Remembering…

It’s hard to believe it has been 17 years since the horror of 9/11. Though the days that followed were grief-stricken, I miss the coming together as a nation and the expression of faith from those days.

I saw the following on a couple of different places on Facebook. I don’t know who originally put it together. But it’s a poignant reminder that we never know what a day may bring forth.

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It also reminds me of a quote from Jim Elliot, who died just before the age of 30 at the hand of others: “When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!”

Enjoy every day as if it were your last, and be ready in case it is.

I am not sure how many of those we lost on 9/11 had made arrangements for eternity. I hope they all did. If you have not, please read more here.

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Book Review: Full Assurance

For several years I struggled with whether or not I was really a Christian. During that time we visited my mother-in-law’s home, and I discovered on her book shelves Full Assurance by H. A. Ironside. I borrowed it, and it helped me with one key point in particular.

Recently while looking for something else on my bookshelf, I came across this volume again (I guess that means I never gave it back – sorry, Mom!) I couldn’t remember much about it except for the one point that had helped me so much some 30 or so years before, so I decided to read through it again.

Ironside says in his introduction that he wrestled with assurance for a while himself, and he wanted to “make as plain as I possibly can just how any troubled soul may find settled peace with God” (p. 7). He said that “so many people who profess to want help along these lines are too indifferent to investigate,” but he wanted to appeal to “earnest seekers after truth” (p. 7). He assures that God cares about us and wants us to rest in His salvation.

In subsequent chapters he unpacks several verses that speak specifically of assurance, like Isaiah 32:17 (“And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”) and Colossians 2:1-3 (especially verse 2: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding“).

Then his longest chapter deals with “Difficulties Which Hinder Full Assurance” in the form of questions and answers, like “How can I be sure I have repented enough?” and “I do not feel fit to come to God” and “I don’t know if I can hold out.”

Ironside had been a preacher for almost 50 years at the time of this writing, and he deftly handles every issue from the Scriptures and shares several anecdotes to illustrate his points.

The point I mentioned having trouble with was whether I had repented “right” or “enough.” Forgive the long quote, but I wanted to share his whole answer here:

Very often the real difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the meaning of repentance. There is no salvation without repentance, but it is important to see exactly what is meant by this term. It should not be confused with penitence, which is sorrow for sin; nor with penance, which is an effort to make some satisfaction for sin; nor yet with reformation, which is turning from sin. Repentance is a change of attitude toward sin, toward self, and toward God. The original word (in the Greek Testament) literally means “a change of mind.” This is not a mere intellectual change of viewpoint, however. but a complete reversal of attitude.

Now test yourself in this way. You once lived in sin and loved it. Do you now desire deliverance from it? You were once self-confident and trusting in your own fancied goodness. Do you now judge yourself as a sinner before God? You once sought to hide from God and rebelled against His authority. Do you now look up to Him, desiring to know Him, and to yield yourself to Him? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you have repented. Your attitude is altogether different to what it once was.

You confess you are a sinner, unable to cleanse your own soul, and you are willing to be saved in God’s way. This is repentance. And remember, it is not the amount of repentance that counts: it is the fact that you turn from self to God that puts you in the place where His grace avails through Jesus Christ.

Strictly speaking, not one of us has ever repented enough. None of us has realized the enormity of our guilt as God sees it. But when we judge ourselves and trust the Saviour whom He has provided, we are saved through His merits. As recipients of His lovingkindness, repentance will be deepened and will continue day by day, as we learn more of His infinite worth and our own unworthiness (pp. 89-90).

One other point that I remember being struck with, though I can’t find now the specific place he discusses it, is from Hebrews 6:11-12: “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Showing “diligence to full assurance” helped me understand that when we’re having problems along this line, we need to “be not slothful” but diligently seek God’s Word for the answers rather letting doubts and questions fester in the background for years.

I have many places marked in the book. Here are a few of the helpful, standout quotes:

It is well to remember that some vivid emotional experience is not a safe ground of assurance. It is the blood of Christ that makes us safe and the Word of God that makes us sure” (p. 29).

