How Should We Pray for the Salvation of Others?
How Should We Pray for the Salvation of Others?
From Susie via Instagram:
What’s the best way to pray for unbelievers? My Jewish friends need the Holy Spirit to open their eyes, but they believe Jesus is a false prophet.
That’s a great question – something we should all be concerned about. One thing true about Christians is that we want other people to become Christians, to put their faith in who Jesus is and what Jesus did, especially what Jesus did at the cross and in His resurrection.
So, we speak to them about Jesus when we can – that is an important part of evangelism. But we also do the work of evangelism through prayer. As a matter of fact, I think we can say that in evangelism it’s more important to talk to God about men (in prayer) than it is to talk to men about God. Thankfully we don’t have to choose between one and the other – we should, we must do both! But we often neglect the role of prayer in evangelism.
Here’s a few principles to keep in mind in praying for those who do not yet believe:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.
We often like to feel as though we “lead” in our relationship with God. In truth, He calls and we come. This understanding of God’s initiative in salvation should make us more confident in evangelism, knowing that God is drawing people, and we can expect to see those whom the Father draws come to Him.
“Unless God thus draw, no man will ever come to Christ; because none could, without this drawing, ever feel the need of a Saviour.” (Clarke)
I don’t regard this drawing as “Irresistible Grace” or as regeneration – being born again before one comes to faith. But it is God’s prior work, absolutely essential in the work of salvation. God works in us first before we can come to Him.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Those who are perishing and for whom the gospel is veiled have been blinded by Satan, the god of this age.
It doesn’t mean they are innocent victims of Satan’s blinding work. Satan’s work upon them is not the only reason they are blinded. John 3:19 says, this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Though men love the darkness, and choose the darkness, Satan still works hard to keep them blinded to the glorious gospel of light and salvation in Jesus.
We notice also that it is the minds of the unbelieving that are blinded. Of course, Satan also works on the heart and the emotions of the lost, but his main battleground is the mind. Can’t we see a strategy of Satan in working hard to make people think less and learn less and use their minds less? This also is why God has chosen the word to transmit the gospel, because the word touches our minds and can touch minds the god of this age has blinded.
Understanding Satan’s strategy with unbelievers should affect how we pray for the lost. We should ask God to shine His light, to bind the blinding work of Satan, and to give faith to overcome the unbelief that invites the blinding.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We should pray for kings, rulers, those in authority – and we should pray for everyday people as well.
- Pray that God would draw them.
- Pray that the veil that prevents them from seeing Jesus would be taken away.
- Pray that the blinding work of Satan would be hindered.
- Pray that they would come to a knowledge of the truth.
- Pray that they would repent and believe.
- Pray in faith, leaving the results to God.
Why is the devil referred to as the morning star in Isaiah 14, whereas Christ says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” in Revelation 22:16?
Isaiah 14:12 – “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!”
Revelation 22:16 – “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
The name Lucifer means morning star or day star. In fact, some people debate whether Lucifer is a title or a name. If it’s to be regarded as a name, then you could translate it morning star or day star. Here it refers to a brightly shining object in the heavens. People made note of isn’t it the planet Venus, and particularly regarded it as the morning star, the star that you see often in the sky in the morning, it’s the shining object there.
So here, I would say that this refers to Satan, in his imitation of Jesus, in His own glory. Now, the glory of Jesus infinitely surpasses the glory of Satan, who is Lucifer. But you could say that Satan does have some kind of glory in and of himself. He’s Lucifer, he’s the morning star or the day star, he had this exalted place, and he was the son of the morning. As it says later in Corinthians, he appears as an angel of light. So, there’s some likeness there.
So, Lucifer is a Hebrew name meaning day star or morning star. But later in the Greek Scriptures, we see Jesus so far surpassing him. Jesus is the true glory of God, the true Morning Star, that emblem of God’s new work every morning.
Lucifer is a title or name for our adversary, Satan, the devil himself. It refers to the whatever glory Satan has in and of himself, which is not to be compared with the glory God has, but it is a glory all of its own. It’s like comparing the glory of Venus, the Morning Star, as it shines in the sky, to the glory of the Sun itself. They’re incomparable.
Is it a sin to believe in the theory of evolution?
Maybe. Let me clarify that. There are a lot of wrong beliefs which people have because of ignorance. I think God is gracious to our ignorance. Our ignorance is a form of sin. But I think it’s an aspect of sin towards which God shows a lot of grace.
So, there is sin that comes from ignorance, but then there’s sin or wrong beliefs which people hold out of rebellion. If anybody holds the theory of evolution as a way to replace God, that’s a sin. You’re trying to take God away from His place as the creator of all things.
