When my husband and I married, we both thought he was a believer. We went to church, read the Bible, and prayed together. But some unexpected career disappointments in the first year of our marriage turned Dennis’ heart away from God, and one Sunday morning, as we were getting ready for church, he told me he wasn’t going, that he didn’t believe in God any more.
So began our married life together while we went our separate ways spiritually. It was a difficult twelve years.
My heart was broken with Dennis’ announcement. I wanted so badly for him to know God that I would have happily bonked him over the head with a two-by-four and dragged him over the border into the Kingdom. I knew he would thank me once he woke up on the other side! But he is six-three and I am five-two, so this wasn’t an option. My only recourse, it seemed, was to pray for Dennis’ salvation, and I began to do that earnestly.
But my question was: how should I pray for him? I suspected God would not be into the bonk-and-drag procedure, even though he was strong enough to do it. Somehow, in his absolute sovereignty, God has also decided to honor the choices people make of their own free will. So how could I pray that God would save my husband?
As I began to pray, I asked this question, and gradually, over the years, I learned how to appropriately and effectively pray for my husband’s salvation. If you long for someone you love to come to know Jesus, here are three ways you can pray for them:
First, you can ask God to reveal His overwhelmingly deep and unconditional love for the person you want to see come to Jesus.
Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44), and it’s God’s love that does the drawing. A strong, cold wind cannot blow the coat off a man’s back, but when the warm sun shines steadily and gently down on him, he will freely choose to remove it.
It is very appropriate for us to pray that God will shine his love down on the ones we want to see come to Jesus, so that they will be drawn to choosing him. In his first Epistle, John says, “We love him because he first loved us.” No one can love God first. It’s only as people discover his love that they can choose to respond and love him back.
Second, you can ask God to open the eyes of your loved one so they can see the Light.
“Seeing the light” has become a cliche, but it’s essential to salvation. II Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan will do everything he can to keep people from seeing Jesus, because he knows when they see him they will know the Truth and he will lose his control over them.
We cannot pray that God will force people to choose Jesus, but, because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have the right to pray that the huge obstacle of spiritual blindness be removed. Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6) When the Light shines on an unbelieving heart, it becomes very hard for that heart to reject the Truth that the light reveals.
Third, you can ask God to free your unbelieving loved ones from bondages that keep them from choosing him.
Adam and Eve were created with the freedom to choose to obey their Creator. When they chose disobedience, they sold themselves, and the whole human race, into slavery. The god of this age became our taskmaster. Jesus bought freedom back for us when he died on the cross. But that freedom does not always come to us automatically.
Satan will not let his slaves go without putting up a fight, and often there is a great struggle to claim freedom, both before and after we choose to give our lives to Jesus. Bondages of pride, rebellion, unbelief and fear restrict the ability of unbelievers to choose Jesus.
But as a believer, you can do spiritual warfare on their behalf. You can ask God to release them from the chains that keep them from freely choosing. In the Name of Jesus, you can claim the freedom he bought for them.
Praying for these three things is appropriate because it does not infringe on our loved one’s freedom to choose. It’s also effective. Dennis and I have been walking together, both in marriage and spiritually, for the last thirty years. God answered my prayers. He revealed his love; he removed the spiritual blindfold; he broke the chains of unbelief that kept Dennis from choosing him.
You cannot force salvation on the unbelievers you know and love, but you can pray love, light and freedom into their lives. Those prayers will enable them to choose, of their own free will, to come into the Kingdom of God.