Faith is not the savior. Faith is the hand that lays hold of Him who does save. Therefore the folly of talking of weak faith as opposed to strong faith. The feeblest faith in Christ is saving faith. The strongest faith in self, or something other than Christ, is but a delusion and a snare, and will leave the soul at last unsaved and forever forlorn (p. 39).

Assurance is not based upon any emotional change, but whatever emotional experience there may be, it will be the result of accepting the testimony of the Lord given in the Scriptures. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. That Word believed gives full assurance (p. 45).

So long as a man considers himself worthy there is no salvation for him; but when, in repentance, he owns his unworthiness, there is immediate deliverance for him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without repentance the sinner is unable to believe unto salvation (pp. 91-92).

Many times Ironside counsels readers to study the Bible:

As soon as one knows he is saved, he should begin, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, a careful regular, systematic study of the Word of God. The Bible is our Father’s letter to us, His redeemed children. We should value it as that which reveals His mind and indicates the way in which He would have us walk. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The study of the Word will instruct me in the truth, it will show me what needs to be rectified in my life and walk, it will make clear how I may get right with God, and it will guide me in paths of uprightness. No Christian can afford to neglect his Bible. If he does, he will be stunted and dwarfed in his spiritual life, and he will be a prey to doubts and fears, and may be carried away by every wind of doctrine (p. 48).

Nothing will make up for lack of this diligent study of the Bible for yourself. You cannot get the full assurance of understanding without it. But as you search the Scriptures, you will find truth after truth unfolding in a wonderful way, so that doubts and questions will be banished and divinely given certainty will take their place (p. 50).

How necessary then for His redeemed ones to study His Word in dependence upon His Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered both from the fears that are a result of ignorance of His truth and pride that is a result of self-confidence. The liberating Word alone will give to the honest, yielded soul who searches it prayerfully, in order that it shall have sway over his life, the full assurance of understanding, for it is written: ‘The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple'” (p. 54).

There’s a very helpful section for those fearing they might not be “elect” or “predestined,” but it’s about three pages long, too long to share here. But one excerpt: “But what does the Word say? ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ Are you ungodly? Then He died for you. Put in your claim and enter into peace” (p. 92).

I have seen this book listed by various titles just Full Assurance, or Full Assurance: How to Know You’re Saved; Full Assurance, or A Series of Messages for the Anxious Soul, and the author’s name sometimes listed as Harry A., most times as H. A. Ironside. I assume they are all basically the same book, but I don’t know whether there might have been some revisions between reprintings. The copy I have is from 1968, but it says it is a revised edition. If you look at Kindle versions, check the reviews first: one I came across said that several chapters were left out.

This book is an excellent resource especially for those who have wrestled with assurance of salvation or those who counsel such people, but it is also a good resource for those who want to learn more about what salvation is or for those who are already saved to understand and appreciate more what their salvation involves.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday ,Let’s Have Coffee, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are several thought-provoking reads found in the last week or so.

Every Testimony Is Dramatic and Miraculous. “There is nothing basic or boring about the life-transforming power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The angels throw a party every time someone comes to Christ, and the parties aren’t less enthusiastic for the freckle-faced eight year olds. Salvation is never small. It is big and dramatic and miraculous, every single time.”

Is Prayer Enough?

What Jesus Said About White Privilege.

7 Stabilizing Principles in a Chaotic World, Part 3: Everyone Is Made in the Image of God. Even the people on the other side of the political fence or the ones who drive us crazy. And we “need to treat everybody—everybody—with that kind of respect.”

How You Might Break the Third Commandment in Church, HT to Challies.

What to Do When a Friend Loses a Baby, HT to True Woman. Much of this is good for other types of loss as well.

Give Children All of Your Attention. Some of the Time. HT to True Woman. I remember  as a young mom struggling with guilt when I did not give my children my full attention, yet feeling it was good for them to learn to entertain themselves sometimes. I thought of women in Bible times or even a couple of hundred years ago who had to do so much from scratch and could not have possibly sat on the floor playing with their children eight hours a day. But it is good to set everything aside for one-on-one time together sometimes. This post has some good thoughts along these lines.

How to Leave Porn Behind, HT to True Woman. Good thoughts on “radical repentance” for any sin.

