How to Pray for Your Unsaved Friends and Family Members
By: Dr. Dillon Burroughs
How can we best pray for God to save our friends and family members who do not know Jesus? Only Jesus can change someone’s heart, but our prayers are a vital part of God’s process of transforming lives for eternity.
Scripture offers three key practices we can all apply to effectively pray for our unsaved friends and family.
Prayer 1: Ask God for an Open Heart
When Jesus was on the cross, He asked, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew lost people needed God to open the hearts of lost people for them to respond to His love.
When Stephen was killed for his faith, he offered a similar prayer: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). He also recognized lost people were sinners in need of salvation. He prayed for the forgiveness of others—even those who put him to death.
The apostle Paul also prayed for his fellow Jews to be saved. In Romans 10:1 he wrote, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” His goal was for his own people to open their hearts to the message of Jesus.
Prayer 2: Ask God for Opportunities to Share
Jesus did not complain that people would refuse His call of salvation. His concern was the lack of people who would share the gospel. He told the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). We are called to pray for workers who will share Christ and seek opportunities to share Jesus with others.
Sharing Jesus with others can sound intimidating. However, 1 Peter 3:15-16 notes, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Peter’s three aspects include:
- Personally serving Christ
- Answering questions about your faith
- Sharing your faith with gentleness and respect
Sadly, many Christians tend to only apply one or two parts of this command. Some are great at serving Jesus but are scared to talk with others about salvation. Others are bold at answering questions, but lack compassion and kindness toward people with their words or actions. Our goal must be to both live for Christ and share Him with others, asking God for strategic conversations where He can use our words to change the life of another person.
Even Paul, one of history’s greatest evangelists, asked God to help him make the gospel clear to others: “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:4). We are likewise called to pray for clear opportunities to tell the good news of Jesus to our unsaved friends and family members.
Prayer 3: Ask God for Opportunities to Serve
In the same chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul also notes, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:4). We can pray and share Jesus with others, but we also need to make the most of each opportunity through acts of service.
There’s an old saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s true! When we treat others with respect and go out of our way to help them with daily needs, these actions can open doors to deeper conversations about our faith.
Only Jesus can change the heart of another person, yet He often works through us to do it. How? Through prayer, sharing our faith, and through our actions. When we pray and act in faith based on our prayers of salvation for someone, God often answers in unique and exciting ways. Your answer may not come immediately, but He will answer in His perfect way and at His perfect time to fulfill His plan through you.
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Dr. Dillon Burroughs
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.