Now, I do know that there are Christians who believe in what is called theistic evolution, the idea that evolution was the mechanism by which God used to create biological life on planet Earth. By the way, there’s really no debate that evolution exists. Obviously, creatures and species on this earth change over time. But we’re talking about the difference between two things. On the one hand is what people call micro evolution, which would be relatively small changes in organisms and species over many, many years. There’s also the concept of macro evolution, where things become entirely different species over time.
There is abundant biological evidence for micro evolution. It’s one of the wonders of God’s world. Now, I have to speak reservedly about this because I’m no scientist. I’m a Bible book guy. But to my understanding, there is no incontrovertible evidence about macro evolution, where one species turns into another, such as that a fish eventually became a human being. I just don’t think that there’s evidence for that. But there is vast evidence for micro evolution.
In summary, to use evolution to replace God is sin. I think is wrong to regard macro evolution as the means by which God created species, and it should be pointed out as being wrong. But it’s not at all sin on the same level as the sin of taking away God’s place as Creator. There are a lot of questions tied up with this, but I would simply make that distinction.
How would you bring the Gospel to our Jewish friends?
How would you bring the Gospel to our Jewish friends, knowing that they think that they are all set?
Here’s the difficult with that question. When you talk about your Jewish friends, it’s a little difficult for me to know what kind of Jewish friends they are. There is a huge spectrum regarding what Jewish people may believe. There are many atheistic, secular Jews who view their Jewishness as merely their ethnicity, and maybe a few customs that they keep. The other end of the spectrum would include extremely Orthodox Jewish people, and there’s a whole continuum of people in between. So, I don’t know if you’re talking about Jewish friends who are atheists, mildly religious, or very religious and serious about their Judaism.
In general, I have heard some great advice from a man I really respect and recommend to you, named Joel Rosenberg. You can find his content here on YouTube and on many other outlets, such as The Rosenberg Report, which discusses current events in the Middle East, Israel, and the Arabic world.
I once heard Joel Rosenberg say that many Christians make a mistake in Jewish evangelism. They think they can only talk to Jewish people about the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanakh. Well, that’s a mistake. We can speak to Jewish people about the New Testament.
So, I would say yes, obviously, pray for them. But don’t be shy about talking to them about the New Testament, and about Jesus – who He is and what He did. Many Christians, with the best of intentions, suppose that if they just read Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 to this Jewish person, they would surely come to faith. And no doubt Jewish people have been led to faith in Jesus as their Messiah through reading Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22.
But many Jewish people have heard those passages before. Oftentimes, it’s best just to talk to them about Jesus, and to recommend to them that they read the New Testament. Very few Jewish people have actually read the New Testament for themselves. So, I recommend to people that they do this.
I would also recommend another ministry called One for Israel (oneforisrael.org). They do an amazing job of evangelism through talking about Jesus and the truth of Christianity to an Israeli and Jewish audience. They have a huge YouTube presence, and I would strongly recommend it to you. There share many thrilling testimonies about Jewish people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
What do you think about people who blow on people to supposedly give them the Holy Spirit after the pattern of what Jesus did in John 20:22?
At best, I think it’s a distraction. At worst, I think it’s more of a theatrical trick. Here’s what we understand. If you want to help somebody to receive the Holy Spirit, don’t blow on them. Lay hands on them and pray for them. Several times in the book of Acts, and in the New Testament letters, we find the example of believers laying hands on people and praying for them to receive the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit. That has a legitimate biblical pattern. But the idea of blowing on somebody for them to receive the Holy Spirit seems to have been a one-time event. Jesus did it with the gathered disciples on the Sunday evening of Resurrection Sunday. And that was a one off. We don’t find that replicated ever again.
Here’s a general principle that we find in the Scriptures. If something was taught on by Jesus, and illustrated in the book of Acts, and taught on or explained in the New Testament letters, then we can pretty much regard it as being a normative practice for the Church. That’s something that the Church should do. But when certain things are only mentioned in maybe one of those three (the Gospels, the book of Acts, the New Testament letters), then those things may not be a pattern for the Church to follow throughout all times in all ages.
Now, you might ask, “Well, why did Jesus breathe on the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit?” I believe there are two things going on. Number one, in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word for breath is also the word for both wind and spirit. Breath, wind, and spirit are all the same word. For Jesus to breathe onto the disciples and say, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” was virtually to impart the Holy Spirit unto them. And it also brings back an echo to the book of Genesis, when God breathed into Adam, and he became a living being.