3 Reasons Contemporary Worship Is Declining, and What We Can Do to Help the Church Move On. I don’t agree with every point here, but I especially like this: “We’ve done ourselves and the church a disservice by insisting that there are two kinds of worshipers, traditional and contemporary…Our musical tastes don’t dictate how we worship, our theology does. Both of these extremes are toxic. All worship is historic because it recalls the creative and redemptive acts of God. All worship is contemporary, because we’re doing it now. All worship is future, because it foretells the coming resurrection.”

And, finally, a smile found on Pinterest. This is close to how I really think now, except I say 20. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Free Indeed

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Glorious Freedom

by Haldor Lillenas

Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain;
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain.

* Refrain:
Glorious freedom, wonderful freedom,
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator,
Now and forever He shall be mine.

Freedom from all the carnal affections,
Freedom from envy, hatred and strife;
Freedom from vain and worldly ambitions,
Freedom from all that saddened my life.

Freedom from pride and all sinful follies,
Freedom from love and glitter of gold;
Freedom from evil, temper, and anger,
Glorious freedom, rapture untold.

Freedom from fear with all of its torments,
Freedom from care with all of its pain;
Freedom in Christ, my blessed Redeemer,
He who has rent my fetters in twain.

John 8:32, 3: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Laudable Linkage

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I have just a few this week, but I wanted to go ahead and share them lest I end up with an overly-long list next time.

What Does It Mean to “Accept Jesus”? “Accepting Jesus is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.”

Is It “Unspiritual” To Be Discouraged? HT to Challies.

Don’t Leave Your Convictions Behind To Get Ahead, HT to Challies.

A Genealogy of Grace (Mothers of the King). “Accept the fact that every family line, including yours, is a trail of wreckage and debris due to sin. When you do, you will learn to see something better and brighter. You will see his grace and goodness, bringing life out of ashes, light out of darkness, and glory out of decay.”

Would Bath-sheba Have Joined the #MeToo Movement? People have been debating for centuries about whose fault it was that David and Bathsheba fell into sin. I am not posting this to get into that, but I thought the author made some good points that are not often discussed in Christian circles and should be.

A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day, HT to Linda. Thoughts on honoring mothers without alienating others – principles good not just on Mother’s Day and not just in church. I especially liked “The Wide Spectrum of Mothering” under #2.

A different video I watched this morning made me think of this hymn, so I looked it up next.

Happy Saturday!

See the Destined Day Arise

I shared this hymn a couple of years ago, but it is on my mind this season as we particularly remember in gratefulness Christ’s death on the cross for us. This hymn was originally written by Venantius Fortunatus in 569 and was paraphrased or translated by Richard Mant in 1837. The original lyrics are here. In the past few years it has been reworded a bit and a chorus added by Matt Merker.

See the destined day arise! See a willing sacrifice!
Jesus, to redeem our loss, hangs upon the shameful cross;
Jesus, who but You could bear wrath so great and justice fair?
Every pang and bitter throe, finishing your life of woe?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Lamb of God for sinners slain!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, we praise your name!

Who but Christ had dared to drain, steeped in gall, the cup of pain,
And with tender body bear thorns, and nails, and piercing spear?
Slain for us, the water flowed, mingled from your side with blood;
Sign to all attesting eyes of the finished sacrifice.

Holy Jesus, grant us grace in that sacrifice to place
All our trust for life renewed, pardoned sin, and promised good.
Grant us grace to sing your praise, ‘round your throne through endless days,
Ever with the sons of light: “Blessing, honor, glory, might!”

For His Name’s Sake

It happened Thursday morning that my reading from Daily Light on the Daily Path intersected with my Bible reading. The Daily Light passage for September 28 is as follows:

They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. Numbers 6:27.

O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. Isaiah 26:13. We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name. Isa. 63:19.

All people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. Deut. 28:10. The LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people. I Sam. 12:22

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. Dan. 9:19. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Psalm 79:9,10. The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. Prov. 18:10.

Obviously, what those verses all have in common is God’s name, and there are multitudes more in the Bible. We may be somewhat familiar with the last one, but have we ever prayed for forgiveness, as Daniel did, or help, as Asaph did in Psalm 79, for God’s sake, for the sake of His name, for His glory? I have to admit, most often my focus is on my own need and wanting it resolved as soon as possible.

