OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–There are early indications that baptisms for last year may be down. Some may protest and claim that we are “even.” In other words, we are baptizing about as many as we have in the past.
But considering the reality that the population is expanding, we may count as many wet baptistery gowns as we did the year before, and the numbers of lost people has exponentially increased.
Does this not disturb us? As evangelical Christianity maintains its status as a minority faith group, what do we do with the commission of God to win, baptize and disciple the lost? Does it not bother us that we tend to spend more time in committee meetings, food feasts and gossip circles than we do in praying for and sharing with the people who hold a ticket for hell?
Hell is part of the problem. As R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes in Hell Under Fire, an anthology on the subject edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Zondervan, 2004), “The majority of men and women throughout the centuries of Western Civilization have awakened in the morning and gone to sleep at night with the fear of hell never far from consciousness — until now. Sin has been redefined as a lack of self-esteem rather than an insult to the glory of God. Salvation has been reconceived as liberation from oppression, internal or external. The Gospel becomes a means of release from bondage to bad habits rather than rescue from a sentence of eternity in hell.”
No question about it, in our stretch to be more amenable to the postmodern man, the church has too often soft-sold the harsh reality of hell in favor of a theology of personal satisfaction. To listen to the prayers we pray at church for specific lost people, at best, we focus on someone to be saved so some form of holy behavioral modification can be launched. What happened to rescuing the perishing on the prayer altar?
Praying for souls is part of the problem, too. Our understanding of God’s Word makes it clear that praying is work that must be done if we are to see any measure of fulfillment to our part of the Great Commission. However, one must ask, “Where is the passionate pleading for souls? Where are the hot tears dripping off our faces for the souls of men and women and boys and girls? Have we become too sophisticated to weep for souls?”
How else will the hard heart be softened? “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27 KJV). Let’s face it. It is not our talking Gospel-speak, or our manipulation of sound bytes on the tube, or our techie Gospel internet toys that pierce the heart of people who are hardened to the Gospel. God has the divine means of cracking the crust of a man’s heart, and He is not bound by our clever human capabilities of presentation. However, He has chosen for His people to be part of the process of telling the Good News and praying for hearts to be delivered from the bondage of sin. What’s the name of the person you are praying for today? What people group of the world burdens your heart?
Our God is much more passionate about lost people than we tend to be. He wants people to experience His redeeming grace. So, when we pray, we need to pray His will. We must pray, believing that God will save specific people and that they will accept for themselves the salvation of Jesus Christ. We need to pray for them in the name of Jesus. To do so means we are claiming what the blood has already secured, the salvation of the sinner who will repent and receive the Lord Jesus.
As we pray for a specific soul, we must come against the cultural mindset that holds so many people hostage. The myths about life abound in the minds of many people in our culture. By our persistent praying, it is as if we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit to woo this person out of the grasp of the enemy and into a point of decision for Christ. The humanistic influence of our culture on our minds resists the notion that Satan holds power over the lost. However, the reality is that no man or woman is exempt from Satan’s oppressive power to hold the lost until God’s people prevail in prayer.
Years ago, I used a devotional prayer guide by Peter Lord titled The 2959 Plan. Within the guide was a testimony of a man who learned to pray for the lost. From the testimony, one of the things I learned was how this godly prayer warrior presented a person to God in prayer. “Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I present [person’s name] to you that they may be saved.” It takes genuine faith to call on the Lord to save someone we genuinely love and pray for.
Now is the time to passionately pray for souls. It is not time to call for another meeting. It is time for every Southern Baptist to take the initiative and go to the prayer altars in our churches with bended knees and broken hearts and plead for souls. The eternal destiny of someone we love rests with our obedience to pray and to tell.
John Yeats is editor of the Baptist Messenger.