How to Pray for Unsaved Loved Ones
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT)
We are instructed to pray for our unsaved loved ones. Sometimes it’s just hard to know how or what to pray. I encountered this same problem, so I did some study and research to find the best ways to pray for unsaved loved ones. I say “unsaved loved ones” but really these things could be prayed even for those who are saved that may have drifted away from God for some reason.
It’s very hard to see someone you love so lost or far from God or even questioning God. You want so much to help them, to fix them but you inevitably know that it’s not within your control. To receive Christ and to have a life-changing relationship with God is a personal and individual decision that we can never make for someone else, no matter how badly we want it for them. We can “plant seeds” (i.e. talk to them in a non-threatening and non-pushy way and/or show example in our own life), and we can pray for them. The rest is up to them. God gave us free will. Jesus Christ is his free gift to us, ours for the taking. However, a gift demanded or forced is no gift at all. We don’t have to take it. Sometimes we want something more for someone than they want it for themselves. It kind of stinks to feel this way, but guess what…You’re in good company. That’s how God feels all the time. All is not hopeless though! Prayers are extremely powerful!
“…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b (NLT)
I have heard numerous people tell stories, my pastor included, that they are where they are today as a result of someone praying for them. God will go to work on our behalf, but we have to ask.
After studying and researching how and what to pray for unsaved loved ones, I compiled a list of things that I started to use. I actually wrote the list of what to pray in my notes of my phone and would open it and pray through the list for my unsaved loved ones. However, you don’t have to pray ALL of these things all of the time. I have done that, but for the most part I just picked a couple of these things to pray for each day (or whenever my unsaved loved ones came to mind—not necessarily every day).
Take Some Practical Steps to Pray for Unsaved Loved Ones (text in red are example prayers):
- Pray for God to remove the blindness from their eyes, to open their eyes so they can see. The bible says the god of this world, Satan, has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.
“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT)
“Open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:18 (ESV)
Lord, please remove the blinders from _____’s eyes and open his/her eyes.
- Pray that as they are able to see that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened and that God would bring about situations, circumstances and grant them repentance in their lives to lead them to the truth.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)
“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” 2 Timothy 2:25 (NIV)
Lord, I pray that as _____’s eyes are opened that you would bring about situations and circumstances that would lead him/her to the truth.
- Pray for God to turn and soften their heart to make it tender and responsive.
“For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes–so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.” Matthew 13:15 (NLT)
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
Lord, I ask you to turn and soften _____’s heart. Put a new spirit in him/her. Take out _____’s stony, stubborn heart and give him/her a tender, responsive heart.
- Pray that they will be drawn to God and develop a hunger and desire for Him.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44 (NIV)
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
Lord, please draw _____ to you and give him/her a hunger and desire for you.
- Pray that God would send “laborers” across their path. Basically, this is just witnesses to speak into their lives. I found this post here to be extremely helpful. I love how it says that “laborers” can come from a variety of sources: bumper stickers, billboards, magazines in a waiting room, something on the radio or TV, overheard conversations, or people who share the gospel with them personally. I like to pray that God would just surround them with all things “God” that they can’t escape Him!
“Therefore said he to them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2 (AKJV)
Lord, please send laborers from variety of sources across _____’s path. Let him/her see you wherever he/she goes, so much so that he/she cannot escape you!
- Pray for God to put a hedge of protection (or of “thorns”) around them so that any ungodly influences would lose interest and depart.
“But I will fence her in with thorn bushes. I will block the road to make her lose her way. When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch up with them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think ‘I might as well return to my husband because I was better off with him than I am now.’” Hosea 2:6–7 (NLT)
Lord, please put a hedge of protection around _____ so that any ungodly influences around him/her would lose interest and depart.
- Pray for any chains that bind them to be broken, any strongholds to be removed and that they will be free from Satan’s influence over their mind, will and emotions.
“’LORD, help!’ they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains.” Psalm 107:13-14 (NLT)
“For God will break the chains that bind his people and the whip that scourges them, just as he did when he destroyed the vast host of the Midianites by Gideon’s little band.” Isaiah 9:4 (TLB)
Lord, please break any chains, stronghold or barriers that bind _____ and free him/her from Satan’s influence over his/her mind, will and emotions.
- Pray that their mind, heart and lives would be transformed and renewed.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Lord, I pray that _____’s mind, heart and life would be transformed and renewed.
- Pray that they would be convicted by the Holy Spirit and change their attitude toward sin.
“And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” John 16:8 (NLT)
Lord, I pray that _____ would be convicted by the Holy Spirit and that he/she would have your attitude toward sin.
- Pray that God’s kindness would lead them to full repentance, and that they would turn away from their sin.
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NASB)
Lord, please let your kindness lead _____ to full repentance and help him/her to turn away from their sin.
I think it’s also important to let you know…As you start praying for your unsaved loved ones, don’t be surprised if they seem to be doing exactly the opposite of what you’re praying at first. They might get worse before they get better. This post helped me when I read that “conviction produces friction”. It’s a good sign that God is at work within them. Keep praying!
When God starts to work on your unsaved loved ones, most likely you’ll see small changes, little by little. Big changes do happen, but I have noticed they are usually not the norm. In fact, I kind of got angry one time, because I had been praying and praying, and I flat-out asked God, “Why hasn’t this person turned their life around?!” What I heard was, “If this person made that dramatic of a change, you wouldn’t believe them anyway. You wouldn’t think it was sincere or genuine. Lasting change happens little by little. You want them to have lasting change, right?” I was reminded of this verse…
“The LORD your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you.” Deuteronomy 7:22 (NLT)
Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind even has a chapter title “Little by Little”. She really helped me to understand that sometimes progress is slow, and that’s okay (it’s even on purpose at times). We need to celebrate the small changes. Focus on the positive and don’t get discouraged. Know that God is working behind the scenes and that these types of changes are from the inside out—it may take a while to see a difference.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10a (NLT)
God actually showed me this verse for a different circumstance last week, but it’s well-suited in this scenario too. Funny how the bible works like that!
Remember… “…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) And if you DO get the opportunity to lead your unsaved loved ones to Christ, check out this post on How to Lead Someone to Christ!
What are your experiences in praying for unsaved loved ones? Leave a comment below (click on the post link to join the conversation if you’re viewing through e-mail) or take the conversation to your favorite social media channel (sharing links below).
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