When it comes to the spiritual state of your loved ones, prayer is the most critical way to exercise your influence. Our prayers have a profound impact on people's lives. If you want to have productive discussions with your friends and family about the gospel, it has to begin with prayer. The key is to learn to pray both consistently and effectively.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you pray for your loved ones.
1. Pray for opportunities to demonstrate love and service
Let's be honest. We all go through phases where causes or ideas are super important to us, and we talk about them all the time. And then, after a while, our interests change, and so does our emphasis. It's easy for loved ones to see our interest in Jesus that way.
But the discussion becomes a lot more compelling when we demonstrate that Christianity is more than a concept or an idea. Jesus is real and alive, and He is actively forgiving and transforming us. We show this in the way we love and serve them.
Ask the Lord to show you tangible ways that you can express Jesus's love for them. And when the Spirit reveals these opportunities, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
2. Pray for Christian influences
The Gospel of Luke tells us about the time when Jesus went home to Nazareth to minister. It didn't go too well. In fact, in the middle of the story, Jesus makes the following observation:
"Truly I tell you," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown" (Luke 4:24).
Sometimes it's hard for people we've known for a long time to take us seriously on matters of eternal significance. That's OK. What you want is for them to discover Jesus for themselves; it doesn't necessarily have to come from you.
When we pray for God to surround our loved ones with other Christians, it increases the gospel's net influence in their lives. It could be that they end up coming to you to process discussions they're having with others, or maybe someone else ends up leading them to the Lord. Either way, they get to meet Jesus, and your prayer is part of that process.
3. Pray for perseverance
In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, Jesus tells a story that reinforces the importance of praying and not giving up. When it comes to prayer, Jesus tells us that endurance is essential. But that's easier said than done.
Too often, we start with the best of intentions, but life's urgencies crowd out critical things like prayer. Before we know it, praying for our loved ones is no longer a top priority. We need to be mindful of this reality and ask God to equip, encourage, and inspire us to keep praying.
4. Pray for them, not against them
There's a good chance that you have loved ones that are involved in behavior or making decisions that you don't agree with. Maybe it's a wayward teenager or a sibling struggling with some sort of addiction. It's easy to focus on these behaviors and pray for God to fix them.
Remember, people don't have to be fixed to come to Jesus. And the gospel transforms them from the inside out. Don't let their behavior be a distraction from the essentials:
- They need lots of opportunities to be confronted by the gospel.
- They need hearts that are softened and receptive.
- They need lots of good examples of Christian faith.
What inevitably happens when you begin to pray against their actions, attitudes, and conduct is that your disapproval seeps out in your interactions with them. That puts them on the defensive and ultimately has a negative impact on the goal—to see them reconciled with God. But when you're praying for God to bless them and reveal Himself to them, that comes out in your interactions with them, too, and it helps build trust.
Expressing your love in prayer
Prayer is one of the purest expressions of love. Typically, when you do something kind for others, you receive the benefit of their thankfulness. Sometimes we do things for others because we want to feel appreciated. With prayer, we get to serve others without worrying that our motives are self-serving. And there is nothing more important than praying that those we love discover the riches of God's goodness and grace.
If you're interested in some pointers on becoming more effective at communicating, check out Sharing the Gospel: What Do I Need to Know?