The reason we don’t breathe on people is that we’re not God who breathed into Adam. We’re not God who has the power to impart the Holy Spirit. I can lay hands on people and pray that God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon them and give them spiritual gifts, but I can’t impart the Holy Spirit to them. Only God can do that. We don’t breathe on people because we don’t stand in the same place as God does, including Jesus Himself, to impart the Holy Spirit to people. We do what we can do. The practice of laying hands on people and praying that they would receive the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Gospels, in the book of Acts, and in the letters of the New Testament.
What did the priest do inside the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement?
The priests would sprinkle blood upon the Mercy Seat, which was the ornate lid to the Ark of the Covenant which had artistic designs of the cherubim and seraphim upon it. That’s what the High Priest would do on the Day of Atonement. He would go in behind the veil, sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant, and presumably pray for God to forgive the sins of the nation – I don’t really know if that’s specifically detailed in the Scriptures. He would do that, and he would leave. That’s it. One man, one time a year, going in behind the veil into the Holy of Holies to access the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant was lost after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Since that time, we don’t know where the Ark of the Covenant is, or if it still exists. Our Ethiopian brothers and sisters believe that it’s on an island on a body of water in Ethiopia. I don’t put much stock in that belief, but I want to be respectful toward our Ethiopian brothers and sisters who are sometimes very strong in that belief.
The Ark of the Covenant was not in the Holy of Holies in the second temple, which was originally built by Zerubbabel and in the times of Ezra. This was also the temple during Jesus’ time. That temple did not have the Ark of the Covenant in it. The people of Israel never built a new Ark of the Covenant. According to my understanding, during the days of the Second Temple, the High Priest did not go behind the veil at all on the Day of Atonement, but simply sprinkled the blood on the veil itself. The Holy of Holies was an empty room which nobody entered.
Why did the Prophet Isaiah say, “His name shall be Immanuel,” when “Jesus” was His name?
Why does the prophet Isaiah say, “His name shall be called Immanuel,” while the Gospel of Matthew shows that His name is Jesus?
Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Good question. This famous prophecy in Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah when it says, “They shall call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel means, “God with Us.” Sometimes a name is given as a title or even simply as an attribute. It was very strong in the Hebraic mind that a name defines a person. If a person was very reliable, you could say his name is reliable. People didn’t go around actually call him “Reliable.” It’s a figure of speech that was common to the ancient Near East.
So, it’s not that Jesus had Immanuel on His business card, so to speak, but He fulfills that name, “God with Us.” Jesus Christ walked this earth as a man, but He was more than a man. Jesus of Nazareth was God with Us – God incarnate. When the book of Revelation describes Jesus in His glorious second coming, it says, “His name is called Faithful and True.” It doesn’t mean that people are going to yell out, “Hello, Mr. Faithful. Hello, Mr. True.” It just means that those two things so define who He is that, in the thinking of the ancient Near East, you could say His name is called Faithful and True. In the same way, you could say His name is called Immanuel, because He is the utter and complete and perfect fulfillment of the principle, “God with Us.”
Will Christians who don’t believe in the rapture be raptured?
The quick answer is yes. It is possible for a true Christian to be wrong about what the Bible says about the catching away of the Church, which we commonly call the rapture. They could be wrong about that yet still of course be one of God’s people, included in the number of those who are caught up to heaven. So, the quick answer to that is yes.
We need to constantly remind ourselves that we are not saved by the degree of our theological correctness. Please understand, I’m really big on having correct theology. My life’s work is helping people to understand the Bible not in error, but correctly. I work hard at it. I’m a big believer in having the best, most correct theology that we can have.
But salvation is not a matter of passing a theology test. You have to know some things for sure. You have to know a good portion of the truth about Jesus, about what He did when He died on the cross, and what it means that He was resurrected, when He rose from the dead. But it’s not like a person can be “more saved” because they’re more theologically correct.
There is a lot of diversity and disagreement among Christian brothers and sisters about exactly what happens in the end time scenario. We are not saved by the degree of our theological correctness. Even if somebody had the rapture of the church completely wrong, God would receive them in this catching away of the church.
What are your thoughts on icons?
I do not agree with our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters in their veneration of icons. They would insist that they don’t worship the icon. But I would not agree with them in their practice of venerating or honoring iconic images. But that doesn’t mean that I think icons have no value. And of course, it doesn’t mean that I completely reject our Orthodox brothers and sisters. They’re certainly part of God’s family, albeit with some practices that I would disagree with. One of those practices that I would disagree with is their veneration of iconic images.
