When I was in year 11, a lot of my mates at school used to try to get into pubs under-age. Many of them could do it. Yet I saw no point, not only because I did not drink; but also when I was 17 I looked like I was about 12 and found pubs to be very intimidating and scary places at the bet of times. But on my 18th birthday, I went around to see my older brother and he took me to his local pub in Rozelle, a suburb of Sydney, called The Three Weeds. I particularly remember excusing myself to go to the men’s room and whilst there, unbeknownst to me, my brother had told the entire front bar that his little brother had just turned 18. When I came out, all the patrons sang happy birthday to me and I was given my first drink, a complimentary shot of something called Tequila. (They may as well have given me a shot of Detol!)
The reason I tell this story is that I recall afterwards thinking about the sort of people who were at this pub, they were very different to the sort of people whom I normally mixed with, and not the sort whom I mixed with at the Anglican Church I attended. To my shame I remember despairing and thinking to myself, “as if anyone in that pub would ever become a Christian”. Yet the reason for my despair was due to my thinking evangelism and bringing people to faith in Christ is a merely human endeavour.
This sort of thinking I believe can and will lead us to one of two equal and opposite errors, the first of which I fell into:
- Despair – due to thinking that a person’s salvation is all up to us. So when people don’t come to faith we therefore deem our evangelistic efforts to be futile and that we are useless in regards to the extension of God’s Kingdom.
- Pride – due to thinking that a person’s salvation is up to us. So when people do come to faith we therefore deem our evangelistic efforts to be successful and that we are rather amazing in regards to the extension of God’s Kingdom.
Yet from the Scriptures we see very clearly that God is the One, and the Only One who brings people to faith in Christ. Have a look at 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:
 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
From this passage we see that:
- God gives the gives the growth – It is God who changes people’s hearts;God is the one who brings people to him, God is the one who saves.
- The Apostles were obedient in proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. planting and watering), but they also know that they could not raise the spiritually dead and could not give sight to the spiritually blind. Only the Great Evangelist, God the Holy Spirit can do this.
This is why prayer for the lost is so important. Firstly: it serves to protect us and rescue us from falling into one of these two errors. Secondly: when we pray for the lost, we are asking God to do what we cannot. Just like the Apostles, we cannot raise the spiritually dead nor can we give sight to the spiritually blind. Only God can do this.
So here are some things I hope in the Lord Jesus may be of some service to you when it comes to praying for the lost:
- Pray for love – that God will give you a real heart felt love for the lost
- Pray for intentionality – that God will enable you to go out and meet the lost (whether it be at the Golf club, in the shed, in the field, at the school gate, at the shopping queue), and befriend the lost
- Pray for conviction – that God will convict you of the plight and final destiny of the lost
- Pray for opportunities to give a reason for the hope you profess – and take them when they inevitably come.
- Pray for boldness & courage – in making opportunities to proclaim the lost.
- Pray for wisdom – to say the right thing at the right time and in the right way.
- Pray for unbelievers – the Saul’s that you know, the doubters, the curious, the indifferent. Pray that God will do only what He can do.
- Commit 2 Cor.4:7 to memory –
 But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
What a great reminder this is for us when it comes to praying for the lost and when it comes to evangelism! The Treasure is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a treasure of infinite worth.We have this treasure! You have this treasure
We are the jars of clay. Not exactly, the most flattering of descriptions, of you and me, not very complimentary is it? It indicates that we are frail and easily broken, and fragile. We are all jars of clay. Yet God uses us Jars of clay and the reason God uses broken vessels is to show that the power to save is God’s and not us. You don’t have to ‘be a Chappo’ – God will use you as you are – you jar of clay you! This is always God’s Way.
I once heard the former Archbishop of Sydney Harry Goodhew tell me that Gospel ministry in Australia is like “trying to plough concrete”. And as true is that is, and as often as sharing of our faith can feel like that, God can crack the concrete surrounding the unbelieving heart. He cracked Saul’s. He cracked my heart. He can crack anyone’s! So keep praying my fellow jars!