On Sunday our church heard a message on prayer. It reminded me that I had actually done some research on prayer, as represented in the New Testament a while ago. In particular I tried to find all those places in the New Testament where people prayed that other people would convert.
The results are a little unexpected if you’ve spent any length of time in an Evangelical church.
Here’s the research, in not a very user-friendly format. What I did was search for the word “pray” and variations thereof and compile what I found. Clearly this is not researched to the standards of a Seminary, for instance, but I think the trends are fascinating anyway. I started with Paul because of how much he wrote.
And see if you can find all the places where people are said to pray for unbelievers.
Praying for fellow Christians:
Rom_1:9-10 – Could mean he prays to visit them, but more likely means that AND that he prays for them.
2Co_13:7-9 – Moral purity and restoration
Eph_1:16-19 – Knowledge of God
Php_1:4-11 – Thanksgiving. Love abound with knowledge and discernment. Effectiveness, to God’s glory.
Col_1:3-12 – Fill with knowledge, wisdom, understanding. Bear fruit, walk in righteousness, strengthened, etc.
1Th_1:2 – Not clear, maybe thanksgiving?
2Th_1:11 – God make them worthy of his calling, work of faith.
2Ti_1:3 – not clear, maybe thanksgiving?
Phm_1:4-6 – thanksgiving, effectiveness
Praying for non-Christians to convert:
Rom_10:1 – Prayer for Jews.
Request for prayers for himself (and others):
Rom_15:30-32 – delivery from unbelievers, that his service would be acceptable.
2Co_1:11 – Safety and blessings.
Eph_6:18-20 – Boldly proclaiming the Gospel
Php_1:19 – Deliverance
Col_4:3-4 – God open door, Paul declare mystery with clarity.
1Th_5:25 – No details.
2Th_3:1-2 – Pray for us, word of God speed ahead (seems confusing). Deliverance.
Phm_1:22 – prayer that Paul can visit.
General comments about things to pray for:
1Co_14:13-15 – Interpretation of tongues for the sake of understanding
2Co_9:14 – Brief comment that one church is praying for another.
Php_4:6 – reminder to pray
Col_4:12 – Epaphras prays for maturity and assurance.
1Th_3:10 – Paul prays he can see the Thessalonians, supply what is lacking.
1Ti_2:1-2 – Pray for all people, kings and rulers.
1Ti_4:5 – prayer of blessing on food (for instance)
1Ti_5:5 – widows pray for means to survive.
Prayer in Acts
Act_1:24-26 – Guidance in a decision
Act_4:24-30 – request for boldness in people, miracles from God.
Act_8:15 – Prayer for believers to receive Holy Spirit.
Act_8:22 – pray for forgiveness (of believer)
Act_9:40 – presumably prayed to raise the dead, though not explicitly stated.
Act_12:5 – Peter’s release from prison.
Act_13:3 – Doesn’t say, but presumably for effectiveness in ministry.
Act_14:23 – similar to Act 13:3. Not explicitly stated, but reasonable to infer.
Act_16:25 – Not stated; possibly deliverance?
Act_26:29 – prayer for salvation(ish). The Greek word is not technically “pray.”
Act_27:29 – deliverance.
Act_28:8 – healing.
Prayers elsewhere in NT
Heb_5:7 – references prayer of Jesus; deliverance from cross
Heb_13:18 – request for prayer; moral purity
Jas_5:13-16 – pray as a response to suffering, for healing, for forgiveness of sins.
Jas_5:17-18 – references Elijah who prayed to influence the weather.
1Jn_5:16 – prayer for fellow believers.
3Jn_1:2 – pray that all goes well for believers.
Mat_5:44 / Luk_6:28 – “pray for” enemies (not sure exactly what you’re praying for; conversion?)
Mat_6:5 / Luk_11:2 – General guide for prayer, specifically content!
Mat_9:38 / Luk_10:2 – pray that enough workers will be present to spread the Gospel
Mat_24:20 / Mar_13:18 – pray to impact the circumstances of the day of tribulation.
Mat_26:39 (and beyond) / Mar_14:35 (and beyond) / Luk_22:42 – Deliverance from the cross
Mat_26:41 / Mar_14:38 / Luk_22:40 – avoid temptation
Mar_9:29 – exorcism of demons
Mar_11:24 – forgiveness of others? Not clear if that should be the content of our prayer, or something we should do, mentally, while praying.
Luk_18:7 – justice for the elect? Not clear.
Luk_18:13 – forgiveness of self
Luk_21:36 – request for strength for end times.
Luk_22:32 – Jesus prayed for that Peter’s faith would not fail.
Prayers in John. Long, so here are just some highlights.
Joh_17:5 – glory to himself.
Joh_17:9 – pray for those whom God has given to Jesus, but not praying for the world. Interesting…
Joh_17:20 – future believers; unity.
Interestingly, the word “pray” doesn’t come up much in John…
Luk_1:13 – prayer for offspring
I count two instances of praying for an unbeliever to convert, and one of them is rather weak. That’s not to say we shouldn’t, but maybe we Evangelicals spend a little too much time talking with God about non-Christians, and not enough time actually talking to those very same non-Christians.