I won’t say that I’m an expert in it, but I understand some of the theological reasoning behind their veneration of icons. I regard them as often being nice pictures, interesting pictures, pictures that reflect something of the history of the Church. Because whatever you want to say about the ancient and modern history of Christianity, those segments of the Church associated with the Orthodox faith have played a very significant and at times very honorable role in the history of Christianity.
It is said that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than at any other period of church history all the time up to that point. In other words, if you added up all the martyrs of Christianity from 33 AD to the year 1900, there were more people who were murdered for being Christians in the 20th century than all those previous centuries combined. I don’t know exactly how you’d measure that, but I think it’s a reasonable proposition. Strikingly, the majority of Christians who have been murdered for being Christians in the 20th century came from the Orthodox communities. Russian, Turkish, Greek, and Armenian believers, from all over that part of the world, bore the brunt of persecution, not only in the 20th century, but especially in the 20th century.
For that and many other reasons, our Orthodox brothers and sisters deserve our respect and honor. And although there are several aspects of Orthodox theology or practice with which I would disagree, that’s between them and the Lord. I regard icons as often wonderful and interesting pictures, not as appropriate objects for veneration.
Why did God tell Moses to use a fiery serpent pole made of copper to heal the children of Israel? What does the serpent represent? (Numbers 21:5-9)
Jesus quoted this passage in John 3:14, where He said, “Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Let’s think about that. Jesus drew a likeness between His own experience of being lifted up on the cross, and the serpent being lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. It may be that our immediate reaction or response is slightly horrified. How would Jesus liken Himself to a serpent being lifted up?
In the Bible, serpents are always given a negative connotation, never a positive connotation. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he came to them in the form of a serpent. Now, that was before the serpent was cursed. We don’t know exactly what a serpent looked like before the fall. But we know what they look like after the fall, because of the curse that God pronounced upon the serpent. So, serpents always have a negative, a bad connotation, being associated with Satan in the Scriptures.
Bronze is a metal that is created through fire. Most metals have some kind of fiery refining process, but it’s especially present in bronze. Bronze is also associated with judgment in the Scriptures because it’s made through intense fire, and fire is associated with judgment. So, the bronze serpent was put up on the pole. The ideas at work are the serpent or Satan, together with bronze, associated with judgment. Therefore, when the serpent is lifted up in the wilderness, we see sin (the serpent emblem) being judged (bronze). And that’s what Jesus did at the cross.
Now, we’re not at all saying that Jesus became Satan at the cross. No, no. But remember what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that God made Him who knew no sin (Jesus Christ) to become sin for us. Jesus did not become a sinner on the cross. But He did become, as it were, sin itself, who was judged in every aspect on the cross.
So that’s the correlation there. In lifting up a bronze serpent in the wilderness, Moses was lifting up an emblem that speaks of sin judged. And that’s what the cross is all about. Sin is judged in the perfect person of Jesus Christ. That’s why the Israelites in the wilderness could look upon that bronze serpent and be saved and be delivered. For us as believers, we look unto Jesus and His perfect work for us on the cross. His substitutionary sacrifice paid for our sins but does so much more than that as well. In every aspect of that, we look to the cross and we are saved.
How can a young person live fully for God and hear His voice?
I’m a Christian and 15 years old but I’m struggling now…how do I live for God fully and hear His voice? I want to fully live for Him and die for Him!
God bless you, friend. I’m so excited to hear of a young man at 15 years old who is burning brightly and living strongly for Jesus and having that desire to do so. I was a young man, a young teenager, when I came to faith in Jesus Christ and got serious about really living my life for Him. I pray that the same wonderful work which I experienced as a young man living very devoted to the Lord will be your experience as well.
I would just say, faithfully live for Jesus every day. Stay close to your Bible. Stay close in prayer. Stay close with a gathering of other believers for encouragement and for fellowship. Worship God regularly. Commit yourself to these things. Commit yourself to the basics of the Christian life.
We have a series on our YouTube channel called Rooted. In that series, I tried to simply explain the basics of Christian life, such as how Christians should read their Bible, how Christians should pray, how Christians should gather with other believers, how Christians should practice some of these basic disciplines of the Christian life.
Give yourself to those foundational basics of the Christian life, and you’ll find that God will speak to you. God will strengthen you. God will guide you. It’s a trap for believers to become bored and uninterested in the foundational things of the Christian life. Now, we can build on that foundation. But we never can depart from it. The foundation of the Christian life is hearing from God in His Word, in prayer, in gathering together with other believers the best we can, and in telling other people about Jesus. Fasting can be an important and foundational aspect of your Christian life. Give yourself to these things early in your Christian life, and you’ll set a great foundation that God can build upon for decades to come.