we'll examine the next essential in praying for the lost.


The story of Shamil can be found at "Are You Seeking God?"  This section of our website provides an outline of the gospel message to share with your friends.

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