Praying For The LostSeries: A Constant Sense
PRAYING FOR THE LO?ST
Pt.#9 – A Constant Sense
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / September 20, 2015
Our Seven Sundays In Sunday School is now underway.
Last year we posted a weekly average of 42 during this span of seven Sundays.
Our weekly average SS attendance thus far in 2015 is 35.
We’re going to have to finish strong to top last year’s average - - last Sunday we started with a 35.
Our SS campaign is not just about “numbers”.
Yet every number reflects another soul who is engaged to some degree in the study of God’s Word.
So, in this respect the numbers are worth noting.
If you really want to take the pulse of a congregation, SS attendance is a pretty important measuring device.
Our attendance says something to God… and it also says something to those around us - - to our church family.
It communicates a seriousness about being a disciple (student) of Jesus.
In this morning’s sermon I want us to consider the question, “How do we go about praying for the lost?”
Perhaps the best starting place to answer this question is to read the words of Jesus (Mt.7:13-14).
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Lk.19:10 declares, that Jesus came to seek and save THE LOST.
2Pet.3:9 notes that God “is patient…not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”
As followers of Jesus, we too, need to have a deep longing for others to be saved.
How can we help others come to know God and find the salvation that is offered only in Christ Jesus?
Paul states quite clearly that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Ro.1:16).
The chief means of leading others into a saved relationship with God is the presentation of the gospel.
Thus, we all need to bone up on how to better share the gospel with those who don’t know Christ.
2Pet.1:3 announces that “(God) has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,
through the true knowledge of His who called us by his own glory and excellence.”
Mt.9;35ff tells of an instance when Jesus was
“going about all the cities and villages, teaching…and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. Seeing the multitudes,
He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
This sad state prompted Jesus to tell His disciples (vss.37-38): The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Therefore beseech (pray to) the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers into His harvest.
We cannot help but observe that in this setting - - the going out to preach is first bathed in prayer.
This same exhortation by Jesus is given to those who are sent out in what is sometimes called “the limited commission”.
Lk.10:1ff tells of a time when Jesus sent out 70, two by two, to “prepare the soil” for His arrival.
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of harvest to send out laborers…”
It’s worth underscoring that those who are sent out by Jesus were to go with a strong reliance upon God.
Vs 4 4 “carry no purse, no bag, no shoes”
This early effort to preach the gospel reminds of us the words of Paul written to the church at Corinth.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” / 1Cor.3:6
One of the great mysteries about prayer is. HOW DOES IT ACCOMPLISH ITS WORK?.”
I don’t know the full answer to the question - - none of us do - - but we know from Scripture that God’s works with us.
In fact the emphasis and repetition of 1Cor.3:7 reminds us that the power of the gospel does not reside is us, but in God.
“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but GOD who causes the growth.”
Through the prophet Isaiah (Isa.55:11) God declares,
So shall my word be which goes from My mouth, it shall not return to Me empty,
without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding the matter for which I sent it.
None of us can say for sure how God works on the hearts and minds of men and women, but we know that He does.
So the starting place and finishing place for the sharing of the gospel is PRAYING for God’s help.
The task of taking the gospel to the first-century world had to be daunting to say the least.
Gathered in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension, the early Christians had to be somewhat apprehension.
Jesus had just given them the great commission, to preach the gospel to all the world (Mt.28:19).
Yet Acts 1:14 states, “these all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer…”.
Perhaps one of the strengths of our fellowship has also proven to be one of our greatest shortcomings.
We are quite strong on the need to STUDY the Word.
And I do would not want to downplay in any way the importance of studying the Scriptures.
(That what our Seven-Sundays attendance drive is all about).
Yet Acts 1:14 is insightful is it not? “these all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to PRAYER.”
Paul echoes this primacy of prayer in 1Tim.2:1.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men…”
As you no doubt know, the apostle Paul was well-schooled and quite articulate.
Read from Ro.9:1-5
Now, let’s note Ro.10:1 " My heart’s desire and MY PRAYER TO GOD for them is for their salvation.
This work of praying for the lost might well be the most underrated of any task we can embark upon.
In being underrated by many, we miss the significance and importance of SIMPLY PRAYING for the lost.
The beautiful thing about this assignment is that it is one that every one of us can do.
So … let’s do it!
Let us begin anew and continue steadfastly to pray for the lost.
Furthermore, isn’t it inspiring to know that we don’t have to concern ourselves with the eloquence of our prayers.
God knows our heart and He is quite capable of listening to and granting “the desires of our heart” (Ps.37:4).
This praying for the lost is a grand and glorious adventure that bestows upon us the privilege of partnering with God.
Before we close our eyes to pray, our praying needs to begin with OUR EYES WIDE OPEN.
We have often been guilty of narrowing our field of vision, drawing faulty conclusions about who might be ripe.
In Jn.4:35, Jesus told His disciples 4 “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Let’s not forget (as Paul emphasized in 1Cor.3:9), we are GOD’s fellow workers and it is GOD’S field.
One more passage and then I want to close with a brief assignment and one final thought.
Listen again to the words written by Paul in Col.4:2-4
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word,
so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;
in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
One large question comes to mind (to me) concerning this passage.
If Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit (which he was), why did Paul feel the need to ask
others to pray for him that he might have clarity of speech in sharing the gospel of Christ?
The only conclusion we can rightly draw from this is that Paul was confident that the prayers of others would help.
Our prayers are not just that God would grant us (yourself) to be a mouthpiece in sharing the gospel.
Different ones among us are talented/gifted and schooled in different ways.
You might not feel competent to teach a home Bible study with others, but others can.
So our prayers are not just about what we (you and me individually) can do for God.
Our prayers are about what God can do through us as a body of believers.
In this respect, your prayers may open a door for others to plant the seed.
And your steadfast praying may serve to water what others have planted.
Now, here’s our ASSIGNMENT - - it is something every one of us can do!
Make a list of people for whom you are praying - - write their names in a notebook if its helpful.
Pray for them by name. Pray for them often. Don’t cease praying for them.
The importance of this practice was impressed upon me anew not long ago.
I came to have a deep respect & affection for a man who is now one of our brothers in Christ.
In all candor, I was somewhat fearful about urging him - - I didn’t want to drive this man away by my earnestness.
So I began praying for him by name.
I did this deliberately and repeatedly, day after day.
I asked God to help me to know what to say and how to say it.
I petitioned God to guide me in the planting and watering process.
One Sunday, a few months later, this man came to me with tears saying, “I want to be baptized”.
Later on I came to find out that several others had been praying fervently for the same man (now a brother in Christ).
One last thought.
This is imaginary, but it might also prove one day to be quite real.
Think with me for just a moment …
What a joy it would be, if some day in the hereafter, some one in heaven comes to you and says,
“I understand it was your prayers that were responsible for my being here.”
One final text (Eph.3:20-21) and then we will pray.
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power
that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.