“Will you pray for me?” is an all too common request heard by Christians around the world. Even the nonreligious people sometimes nod toward spirituality and ask their Christian friends to pray for them. And as a hospice chaplain, I find myself praying daily with unbelievers not only are open to prayer but regularly ask me to pray for them. This has made me think through my approach to praying before an unbelieving audience and what I should and should not pray for.
Of course, some may throw a fit over my choice of the “with,” preposition, but I am, of course, using it loosely. Now, theologically, we understand that God does not hear the prayers of the unbelieving unless they come to trust in the Savior. But this blog is not about the ineffectiveness of the prayer of an unbelievers, it is about the effectiveness of a righteous prayer on behalf of the unbelievers they listen. Praying for/with the unbeliever can be a beneficial method of evangelism that many take for granted. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are praying with unbelievers present, you may want to consider praying for some of these items.
1. Pray For Their Prayer Requests
With the unbelieving, pray for what concerns them, but pray with a biblical filter. If they ask for relief of sickness, reconciliation with their mother-in-law, or God’s provisions and care, then why not pray for God’s common grace? Being aware of what concerns them, will open relational doors. Sympathizing, listening, and caring should be the mark of all Christians in relational evangelism. Praying for their concerns softens the heart of the unbelieving, making them more open to what you have to say. Rather than looking at it as cowardly release from suffering, see it as you pleading to God for His grace on their behalf.
2. Pray the Gospel
Praying the Gospel is a great way to remind unbelievers of the good news. This is especially good for those who are hostile toward proselytizing but are open to accepting prayer. Generally speaking, you don’t get turned away for prayer. As Brian Croft once said, “When the Gospel is prayed, it is heard.” When praying with unbelievers, pray the fullness and joys of the Gospel often.
3. Pray Biblical Truths
Similar to praying the Gospel is praying biblical truths. All of our prayers must be guided by Scriptural truth, and nothing is different when praying before the unsaved. These prayers may be the only sound theology they’ll ever hear in their lifetime. Pray biblically about their circumstance, pray for the proper response, pray for lessons to learn, and even pray for the character of God to be displayed or recognized.
4. Pray for the Blessings God Has Given
It is not wrong to recognize and acknowledge that God has granted to them many things in life. If anything, it is a reminder of the omnibenevolent God and how He is the ultimate giver of all things good. Acknowledging the Lord for His physical blessings and the common grace only gives glory and attention to Him, rather than the merit of their own hands. And this is a great sanctified evangelistic tactic.
So, the next time a non-Christian asks you to pray for him or her. Rather than brushing it off as a “filthy rags attempt” at piety, consider it an opportunity for Gospel truth to be heard and for you to capitalize on the power of prayer.