When you first become a Christian there is usually a natural desire that quickly follows to want to go and tell anyone and everyone about the goodness and power of God. It can be irresistible to want to share your story about how God has transformed your life with anyone who will listen.
Recently in pop culture a young celebrity who was struggling with depression, anxiety, and the pressure of life in the spotlight found a new life in Christ and was publicly baptized. After posting about his baptism and beginning to share about his love for God, he started one of his concerts by saying “I’m not going to preach…” and then went on to preach the good news of the gospel. The video is familiar to so many Christians with comments recognizing the feeling. He described it as living in a town in a drought and knowing he had finally found water. He wants everyone who is thirsty to come and get a drink.
Of course, this video also had tons of negative comments from fans who didn’t want this young man to follow God. “We lost him,” they’d say. I can only speculate what this young celebrity must be thinking when he scrolls through his comments from disapproving fans but I know that he likely prays before his concerts and prays for his fans.
As a Christian, we have the honor of partnering with God to share the good news of the gospel message with a world in need. But we cannot simply share the message and hope it transforms people. The power of God is essential in preparing hearts to hear and receive. Before sharing all about Jesus it’s essential that we pray for the people who do not know Him yet.
Here is a good place to start on how to pray for unbelievers...
Pray for spiritual eyes and ears to be opened
Have you ever been around someone who knows the Bible incredibly well, knows all the arguments for and against it, and still continually rejects the message? I always have admired how many atheists know more about the Bible than some Christians do. What this reminds me is that coming into a relationship with God is not about not having enough access to information.
In our culture today we have access to almost too much information. If someone wants to find out answers to their questions about God they can easily go to google. To pray for someone who doesn’t believe in God it starts with a spiritual change in posture.
Some of us remember the moment when something changed for us when we heard about Jesus. There is something spiritual that has to happen before someone who has heard the same message hundreds of times can hear it in a new way again.
In the Bible, this is often referred to as spiritual blindness or deafness. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds." In our prayers for people who do not know God, this is a great place to start. Pray that God would open blind eyes and deaf ears to spiritually hear the truth. They likely have the truth being presented to them in some way or form–but they aren’t listening or seeing yet. Pray for it to happen!
God’s kindness leads to repentance
In the Bible we read that God’s kindness leads to repentance. In order to come into relationship with God we have to determine for ourselves that there is something wrong about our lives and existence without Him. To understand that, we have to be led to admit that we are in need of God.
In our world today it’s easy and encouraged to exist as though we do not need God. There is great opposition in our culture to the message of the Bible. Instead of surrender to God, dying to self, and embracing limitations, our culture encourages us to do things ourself, focus on our individual success and goals, and prove ourselves on our own.
But God is far too kind to let us embrace a life like that. Instead, His kindness leads us to repentance to see that there is something amiss with the world and something off in us until He comes to heal and restore. This is something only God’s kindness can do. When praying for unbelievers, pray they would be led to repentance by God’s kindness to them. Repentance is a major step in learning to depend on God and embrace His better way.
Pray against spiritual deception
If you read my book “How Much More?” you might remember a chapter about not just praying for things but also praying against things. There is a war going on all around us as believers all the time. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget this in our prayer lives and to focus only on what we are praying for. I think that’s missing a major piece of the picture. Answers to prayer were delayed in the Bible because of the spiritual battle going on–we can assume the same still happens today.
Looking back at 2 Corinthians 4:4 here is the full verse in the amplified version, "For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God." The "god of this world" is satan.
When praying for someone to believe in God it’s not enough to pray for them to recognize Jesus for who His is–Lord. We also have to be praying against any spiritual opposition they might be experiencing in their life. For people close to us, God might reveal a specific thing that is stopping someone from experiencing the goodness of a relationship with God. If so, pray against that specific spiritual opposition.
If you are not sure what to be praying against, praying against spiritual deception is a great place to start. Our enemy is known as the deceiver and he wants to tell others that his ways are better than God. This deception is powerful even for believers, imagine how it must feel when you don’t know the truth of who God is and the victory He already has.
Pray against deception in unbeliever’s lives so that they can clearly see the truth of who God is and how He loves us without any distractions or confusion.