Part of my Bible reading was in Psalm 79 on this same day, which is quoted in this day’s Daily Light. According to my MacArthur Study Bible, this psalm was probably written after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He comments that in that time and culture, defeat of a nation was taken to mean the defeat of its god as well. Maybe that’s one reason God manifested Himself to Nebuchadnezzar later on – to show him that He had not been defeated, as well as to show him his need of Him.

Knowing those things magnifies the poignancy of OT saints being concerned for God’s name and, in sense, His reputation. God associated His name with Israel in a particular way. But what of NT saints, especially NT Gentile saints? What is our relationship to His name?

Are we called by His name?

Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name…That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Acts 15:14, 17.

 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named… Ephesians 3:14-15.

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 2 Timothy 2:19.

What benefits do we receive through His name?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. John 1:12.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11.

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 1 John 2:12.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 8:20.

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24.

Do our actions reflect on His name?

And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Acts 19:17.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. Romans 2:24.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrew 6:10.

Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? James 2:7.

Does His name influence our actions?

 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20.

Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Mark 9:37.

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Acts 9:15.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5-6.

Because that for his name’s sake they went forth…3 John 7.

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Revelation 2:2-3.

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith…Revelation 2:13a.

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Revelation 3:8.

What might it cost us to bear His name?

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. Matthew 24:9.

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 1 Peter 4:14.

I hope these verses encourage you, as they do me, to enlarge my vision in my prayers, my life, and my actions to concern for His name.

And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. Matthew 12:21.

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.

(Sharing with and Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

Save

Save

See the Destined Day Arise

See the destined day arise! See a willing sacrifice!
Jesus, to redeem our loss, hangs upon the shameful cross;
Jesus, who but You could bear wrath so great and justice fair?
Every pang and bitter throe, finishing your life of woe?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Lamb of God for sinners slain!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus Christ, we praise your name!

Who but Christ had dared to drain, steeped in gall, the cup of pain,
And with tender body bear thorns, and nails, and piercing spear?
Slain for us, the water flowed, mingled from your side with blood;
Sign to all attesting eyes of the finished sacrifice.

Holy Jesus, grant us grace in that sacrifice to place
All our trust for life renewed, pardoned sin, and promised good.
Grant us grace to sing your praise, ‘round your throne through endless days,
Ever with the sons of light: “Blessing, honor, glory, might!”

~ Lyrics: Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-600), tr. Richard Mant (1837), Public Domain (original lyrics here); Alt. words, chorus lyrics, and music: Matt Merker, © 2014

Knowing God, Chapters 15 and 16: God’s Wrath, Goodness, and Severity

Knowing GodWe’re continuing to read Knowing God by J. I. Packer along with Tim Challies’ Reading Classics Together Series. This week we are in chapters 15 and 16.

Chapter 16 deals with “The Wrath of God,” not the most popular subject today. As mentioned from a previous chapter, people like to think of God as grandfatherly and benign. But the Bible presents wrath as a part of God’s character, so it is wise to see what it has to say about it.

Packer defines terms and then sketches out some of the Biblical references, noting that there are more verses about God’s “anger, fury, and wrath than there are about His love and tenderness” (p. 149). “The Bible labors the point that just as God is good to those who trust Him, so He is terrible to those who do not” (p. 149).

Some object to God as displaying wrath because it seems “unworthy” of Him, or like a loss of control. But His wrath is not like human wrath. “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry when anger is called for…Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect?” (p. 151).

“God’s wrath in the Bible is always judicial–that is, it is the wrath of the Judge, administering justice” (p. 151). It isn’t arbitrary or capricious. It’s also “something which people choose for themselves. Before hell is an experience inflicted by God, it is a state for which a person opts by retreating from the light which God shines in his heart to lead him to Himself…(John 3:18-19)” (p. 152).

