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How to Pray for Lost Loved Ones
By Dutch Sheets
RegalCopyright © 2001 Dutch Sheets
All right reserved.
The Persistent Knocking
Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old boy whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing. I just helped him cry."
Letting God Cry Through Us
On Wednesday, October 4, 2000, God somehow powerfully touched my heart with His, and for three and a half hours God allowed me to help Him cry over our nation.
Though I have often asked God for His heart toward America, I was in no way ready for the intensity with which it came that night. As I felt God's aching heart for America, I thought my own heart would break in two. I didn't know it was possible to weep from so deep within. It was not from my head or my emotions; it was from deep in my heart.
That day the Lord placed upon me an incredible burden to call the nation to prayer for the then-upcoming presidential election. I was led by the Lord to issue a prayer alert that ultimately went to millions of people, resulting in a great mobilization of prayerasking God for His man to be placed in office.
I believe God answered the prayers of those many people and gave us the president He wanted America to have. I believe He gave us a man who, like King David, is a man after His heart-a sincere, humble man who loves God and through whom He can work. Not that God is a Republican or a Democrat. It's not about a political party but about finding a person God can use to accomplish His purposes. In ancient Israel, He could not do what He wanted through King Saul, so He looked for a man after His own heart. That person, of course, was David. I believe that, in this election, God heard our prayers and graciously gave us a man after His heart to lead our nation.
My wife and I, along with a few others from our church in Colorado Springs, attended the inauguration of George W. Bush. It was worth every minute of standing in the extremely cold rain-as well as the many hours of prayer and fasting leading up to this day-as I watched and heard Bush, with great conviction, complete his oath of office by saying, "So help me God." Upon the uttering of those words, one well-known minister in attendance was heard to say, "The curse is broken off of America." I, too, believe that it marked a new beginning. We are, indeed, seeing God's grace upon us to heal and save our nation.
Another important result of my experience on October 4 was a fresh awareness of the incredible passion of the Lord to save. I already knew God desired to save America. He had been challenging me for the past few years to believe Him for the saving of this nation, for genuine revival and a great harvest of souls. But on this particular evening, it was different. I literally felt God's breaking heart aching to save and heal America.
In my prayers for our nation, the Lord has often led me to Ezekiel 37. In this passage He uses a graveyard of dry bones to reveal Israel's spiritually dead condition to the prophet Ezekiel. As the prophet gazed upon these dry bones, the Lord asked him an interesting question: "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel, not knowing how to respond, simply said, "Oh, Lord God, You know" (see Ezek. 37:3). God's response was to have Ezekiel prophesy to the bones and later to have the wind of the Holy Spirit breathe life into the bones. In the vision the bones came together, and the wind-or breath-of God's Spirit came to them, causing them to live again.
As I said, God has often led me to this passage. It seems I am prompted with the same question about America that God asked Ezekiel about Israel: Can these bones live? I have always tried to summon faith and believe that America will indeed receive a revival that results in Resurrection life. But I must admit there have been times of wavering in which I found it difficult to believe.
However, on that aforementioned evening something changed. I actually felt God's passion to save our nation. I identified with His aching heart so strongly that my faith was lifted to a new level. I knew beyond any doubt that the dry bones of America could live, because God desperately wants to save this nation.
I am fully persuaded that hundreds of thousands of people will be saved in America over the next several years. As God comes to bring salvation to our nation, however, that salvation will come an individual at a time. Those born again will be our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, friends and neighbors. They will have names and faces, known personally by God.
My purpose for this chapter is to encourage your faith that God really does want to save those dear to you. I want your faith to be lifted to a new level. I have found that where faith for the salvation of the lost is concerned, unbelief controls much of the Church. We ask God to send revival and save people, but deep in our hearts we can't believe it is really going to happen. Perhaps it's because we've prayed and waited so long that we are no longer convinced God really will do it.
Persevering in Prayer
Chrissy sleepily answered the phone late one night and heard her older brother's voice on the line. "Sis, I just invited Jesus into my life!" he shouted. "I'm saved! The preacher said to tell someone immediately, so I knew I had to call you because you've prayed for me for so long."
The praying sister sat speechless with the phone in her hand. This brother of hers-the one who had mocked and screamed at her at their mother's funeral when she tried to share Jesus with him-the one who had broken up a pastor's home to marry his third and current wife-this rebel was calling to say he'd accepted Jesus. She could hardly believe it!
Why is it when our loved ones are saved in answer to prayers we've prayed for years, we are always surprised? Could it be that we secretly doubt whether our prayers will really change anything? Or that we've written off the person as hopeless?
I want you to be so convinced that God will save the person you love, the one for whom you pray, that you would be shocked if they didn't get saved. I want you to believe God is so passionately in love with people that when you cry for those you love, you realize you're really helping Him cry.
Why is this kind of faith so important? First, if we don't really believe God will answer our prayers, we will not pray with any kind of consistency and diligence. We may sporadically ask Him, but we certainly will not persevere. We must have a motivational faith that truly believes He is hearing us and He will answer.
