How Long Should I Pray?

November 24, 2002

HOW LONG SHOULD I PRAY? by Ray Pritchard Last Tuesday I had an hour-long interview with a radio station in Philadelphia. A listener called in with a heart-searching question. He had come to Christ from a Jewish background and has a burden to see his family saved. After years of prayer for them, and many hours of discussion, he feels like he is getting nowhere. His grandmother is old and near death and he does not want her to go out into eternity without knowing the Lord. His father gives him a hard time about his Christianity and they argue about the Old Testament passages that predict the coming of the Messiah. The man fought back tears as he shared his heavy burden. “How long do I have to pray? When should I finally give up?” A day later I received a forwarded e-mail asking for prayer for a husband to be saved. His wife says, “He’s getting close I’m feeling compelled to ‘push’ in this way. It’s not my ‘choice’ or idea.” The friend who forwarded the e-mail added, “Thank you for praying for (blank) to accept Jesus Christ and be filled with His grace.” I especially like that last phrase. Salvation is nothing more or less than a dynamic encounter with the grace of God. Conversion is a miracle of God. It cannot be forced on others against their will, which is why we will never argue anyone in to the Kingdom of God. God does not work that way. Grace is a gift that must be received individually. Good theology helps us immensely as we think about the salvation of those we love. We know that no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). We also know that the lost are spiritually dead, blind, helpless and hopeless. They are without understanding, are captive to Satan, and they are condemned already (John 3:36). Their only hope is (to quote our mission statement) to experience “the life-changing power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” If the lost are truly lost, if they are totally separated from God, if they are truly dead and truly blind, then it should not surprise us that they are sometimes indifferent and sometimes hostile when we share the gospel with them. This is where prayer comes in. As we pray earnestly, fervently, repeatedly, believingly, little by little the citadels of unbelief are torn down by the Spirit. And while we pray, we share Christ every chance we get. If we do our part, God cannot fail to do his. So how long should we pray? As long as it takes for the eyes of the lost to be opened. As long as it takes for the heart to believe. As long as it takes, that’s how long we should pray for the lost to be saved.

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