It was one of those moments that I will never forget. Leading a Sunday School conference, I introduced the possibility that classes should have an evangelistic prayer list of unchurched/lost people to pray for. The near incredulous response from an attendee set me back. In a near rage, he retorted, “It’s not biblical to pray for lost people to get saved!!” The entire group looked back to me to see how I would respond to this apparently true statement (You know that if you say something forcefully enough – most folks think it must be true). I only had to quote one verse…
Romans 10:1 – “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation”.
What does the typical class or small group pray for when they meet? Look at the white board and read the list of prayer requests after class:
- Traveling mercies
- Soldiers serving overseas
- Friends and family in the hospital
- The pastor (if they’re really spiritual)
- The church’s building campaign
- An errant son or daughter
All are excellent things to pray for and people who definitely need our intercession. But…
Very rarely do I ever find a class that is intentional about praying for unreached people to come to Christ. Yet James 4:2 states, “…you have not because you ask not.” Could it be that one of the reasons that we do not see more people coming to Christ in our churches and yes, even in our small groups and Sunday School classes is because we do not pray for the souls of our lost friends and neighbors?
Five years ago, we began addressing this issue in Oklahoma through a resource called “PowerUP Your Sunday School“. We simply asked classes to pray for their lost friends and neighbors each time they met for seven straight weeks. The results were startling. For example, Central Baptist Church in Crescent had not baptized anyone in three years. In the seven weeks that their classes prayed for their lost friends, they baptized six people.
A senior adult ladies class in Oklahoma developed an evangelistic prayer list with 87 names on it. Being a bunch of overachievers, they kept praying for the people on their list after the official seven weeks were over. One year later, 22 people on their list had come to Christ. One lady in the class had a son-in-law who was imprisoned. They added his name to the list, and while in prison he joined a Bible study and entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a picture of this group’s evangelistic prayer list and it is touching to observe.
Our prayers reveal our focus. Although we definitely need to pray for the physical needs of our family and friends, we should also pray for their spiritual needs as well. Prayers that are always about me and mine reveal an ego-centered, selfish heart. Prayers should also include intercession for the eternal destiny of our friends and neighbors.
And take it a step further! There are 6,426 known people groups on this planet that are unreached (less than 2% evangelized). These people groups represent over 2 billion people! Go to the International Mission Board (IMB) website and select a people group as part of the focus for your group’s evangelistic prayers this coming year.