When Raymond's brother was dying, he stood by the hospital bed and said boldly, "Henry, I've prayed for you for years. I'm tired of you cursing the Lord I serve. It's time you accepted Him and all He has done for you! You could very well die tonight! Where would you spend eternity?" Henry acknowledged his need for God and asked Jesus into his heart right then. Finally, after 15 years, Raymond saw his prayers for his brother dramatically answered just a few days before Henry died.
Like Raymond, we must have faith that doesn't quit!
Faith Releases God's Power
The second reason this issue is so important is that our faith really does release God's power. There is a striking story in Mark 6:1-6 about Christ not working any miracles in His hometown of Nazareth. A careful reading and study of the verses in the original Greek text reveals that Jesus didn't simply choose not to work miracles, but He actually could not work miracles in Nazareth because of the unbelief of the people.
I certainly am not implying that Christ did not have enough power or that something was wrong with His spiritual condition. It is clear, however, that somehow his neighbors' unbelief blocked God's power from flowing from Christ to them. The Scriptures don't say He didn't want to work miracles or that He chose not to work miracles. Mark 6:5 says, "He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them" (emphasis added).
There really is a dynamic of faith wherein unbelief can hinder God's power from flowing to us. In James 1:6,7, we are instructed:
Ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.
Again, from this passage it is clear that unbelief can cause us to not receive what we have asked for, even though it may be within the scope of God's will.
Galatians 6:9 (KJV) states: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Again, if we are not able to persevere, which certainly has to do with our faith, then there will be times when we will not reap what we have asked. Jesus said, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23, KJV, emphasis added).
It is imperative that we ask in faith when we pray for the salvation of the people we love. We must be convinced that God will answer our prayers, or we will not be sufficiently motivated to ask or to do so with persevering faith. And it is also true that unbelief will block the power of God from being released to answer the prayer.
I can well imagine that some of you are already feeling intimidated, questioning whether you have, or could ever have, enough faith to pray your loved one or friend into the family of God. The answer to your question is an emphatic yes!
Don't allow Satan, that accuser of the brethren, to defeat you before you ever get started. You are of the family of faith. The Holy Spirit, the author of faith, is in you, and you can and will be able to believe. Deep within your spirit it is your nature to walk in faith.
God Turns Our Weakness into Strength
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Abraham and Sarah believing God's promise for a son. What most people don't realize, however, is that they didn't always walk in great faith during the 25 years they waited for Isaac. They wavered in their faith for receiving a son through Sarah-so much so that they conceived a plan to try to fulfill the promise through Hagar, Sarah's maid. Ishmael was the result.
The aged couple were still in doubt when God came again and said to Abraham that Sarah would conceive and bear him a son "at this season next year" (Gen. 17:21). Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90. Abraham laughed at God, and so did Sarah. I probably would have laughed, too. Abraham's "faith-filled" response was, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!" (Gen. 17:18). I have asked God to accept a few of my Ishmaels, too!
Interestingly, in a seeming contradiction, the New Testament states very clearly that it was because of Abraham and Sarah's great faith that God was able to fulfill the promise (see Rom. 4:17-22; Heb. 11:11,12). Does the New Testament contradict the Old Testament? Absolutely not.
Romans 4:20 tells us they "grew strong in faith" (emphasis added). And here's the good news: They grew into this incredibly strong faith in three short months, at which time Isaac was conceived. Twenty-four years of unbelief was overcome in just three months! From the point of unbelief until Isaac's conception three months later, something transpired to transform them from unbelief to the great faith spoken of in the New Testament.
If God could do this for them, He can do it for you! Abraham and Sarah were not even born again as you are. They didn't have the Holy Spirit abiding within them. Surely we who live on this side of the Cross, with a "better covenant" and "better promises" (Heb. 8:6), can rise to a level of faith as quickly, or even more so. Don't underestimate the Christ in you (see Col. 1:27)!
Sam and Jed refused to walk in anything but faith. Hearing that a $5,000 bounty had been offered for the capture or killing of wolves, they became bounty hunters. Waking up one night, Sam saw that they were surrounded by 50 pairs of gleaming eyes-ravenous wolves licking hungry chops. "Jed, wake up," he whispered to his sleeping partner. "We're rich!"
When the wolves of unbelief and opposition endeavor to erode your faith, and when the circumstances around you scream that you will never receive the Lord's promise, follow the admonition of the prophet Joel:
Let the weak say, I am strong (Joel 3:10, KJV).
And see the unbelievers around you not as threats but as opportunities. They really can live, and you can really believe it.
QUESTIONS WISDOM AND FAITH
1. Why do we fail to be persistent in our prayers?
2. Can a person pray in faith for someone's salvation and not seemingly see this prayer fulfilled? If so, why would this happen?
3. Why does God allow us to experience a small measure of His long-suffering heart over the salvation of other people?
Excerpted from How to Pray for Lost Loved Ones by Dutch Sheets Copyright © 2001 by Dutch Sheets
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.