Prayer – some Biblical research

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.

Paul’s prayers

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.

Jesus

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…

Misc

Luk_1:13 – prayer for offspring


Summary

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.

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