Keys to Praying for the Lost
After yesterday's post on praying for prodigals, I felt I should follow it with this teaching.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; NASB)
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; NLT)
Second Corinthians 10:4 tells us we have been given spiritual weapons, empowered by God, with which to demolish “strongholds” in people. The root word is echo, which means “to hold.” The form of the word used here, ochuroma,means “to hold strongly,”(1) thus, a stronghold. It is also the word for a castle, fortress, or prison.
A foxhole or trench is hastily dug in a time of war to hold (echo) a position. I once toured a castle atop a mountain in Salzburg, Austria. From this impregnable fortress, someone had ruled the entire territory. That…is a stronghold! (Ochuroma).
According to this word used in 2 Corinthians 10:4, unbelievers are prisoners, captives. This verse also tells us we have God-empowered weapons that can demolish these prisons.
Verse five of 2 Corinthians 10 breaks down the stronghold into three distinct components, informing us of exactly what we must destroy with our spiritual weapons. This information is vital.
The first portion of the stronghold mentioned is “human reasoning.” The Greek word (logismos) is not referring to individual thoughts, but to beliefs, reasonings, wisdom, logic.(2) Our English word “logic” is actually derived from this Greek root. Logismoi (plural) are the mindsets (opinions, beliefs, etc) we have NOW, resulting from the teaching, training, information, experiences, etc, we have received in the PAST. Before Adam’s sin, which was passed on to all of us, he and Eve procured their wisdom, logic, and beliefs from their Creator, God. We would have, as well, had the Fall not occurred. However, James 3:15 tells us unredeemed humans’ wisdom now originates from earthly knowledge, our human souls (intellect and emotions), and demonic influence.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
“Okay,” you might say, “but when an individual hears the truth, including the gospel, how do these logismoi veil or blind them from truly seeing, understanding, and believing?” It has to do with the way our human minds function. When information comes to us it is first filtered through our subconscious mind or memory, the home of our logismoi, our opinion center. This is involuntary, automatic, and occurs in a fraction of a second, before it even gets to the conscious mind where we then process it. Think about that! We already have an opinion before we even think about the information - yes, we’re opinionated! This means that when people hear the gospel, before they even have time to process it, the information is filtered through this subconscious mind. Unbelievers don’t hear a pure version of the gospel; they hear it after it has been filtered through what they already believe!
For example, on an outreach to Mardi Gras a friend and I shared the gospel with a young girl who, as it turned out, had been horribly abused in the past. “God is love,” we told her. “He loves you so much He sent His Son to die for you.”
She was not impressed. This wounded soul heard not only what we said, she also heard something else - from deep within, buried in her memory center. “Really?” She asked. “If He is love, why did He allow me to be so abused? Doesn’t seem like a loving God to me.” From the pain, her mind had formed a logismos - a belief - part of the stronghold now controlling her. Someone will need to intercede for her, tearing down this prison.
When praying for the unsaved, ask Holy Spirit to show you the logismoi, the beliefs that control them, blinding them to the gospel. As He does, war against them, declaring, “In the name of the Jesus I tear down the stronghold of . . .” Then ask God to replace it with truth. Do this daily, it will likely take time.
The second portion of the stronghold mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:5 is pride, “proud obstacles.” The KJV uses “high thing” to translate the Greek word, hupsoma, which is actually the same root word for “Most High” God! One leading lexicon defines hupsoma as “all pride that rises up.”(3) This is a reference to the root of pride that came to the entire human race when Adam and Eve bought satan‘s lie that they could “be like God,” (Genesis 3:5). This had been Lucifer’s downfall, attempting to elevate himself as the Most High. He passed the same temptation on to our fore-parents, and when they bought the lie, his fallen nature was passed on, as well. Humankind now elevates “self” and its knowledge above God and His Word.
We cannot change an unbeliever's nature; only the new birth can do this. We can, however, release the power of Holy Spirit to them, which will counter this dark root with revelation, the light of truth. His power and light are well able to do this, causing their proud heart to bow the knee to Christ’s Lordship.
With this in mind, look at verse 5 again, this time from The Living Bible:
“These weapons can break down every proud argument against God and every wall that can be built to keep men from finding Him. With these weapons I can capture rebels and bring them back to God, and change them into men whose hearts’ desire is obedience to Christ.”
What a promise!
Regarding the third element comprising strongholds, the Lord tells us we can “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The word “thought” is noema, which also means plans, schemes, or plots.(4) It refers to spontaneous thoughts and temptations satan uses to control people, as well as to the ongoing schemes and plans he uses. God says we can stop these attacks! In our intercession for unbelievers, we must declare that none of satan’s plans to hold them captive will prosper. Bind his schemes and thoughts according to Matthew 16:18-19. Shield the person from satan’s lies and temptations; close the door to these things.
Mary Smith of Maple Valley, Washington, had been praying for her brother, John, to be saved for approximately 12 years, with no results. Like most people, she prayed general prayers such as “Lord, come into his life,” or “Lord, reveal Yourself to him.” Mary didn’t realize there were other biblical instructions on how to pray for John.
Her brother had major problems, including drugs, depression, and extreme anger. Early in 1995, Mary participated in a class I taught where I related these and other principles regarding praying for the lost. Mary shared them with her husband and their children, then they all began implementing them for John. Specifically, they prayed the following:
That God would lift the veil off his mind, bringing revelation and enlightenment
That Holy Spirit would hover over him and protect him
That godly people would be placed in his pathway each day
That everything exalting itself against the knowledge of God, specifically pride and rebellion, would be destroyed
That all ungodly thought patterns (logismoi), would be destroyed
That satan was bound from holding John captive through wicked thoughts and lies
That the armor of God would be placed on him
After two weeks of praying in this way, John overdosed on drugs. While in the hospital, “the Lord met him in a powerful way,” Mary said. “He cried out to God. The veil was definitely lifted and he received a revelation of God. He now understands the Word and responds to it. Confusion is gone! John separated himself from the world and his former friends. He is now pursuing God and Christian relationships. His focus is on pleasing God, knowing Him more, and is even considering one day being a missionary.”
We have been given authority! We can turn unbelievers “from darkness to light and from the dominion of satan to God” (Acts 26:18). We are called to enforce and make effectual the freedom Christ procured. The unbeliever cannot war for his or herself; they cannot and will not overcome their internal prison of darkness - but we can do so for them! We must take our divinely powerful weapons and fight. The powers of darkness will resist, but “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Nehemiah 4:14).
Pray with me:
Father, we thank You for Your heart to save. Thank You for loving us, even when we are still rebellious. Thank You for the Cross. Thank You for sending Jesus to redeem us. Thank You for Holy Spirit‘s work of making this sacrifice understood.
We pray for prodigals and others who do not know You, that the revelation of Christ and His provision would be made real to them. We bind every belief
system and thought pattern that blinds them to truth and deceives them. We release Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the root of pride in them, that which entered the human race at the fall. Cause them to bow their knee to Christ and His Lordship.
We also ask that Holy Spirit’s power be released to their minds and hearts, drawing them to You. Send the right people to them, and separate them from those who are being used to influence them wrongly. We ask You for these things in Jesus' name, and we thank You for the answer. Amen.
We declare that every stronghold in the life of those we pray for will be torn down by the power of Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Today’s post was adapted from my book Intercessory Prayer and my smaller book, How to Pray For Lost Loved Ones.
1. James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. 3794.
2. Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, p. 923.
3. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 851.
4. James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), ref. no. 3540.