When we pray for evangelism, we often pray something like this: "Dear Father, please soften their hearts. Please send Christians in their path to continue to plant seeds, that they might hear the gospel again. Give them opportunities to repent and believe in the gospel. And Father, help us to be a good witness to them and love them in gentleness and kindness like Christ. Help us to be bold and preach Your gospel. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen." This is not a bad prayer. But it stops short. It fails to invoke God to work mightily. It speaks too timidly, too small, too routine. It is much too earthly, much too concerned about what can be done on this earth by men. We cannot be satisfied to pray in this way.
But, why do we pray for sinners in this way? It is in part because we forget that evangelism seeks to achieve what is impossible with man — the salvation of sinners. It is only possible with God (Matthew 19:25-26). The Holy Spirit, speaking through the apostle John, tells us why:
John 1 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Why is the salvation of sinners impossible with man? Because only God can give the right to sinners to become His children. Because saved sinners are born of God, not born of the will of the flesh or the will of man. Let's put it another way: only God can cause someone to be born again (cf. Jn 3:5-8). Only God.
What does the truth from John 1:12-13 mean for unrepentant sinners? It means that no matter how much they're interested, no matter how much truth they understand, no matter how much they come to church, no matter how much they read of the Bible, no matter how much they are afraid of hell, no matter how much they want to be saved, they cannot save themselves.
And what does the truth from John 1:12-13 mean for believers? It means that no matter how much we plead with them, no matter how many clever analogies we use, no matter how much we love them, no matter how much we want them to be saved, no matter how much time we spend with them, no matter how much we pray for them, no matter how much we ____ (fill in the blank), we cannot save sinners.
Regeneration, being born again, is not according to blood, the will of flesh, nor the will of man. It's according to God. Salvation is a gift from God (Eph 2:8). Salvation is from the LORD (Jonah 2:9) only.
This is shocking. And scary. It puts them in a desperate situation. When they realize their plight, they should be compelled to flee to the Lord and beg Him for Him to save them.
And, it puts us, as those who want sinners to be saved, in a desperate situation. Only God can save them. Only God can save them! When we finally comprehend this, we'll pray as we should:
"Dear Father, forgive them (Lk 23:34). They know not what they do. They are sinners, but be compassionate and gracious to them (Ex 34:6)! Have mercy on them, Father! O Lord, unless You act, they have no hope. By themselves, they will not come to You (John 6:65). They will not seek You (Ro 3:11). Father, they are dead (Eph 2:1), enslaved to their lusts (Ro 6:16) and aligned with Satan (Eph 2:2). They have eyes that see not and ears that hear not (Deut 29:4). O, unblind their eyes, Lord! Unstop their ears! O, take our their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh, Father (Eze 36:26)! Give them a new Spirit and cause them to love You and seek You with all their heart (Jer 29:12-14).
"No one else but You can do it (John 1:13). They will not come, they cannot come, unless You draw them. You are their only hope. Yes, they are children of wrath (Eph 2:3), yes they deserve death (Ro 6:23), but O Lord, be patient with them. You long for none to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:8-9). O Lord, You take no delight in the death of the wicked (Eze 18:23)! For Your own glory, save them! Glorify Your name (Jn 12:28)! Would You be pleased to use the foolishness of the gospel to save them (1 Cor 1:21)! Your Son, O Your Son — He must receive the glory due His name (Php 2:9-11). Please Father, save many that they might magnify Him and fall on their faces to worship Him. May Your Spirit convict the world of the sin of rejecting the only Savior (Jn 16:8)!
"Yet, not our will, but Yours be done (Lk 22:42). We wait upon You, Lord, to act and to save. Grant grace to us that we may speak Your word with all confidence (Acts 4:29). In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen."
These are the prayers that God is pleased to hear: the promises He makes turned into earnest pleas. May we pray desperately for God to save sinners. And may He save many. For Your own glory and fame, we beg you Lord, to save them. Amen.
Eph 2 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Jonah 2 9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”
Lk 23 34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
Ex 34 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
Jn 6 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Ro 3 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;
Eph 2 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Ro 6 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
Ro 6 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Eze 36 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Jer 29 12 ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’
Jn 1 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Eze 18 23 “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
Jn 1 28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
1 Cor 1 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Jn 16 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
Ac 4 29 “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,