How to Pray for the Lost

As members of Emmaus Road Church, our shared mission is to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. So what can you do today to practically and meaningfully engage in that mission?

You and I can't cause new birth in others.

We can't open the eyes of the spiritually blind.

Or replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

Or raise the spiritually dead.

If salvation is going to come to people in our city who are far from God, then God has to work.

Salvation belongs to the LORD!
— Jonah 2:9

But we also we know that God wills to save the lost through the witness and proclamation of the Church.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
— Romans 10:14

That means we do have a role to play. There are several specific things we can do (or neglect to do) that directly impact the mission of making and multiplying disciples.

  • We can pray by name for people we know who are far from God.
  • We can pursue relationships with people who don't yet know Jesus.
  • We can intentionally learn and practice ways to clearly explain the gospel so we're ready when opportunities arise.
  • We can talk about Jesus, bring the gospel up in conversation, and sow gospel seeds as often as possible.

Pray Scripture for the Lost‡

Let's start with consistent and persistent prayer. Here are some Scripture passages that can give you language and direction as you pray for people you know who don't yet know Jesus.

Ask God to mobilize more witnesses to share the gospel with them: "Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

Ask the Father to draw them to Jesus: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).

Ask the Holy Spirit to bring true conviction: "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8).

Ask God to give you boldness and ask God to perform signs and wonders to accompany your gospel witness: "And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, [30] while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29–30).

Ask God to grant them ears to hear the gospel with faith when it is shared with them: "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment as you pursue ways to engage in relationships with them for the sake of the gospel: "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings"  (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).

Ask God to open their spiritually blind eyes and to cause his light to shine in their hearts: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3–6).

Ask God to give you the words to say and the courage to say it when you are with them: "[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19–20).

Ask God to give you opportunities to share with them and wisdom to speak clearly when opportunities arise: "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—[4] that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak" (Colossians 4:3–4).

Ask God to grant them genuine repentance: "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:25–26).

‡ Adapted from Discipleship Journal, Issue 34, 1986.