/BEGIN MAIN BODY OF TEXT//>
by Derek Gentle
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved" Romans
Salvation is a work of God within us; it is not simply a deal God makes with us and we
of our own accord readily accept. It involves the imparting of that which we do not naturally
seek. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die -- or to submit to the Lordship
of Christ. We can remember how, before Christ, we ran from God. Hence, as God appointed to
save the lost by the telling of the gospel, He has also chosen to save through the instrumentality of
the prayers of his people. Salvation is an inside job and we are dependent upon God to do an
internal heart-changing work in those for whom we are burdened.
We already see the first reason why we should pray for the lost: People are sinners by nature.
Salvation requires an overthrow of what we naturally are. Ephesians 2:3 recalls how that, "We all
once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the
mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others"
The situation of the unregenerate person is serious in another way -- Satan is at work within them.
This sounds terribly old-fashioned to the modern mind, but Scripture teaches this repeatedly. For
example, Ephesians 2:2: "You once walked according to the course of this world, according to
the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" That
word, "works" -- "works in the sons of disobedience" -- is the word where we get "energizes." The
sinister influence of the evil one is internal and dynamic. It has an influential and powerful effect
upon the person. Other passages teach the same basic premise and add other nuances of insight:
The Bible teaches that the devil has ensnared the lost. Paul tells us what kind of attitude
we should demonstrate in dealing with opponents of the Christian message: "In humility
correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they
may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the
devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (1st Timothy 2:25-26). Notice the
entrapment: God has to grant repentance because they are so spiritually disabled that they
cannot do it on their own. And notice why this is: they are ensnared and taken captive.
We know about substance abuse addictions and sexual addictions and gambling addictions; this is
an addiction of self enthronement, a God-rejection addiction.
The devil has deceived the lost. "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1st
John 5:19). The word for lies pictures a mother holding a baby in her arms. And the this
verses pictures the unbeliever, in the arms of Satan, lulled to sleep, and unaware of their
The lost have been blinded. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are
perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded" (2nd Corinthians 4:3-4). One of the
problems of being lost is that one cannot see the obvious, they simply do not get it. It is not that
it is too deep to fathom; it is not a matter of intelligence. It is a spiritual seeing problem. Ever
notice how sometimes you can talk to a person and while otherwise they are very friendly and
intelligent, when the conversation turns to Christ suddenly they sound like they don't have any
So we are burdened for someone. What are some things we can pray for them?
We can pray for God to send conviction, that is that they will sense the urgency of their
need. At Pentecost, Peter's sermon was interrupted by his listeners, "Now when they heard this,
they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what
shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) Conviction is when God call us to call to account and show us our fault.
We can ask God to send enlightenment. Paul was commissioned by God to go to the
gentiles, "To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of
Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are
sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).
We can pray that God would call and draw, attracting them to Christ. While we,
in our natural condition, are turned off by God, He has a way of engineering circumstances that
cause us to be drawn to Him. "He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (2nd Thessalonians 2:14). Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the
Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44)
We can ask God to destroy mental strongholds, to remove the barriers between them and
Christ. Being a lost person is hard work. God gives witness to Himself in powerful ways. And
the person who doesn't want to turn to Christ has to defend himself against the guilt and feelings
of foolishness for rejecting Him. So they build defensive walls to keep those feelings out -- and to
keep God from "meddling" in their lives. Some of these wall are made of intellectual
rationalizations, some of the memories of bad experiences at church or with people who professed
to be Christians. Some walls are made with the bricks of procrastination. But all the walls are a
hardened bunker to keep God away. Prayer, however, can penetrate these walls: "The weapons
with which we fight are not human weapons, but are mighty for God in overthrowing strong
fortresses. For we overthrow arrogant `reckonings,' and every stronghold that towers high in
defiance of the knowledge of God, and we carry off every thought as if into slavery -- into
subjection to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:4-5, Weymouth).
/END MAIN BODY OF TEXT//>