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A friend asked the question: How do I pray for unbelievers? How do I pray effectively? I trust that every Christian regularly prays for family or friends or colleagues or neighbors who do not yet know the Lord. And while we can and must pray for matters related to their lives and circumstances, the emphasis of our prayers must always be for their salvation. Here are some ways the Bible can guide our prayers.
Prayers for Salvation
We begin with prayers for salvation. Each of these prayers seeks the same thing, but in a different way or from a different angle or using different language. Each of them is grounded in a specific text of Scripture.
Pray that God would circumcise their hearts. Circumcision was the Old Testament sign of entering into God’s covenant, of being God’s people. To have a circumcised heart symbolizes having a heart that is fully joined to God, fully submissive to him. “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
Pray that God would give them a heart of flesh. The Bible contrasts a heart of flesh, a heart that is alive and responsive to God, to a heart of stone, a heart that is cold and unyielding. Pray that God would work within these unbelievers to change their hearts. “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…” (Ezekiel 11:19).
Pray that God would put his Spirit within them. The great joy of salvation is being indwelled by God himself. Pray that God would grant this honor to those unbelievers, that he would choose to take up residence within them. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
Pray that they would come to Christ. If unbelievers are to come to salvation, there is just one way. They must come through Christ and Christ alone. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Remember, too, that he is the one who calls them to come and to be relieved of the burden of their sin (see Matthew 11:28-30).
Pray that God would open their hearts to believe the gospel. Once more, God must initiate and people must respond. So pray that God would open the hearts of these unbelievers so they can in turn believe, just as Lydia did. “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).
Pray that God would free them from the slavery of sin. Unbelievers may believe they are free, but they are in fact enslaved. They are slaves of sin, bound by their sin and sinfulness. Pray that God would liberate them by his gospel. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17).
Pray that God would remove Satan’s blinding influence . Unbelievers have been blinded by Satan and will only ever be able to see and appreciate the gospel if God works within them. So pray that God would give them sight—spiritual sight. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Pray that God would grant them repentance. Unbelievers cannot repent without the enabling grace of God. So pray that God would grant them repentance, that this repentance would lead them to a knowledge of the truth. Pray as well that they would come to their senses and that they would escape from the devil’s snare. “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Prayers For You
You have prayed for unbelievers using different words and approaching from different angles. But you should also pray for yourself.
Pray that you will develop relationship with them. For people to be saved they must first hear the good news of the gospel. For them to hear the good news of the gospel, they must first encounter Christians—Christians like you. Pray that you would develop deeper, more significant relationship with them so you can, in turn, speak truth. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).
Pray for opportunities to minister to them. Many people come to faith after seeing Christ’s loved displayed through the ministry of Christians. Pray for opportunities to minister to unbelievers so that your ministry can have an evangelistic effect. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Pray for them faithfully and persistently. Our temptation is to grow discouraged in prayer, to pray for a while and, when we see no visible results, to give up. But God calls us to persevere in prayer. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). (See also the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.)
Pray for a burden to plead for their souls. Paul was willing to tell the church at Rome of his great longing to see the salvation of the lost. Do you share this deep longing? Pray that God would give you a great burden for souls. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).
Pray for boldness in generating and taking opportunities to speak the gospel. Even Paul longed for this boldness and for the confidence that he was speaking the right and best words. Pray that God would give you the boldness and, that when you take the opportunities, that he would then guide your words. “ also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel…” (Ephesians 6:19).
Pray for other believers to encounter them. God almost always uses a succession of people to share the gospel with people before they are saved. Pray, then, that God would lead other Christians into the lives of the unbelievers you love, that they too would provide an example of Christian living and that they too would speak the gospel. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Here are a few more biblical emphases to guide your prayers.
Pray that God would use any circumstance to do his work in them. We pray to a God who is sovereign and who sovereignly works his good will. Often he saves people through difficult circumstances, through bringing them to the very end of themselves. Pray, then, that God would arrange circumstances, whether easy or difficult, to lead them to salvation. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). As you pray for the unbelievers you love, always pray to God: “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Pray that God would extend his mercy to them. God assures us that he wishes for all people to turn to him in repentance and faith. He receives no joy from seeing people perish. Pray, then, that God would be glorified in the salvation of these people. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Pray with confidence. Finally, pray with confidence. God expects we will pray, God invites us to pray, God commands us to pray. Why? Because God loves to hear us pray and God loves to respond to our prayers. So as you pray for unbelievers, pray with confidence that God hears your prayers. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
By Brad Andres
How do we know if God does answer the prayers of non-believers? This can be a loaded question.
It is also something that can be easily misunderstood. Therefore, before we attempt to answer this
question, we must understand the exact question we are trying to answer.
Table of contents
What do we mean when we say, Does God answer the prayers of non-
Two terms in this question can be understood in different ways. The variations of meaning in these
two terms can lead to different answers to this question. So, lets clarify what we mean when we are
using these words:
- We mean a request of God for a specific action, that is, a provision, a protection, or a
miracle. This request is born out of pure motives, an inquisitive heart, and a searching
- We do not mean a general speaking towards God.
- We do not mean a personal request for salvation.
- We do not mean a request for an action in order to test Gods character or to prove his
- We mean someone who does not believe in Christ or has not heard of Christ.
- We do not mean someone who has ardently set their heart against Christ, that is, an
atheist or an agnostic.
