This article was originally published in Edition (1) of Prayer Magazine, Autumn 2004.

Praying your friends into God’s Kingdom

by Naomi Hill

I still remember the first time I was praying for someone and they surrendered their life to God. I had been part of the team leading the youth programme at a summer camp. On the Saturday, a guy who wasn’t actually in our youth programme, popped in to see what was going on. We got chatting and he told me he wasn’t a Christian but that he had people around him who cared about him and were praying for him regularly.  I felt a burden to pray for him, too. The next day in church, I spotted him sitting a few rows in front of me. The preacher shared the gospel and at the end of his message, he invited anyone who wanted to surrender his or her life to God for the first time, to join him at the front.

I immediately started praying for him and asking God that this would be the moment that he would enter God’s Kingdom. After a little while I opened my eyes but he was still in his seat. I closed my eyes and continued to pray for him. I opened my eyes again, hoping that his seat would be empty and that he would be at the front of the church. But no, he was sitting firmly in his seat. I was determined not to give up, and as I opened my eyes the third time, I’ll never forget what I saw … an empty seat in front of me and there he was, at the front of the church surrendering his life to Jesus.

It was an incredible feeling to know that as I had been picturing the gates of heaven and asking God to welcome him in, that’s exactly what had happened! I was so pleased that he could now call himself a child of God. I knew he would be in heaven forever and that God had a fantastic plan for his life. But as amazing was the sense that somehow the prayers I had been praying and the will of God and a soul had all come together in a way that I still don’t quite understand.

Since that day I have been convinced that it is only prayer that will draw someone into His kingdom. So, if you have friends and family who are not yet Christians and you really want them to know Jesus as you do, PRAY !!!!

The first thing to remember is that God cares for and loves those whom you love and that it is He who saves. We can do our best to drop incredible things about Jesus into conversation; we can serve our friends and families with acts of kindness in the name of Jesus; we can even invite them to church.

All of that is essential and fantastic but it is only God who saves. So, we need to pray with this in mind, always remembering that He is the one with the power and the love. He wants all to be saved … He is able to save …Salvation is His to give … His name is Saviour …

Why don’t you take a few minutes and praise Him that He is the God who saves and wants to save those who you are praying for?

The second thing I have learned in praying people into the kingdom of God, is persistence. Pray persistently, don’t give up, keep praying. Remember the story of the widow in Luke 18.

It’s about a widow who wants justice and keeps asking and asking until she gets what she wants.

Luke records, ‘Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up … Will God not bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night’? Luke 18. It is easy to pray when we feel like it, but imagine how precious it is to God when we pray even when we don’t feel like it.

Why don’t you take a little time to recognise before God times when you are likely not to feel like praying for those whom you love to come into the kingdom? For example, waking up in the morning in a bad mood, having just had an argument with parents etc. Decide between you and God how you are going to overcome that to pray even when you don’t feel like it. I have found it helpful to write my prayers down. It’s amazing how encouraging it is to plot the progress of your relationship with God. It will encourage you and spur you on to continue praying when you are reminded of the answers you have received. So, go for it, grab a notebook and make it your journal. You’ll be amazed in a couple of months as you look back and see how God has worked and you will keep praying for those answers you haven’t had yet and that person who still hasn’t come to Christ.

The third thing to remember is that prayer works! John Wesley, the 18th century preacher and hymn writer said, ‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer.’ In other words, he was saying that the only thigs that God does, are answers to prayer. If we don’t ask Him to do things, He doesn’t do them. John Wesley believed this so much that he prayed for 2 hours every single morning.

I sometimes hear people complaining that they don’t believe that prayer works. I like what Willowcreek pastor Bill Hybles says, “The most common form of unanswered prayer is prayerlessness’.

So, if we really believe that prayer works, we need to pray and act like it!

Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours’. Mark 11v24.

Imagine asking your Mum or Dad to pass you the ketchup during dinner. You wouldn’t sit wondering if the ketchup would actually get to you or believe that the ketchup was too hard to pass or if they will be too awkward and not pass it. It is a ridiculous scenario, isn’t it? No, we simply ask for the ketchup and then hold out our hand for the ketchup to arrive in it. What Jesus was saying that we should ask confidently, with our hands out expecting the answer to come.

Why don’t you picture the person you are praying for, believing in God? Grab hold of that image and let it motivate you to keep praying.

The last thing to remember …. Jesus had compassion on those in need. He didn’t just see them and feel sorry for them. He really felt their deep need and was moved to do something about it. At times this deep empathy and compassion may move you to tears. The Bible promises that, ‘Those who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy. He who goes out weeping carrying seed, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him’. Psalm 125 v 5-6.

Why don’t you commit to living life in a real and deep way with those you are praying for? Be involved in their lives at the deepest level and don’t hold them or their situations at arms length even when it is hard.

Hopefully this has inspired you and been of help to you praying your friends into God’s kingdom. All you need to do now is …. PRAY!

Naomi Hill worked for Youth for Christ, in London.

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