Packer then traces the wrath of God through the book of Romans, discussing the meaning and revelation of it as well as deliverance from it. Thankfully God has made provision for us to be delivered from His wrath by repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ, who took our sins on Himself at the cross, for salvation. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

The title of Chapter 16 comes from Romans 11:22a: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.” Packer begins by discussing how some of the “muddle-headedness” about God and what it means to have faith in Him have come about: people follow their own ideas instead of seeking what God reveals in His Word; people think all religions are equal and “draw their ideas about God from pagan as well as Christian sources” (p. 159); personal sinfulness has been downplayed, so people don’t see the need and aren’t open to correction; and, as has been mentioned on the chapters dealing with God’s justice and wrath, people “disassociate the thought of God’s goodness from that of His severity” (p. 159).

Packer then does one of the things I believe he is best at: presenting in distilled form an overview of of both God’s goodness and severity, which I could not begin to reproduce here without quoting half the chapter. But he says God’s severity “denotes God’s decisive withdrawal of His goodness from those who have spurned it (p. 163). “But God is not impatient in His severity; just the reverse. He is ‘slow to anger’… and ‘longsuffering'” patient and forbearing (p. 165). And he has done everything possible to bring people to Himself: “The Bible shows you a Savior who suffered and died in order that we sinners might be reconciled to God; Calvary is the measure of the goodness of God” (p. 165).

Praying for the Lost Scripturally

Photo courtesy of pixgood.com

Photo courtesy of pixgood.com

My late pastor used to frequently emphasize that we not let our praying fall into “Christian cliches,” but that we pray Scripturally. That doesn’t mean we used prayers or phrases in the Bible as magic words or a magical formula, but by seeing examples in the Bible of how and what to pray, we can know we’re praying in line with God’s will.

One night at the beginning of a prayer meeting, he mentioned noticing that there didn’t seem to be many instances in the Bible of Christians praying for unbelievers to become believers, though there were examples of their praying for a number of other things. This wasn’t his message for the night or anything he studied out: if he were preparing a sermon he would have developed the thought more fully before mentioning it. It was more just a thought that had occurred that day that he was throwing out there. Of course it’s certainly not wrong to pray for unbelievers. Paul said in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” But my pastor encouraged us to think of Scriptural ways to pray for them. This is something I am going to be watching for the next time I read through the New Testament, but here are a few thoughts along this line.

1. We can pray for God to send someone to tell them of Jesus. In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” That was something I prayed for my mother often. She was not open to talking to me about her spiritual condition, we lived 1,000 miles apart, and she was not inclined to go to church, so I prayed God would send someone across her path, perhaps a coworker, who would be a good testimony to her. At her funeral, where my former pastor presented the gospel clearly, I heard a number of “Amens” behind me and was astonished at the number of people who evidently knew the Lord there. I don’t know exactly how they were able to share with my mom, but I was touched at how God had answered that frequent prayer.

2. We can pray for their hearts to be “good ground.” In what we call the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Jesus talks about various people’s hearts as ground that the seed of the Word is dropped into. It doesn’t take root and grow in some because it’s snatched away, in others because their heart is stony, in others because thorns choke it out. But the one with “good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit.” Though we’re not specifically instructed to pray this way, I’ve prayed at times for hearts of lost loved ones to become good ground, for the stones to be removed, the bedrock underneath to be broken up, the thorns to be kept back, so that the seed of the Word can take root and bring forth fruit. I think God does that in some by bringing circumstances into their lives to soften them and by bringing them under the sound of the Word that they reject at first, but which gradually breaks down the stoniness. I think apologetics ministries are most helpful here: I’ve seen these types of ministries as well as creation-based ministries scorned a bit because they’re not the gospel.  Most, however, include the gospel and I think they help make way for the gospel.

3. We can pray for God to draw them to Himself. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

4. We can pray for the Word of God to have free course in their lives. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 says, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” I love the term “free course” there – to me it conveys the idea of being unhindered.

I’ve also prayed that God would “open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). Though in that passage that’s not part of a prayer, it’s what God says He will do through Paul, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to ask God to do the same through others. I’ve also prayed that people would realize that whatever they’re trusting in is not dependable and will not satisfy in the long run, or that whatever is keeping them from salvation is not worth it: though I can’t think of an instance in the Bible where that kind of thing is recorded as a prayer, I don’t think those are unbiblical prayers: I think they’re in keeping with the tenor of Scripture.

What do you think? Are these valid ways of praying for unbelievers? Do you have Biblical ways you pray for them?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21