Hollering and Arguing Won’t Work Against Unbelief—Do This, Instead

I’d put dollars to lima beans that no one has ever browbeaten another person into believing in Jesus.  Evangelistic struggles require something more than gray matter.

While decades slipped by, telephones turned into cell phones which then became computers that could fit in your pocket. For a guy who likes plain and simple, these gadgets are bewildering—the digital equivalent of Swiss army knives. They bristle with apps and functions. One of the newest designs and my personal favorite is a real throwback: a cell phone that will only make phone calls. It’s the perfect answer for men who have to hand their phone to a teenage daughter when they need to figure out how to dial somebody.  The biggest downside for any new technology is ignorance of how to use it (and not wanting to read the instructions).  Ignorance can make a smart phone look like nothing more than an expensive walkie-talkie.

We typically undervalue the Holy Spirit as well. He washed and regenerated you—very cool. But there’s more to it than that. You don’t want to stay with a low-tech understanding of the best gift ever. As your Christian life unfolds, you’ll find that not only you, but the people around you will need what you have within. Friends we care about will get stuck in unbelief like flies on a puddle of glue. If they remain as they are, separated from Christ, they’ll continue on to destruction. Jesus freed such captives by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:28), and now we continue His ministry, doing the same thing. But how do we go about doing it?

Of all the possible answers there might be to that question, I’m going to focus on a very foundational one—prayer. Paul instructed us to “pray always in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18). Yes, at first that sounds like a clichéd response. The subject of prayer seems to be a junk drawer for all kinds of concerns:

My best friend was hospitalized. Pray.

My car is making a noise. Pray.

I burned the toast. Pray.

I wish they would stop remaking superhero origin movies. Pray.

But when Paul charged us to pray, he wasn’t lobbing a generic religious directive at us. In fact, He was incredibly specific, mentioning prayer in a chapter of the Bible heavily weighted toward spiritual warfare. Prayer in Spirit is a fighting tool—exactly what you need to “bring it” in the struggle for a loved one’s soul.

Years back I noticed some of my relatives starting to make serious spiritual progress. A few got saved. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from (Maybe some kind of algorithm?) since I had at that time already been marginalized as the family “born again kook.” I got a clue later on, while rooting through a box of old notebooks and discovering a cache of my recorded prayers.

While re-reading the journal, I noticed that some of what was currently going on in the lives of my family members mirrored those past prayer entries. Had I even prayed these things? I couldn’t recall. Regardless, people I knew and cared about were now moving along in sync with words I had written down in ballpoint pen years before. Of course a few names hadn’t moved or improved at all. I can’t explain why they didn’t. But those that did seemed to have done so with great flair.  Even if my prayers had been so inconsequential to me I had forgotten them, God hadn’t.

The Apostle Peter’s arrest in Acts chapter 12 gives an even more graphic example of what I’m talking about. The devil, inspiring the hatred of the government, seized and then squeezed the apostle like a clay doll. The Christian population had no political leverage to fight back. There was no bill of rights—nothing except for the say-so of a despot, Herod, who did not have an ounce of fear in his heart toward Christ. This was that moment when you would say, “Thank you, Peter, for your faithful service. It was nice knowing you.”

Instead, the church got together and prayed. They had only recently received the Holy Spirit—something new, and from the looks of it, didn’t expect so rapid and dramatic an answer. It was as if they were children pushing buttons on a cell phone, hoping something would work…and ended up purchasing a combat helicopter from Amazon.com. That night Peter got released—escorted—out of jail by an angel.

Through those prayers, God pried back the devil’s fingers one by one from around the apostle. Our takeaway from this event ought to be that through prayer the Spirit releases. True, Peter was a saved person, so this is not so much an example of evangelism. Yet if Satan could imprison the chief of the twelve apostles, what kind of bondage could he impose on your friend who has little or no faith? What mind tricks? What world of lies?

An unsaved friend is buried up to his neck in satanic concrete.  He or she won’t be digging out based on hidden reserves of will power.

Sounds like you’re on call.

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