Why are we not talking about prayer as a personal request for salvation?
If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes, resulting in
righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10:9-10 LEB
One says, We know God answers the prayer for salvation of non-believers, otherwise there would
be no Christians in the world. If God did not answer the prayer of those non-believers, then no one
would be able to have their sins forgiven. This idea says salvation is dependent upon a prayer before
becoming a believer.
Another says, Once a person believes in Jesus; He grants them eternal life. As soon as someone
honestly believes Jesus came back to life that person secures salvation. This idea implies belief comes
first and is the only requisite to salvation.
There is not a separation between these two actions of belief and prayer, but a combination
which occurs. Once a person believes, they pray or confess that Jesus is God. If they are asking God for
forgiveness of sin, then they already believe he is able and willing to forgive. The idea is that these two
realities are working in tandem with each other, not that one must happen before the other.
Understanding if God answers the prayers of non-believers.
Our question is this: Does God respond to the requests of those who are not currently his devoted
We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if someone is devout and
does his will, he listens to this one.
John 9:31 LEB
This passage was spoken by a man who knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament. This man had
been born blind. Jesus healed this man; He gave him his sight back. This is a statement showing his
understanding of the Scriptures to prove that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
This was not a statement meant to be taken as proof that God does not listen to the requests of
those not currently devoted to him. However, this mans understanding may have arrived through this
verse and others similar found throughout the Psalms:
The eyes of Yahweh are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their
cry for help. The face of Yahweh is against evildoers
Psalm 34:14-15 LEB
Ultimately, there is substantial evidence that God does not respond to the requests of those not
devoted to his will. He has made it clear in his Word that He is under no obligation to answer the prayers
On the flip side, God has also made it clear that he is under no obligation to answer the many
prayers of believers either. Just because someone is a devoted follower of Christ, does not mean God
will concede to their every request.
Talking to the church at large, James writes this concerning their personal requests:
From where are conflicts and from where are quarrels among you? Is it
not from this, from your pleasures that wage war among your members? You desire and do not have;
you murder and are filled with envy, and are not able to obtain: you fight and quarrel. You do not have
because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, in order
that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3 LEB
When does God answer prayer?
God answers prayer when it is according to His will. Anyone, a devoted follower of Christ, a casual
acquaintance with Christ, or a stranger to God and his will, all can rest assured that God indeed hears
their requests. However, God reserves the right to sit in judgment on that request. He weighs the true
motives; He determines the purpose for the prayer, and He sees the outcome from the beginning. This is
an awesome thing about our sovereign Lord; He controls the universe. He can choose what He answers,
what He denies, and what He leaves on the table for later.
Yes, sometimes God does answer the prayer of unbelievers. Sometimes he also denies the prayers
of believers. The important question to ask is this: Is the prayer within the will of God?
Brand Andres is a licensed minister and his passion is to help people understand the Bible and maximize
their God given potential for life.
Find him at BradAndres.com, and follow him on Twitter and Google.
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Prayer for the Non-Christian
Father, we abandon into Your Hands all those who are outside of Your true Church; do with them what You will, for we know You are a merciful God. Whatever You do, we thank You. Make each of us ready for all that You have for us, to accept all that You desire in us. Let only Your will be done in us and in all your creatures — we wish no more than this O Lord. Into Your hands we commend the souls of those who have not yet found Your Church; we offer them to You with all the love of our hearts; for we love You, Lord, and we so need to give ourselves, to surrender ourselves into Your hands without reserve and with boundless confidence, for You are our Father. Amen.
Trusting in the promise that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name He will do, I now approach You Father with confidence in Our Lord’s words and in Your infinite power and love for me and for ______. With the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, Blessed Archangel Michael, Sts. Padre Pio, Bruno, and Benedict, the guardian angels of myself and ______, with all the saints and angels of heaven, and Holy in the power of His blessed Name, we ask you Father to send forth Your Spirit to convict ______ and to allow him/her to see Your One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the place to meet his/her Lord and Savior in the Fullness of the Faith.
I know, Father, that You do not intrude upon free will, but that You can give Divine Influence in the way You did with Hosea’s wife. To help ______ to see the way he/she should go, I ask you Father in sorrow that You do with ______ as you did with Hosea’s wife — to send a hedge of thorns and wall around ______ so that he/she cannot find the paths that lead him/her away from You and Your Church: though he/she shall pursue other fellowships, he/she will not find a home; though he/she shall seek You in other faiths, he/she shall not find the peace that comes from Your established Church; that no matter what path or what philosophy or faith he/she seeks that he/she shall not find satisfaction or happiness until he/she finds Your Church and seeks communion with her.
Father, we are powerless against the spiritual forces that keep us from You. We are utterly dependent on You and Your power. Look with mercy upon ________. Do not look upon his/her sins, O Lord; rather, look at the sufferings of your Beloved Son and see the Victim whose bitter passion and death has reconciled us to You. By the victory of the cross, protect him/her from all evil and rebuke any evil spirits who are attacking or influencing him/her in any way. Send them immediately and quietly back to Hell and place a wall of protection around ______. Send your Holy Angels to watch over him/her and protect him/her.
Father, all of these things I ask in the most holy name of Jesus Christ, Your Son. Thank you, Father, for hearing my prayer. I love You, I worship You, I thank You and I trust in You. Amen.