When I was pregnant with my daughter, I asked a youth group if it would make sense if I went to my husband and said, “Honey, I really want to get pregnant.”?
I got a lot of confused faces. One boy asked, “Are you married?” (To that, I made a confused face.)
The point was, I was already pregnant. There is nothing I could do to get more pregnant. The deed was done.
Such is salvation. When Jesus died on the cross, John counts His last words were “It is finished”
Jesus’ last words meant that His suffering was over and the whole work His Father had given Him to do, which was to preach the Gospel, work miracles, and obtain eternal salvation for His people, was done, accomplished, fulfilled. The debt of sin was paid.
At that point, Jesus finished everything He wanted to accomplish. All of the sins of the elect were forgiven*. All His work was done: That includes the salvation he obtained.
Are things different today? Does suddenly he has to do something else to save us? I don’t think so. Praying for salvation is not a powerful prayer. Jesus has done everything He is going to do to save the entire world – John says, “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him does not perish but have eternal life.” He gave His son once. He cannot, nor He needs to, give Him again and again.
So what do we pray for? I can’t tell you what to do, or how to do it, but I can tell you how I pray for people who are not saved.
1) I pray they will be surrounded by witnesses and the witnesses will be bold. I remember going to a concert with a guy I met on Craigslist. (It’s kind of a long story.) About half way through the drive he asked me, “Are you a Christian.” I laughed. “How did you know?” It turned out we knew a lot of the same bands and musicians. It was neat to have something like that in common. Later on that evening he told me a guy at his gym was telling him all about Jesus and said if he read the Bible he would be convinced. I don’t know how long the man was witnessing to my new friend, but I can bet that I was an answer to his prayers.
2) Pray that your loved one is reading a Bible. Ephesians says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Bible and the Holy Spirit are almost used interchangeably in the Word. What one can do, so can the other. If your friend or relative struggles or doesn’t like to read, something like the New Living Translation is appropriate. I interchangeably use New King James and NASB. I like the language of the NKJ and like the accuracy of the NASB, but really it doesn’t matter what version one reads, only that they understand it.
3) Pray that they are deeply convicted of their sin. The need for forgiveness is universal, but first someone needs to admit there is something wrong. 1 John says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is very appealing to some one suffering because of their own wrong doing.
4) Invite them to church, or a church activity. Do not expect church to do all the work though. I prayed to accept Christ at the end of a church service, but that is not always the case. I have a friend who is dragged to church services a few times a year and he totally zones out. He never pays attention. I think one reason is because he didn’t go through the other steps.
The “steps” are a magic potion or guarantee. They aren’t a fool-proof recipe for making disciples. They are just a more specific way to pray for the unsaved. I believe that if we pray this way, though, in every instances, I’ve seen God move.
*This is a big part of the reason we do not punish and spank our daughter.