How Do I Intercede For Family Who Don’t Believe In Jesus?

Sometimes the hardest people group to pray for is family, because there may be a lot of history, years of unresolved issues, or perhaps despite your best efforts, it’s unclear how they will ever make the decision to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Not to mention, discouragement can often settle in when you have been praying for them for a long time. In Pastors Dave and Cheryl’s sermon series on faith this past weekend, we learned about Abraham being the first intercessor in the Bible, you can view the message here. An intercessor, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, means, “one that intercedes with God for man; a Mediator”.1 Abraham interceded for a city that was wicked in its ways because he didn’t want to see the righteous destroyed with the wicked, including his own nephew, Lot. In this case, Lot knew God, but what about our own family members who have not put their faith in God yet? How do we intercede for them? I believe the first step is to ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with love and compassion for the family member you want to pray for, then create a prayer battle plan, and finally fuel your faith so you don’t give up.

1- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with love and compassion

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:7-8 NKJV)

As we read in 1 Peter 4, being serious and watchful in our prayers is connected to having fervent love for others. Some may feel it’s easy to love family, but in my experience, sometimes family can be the people we take for granted or the people we may become more easily critical of. But if we want to intercede for them in prayer, then we need to see them as God sees them. The Holy Spirit wants to help us with this, after all, Jesus called the Holy Spirit our Helper: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV).

If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then the Holy Spirit dwells in you and you can communicate with Him on a daily basis. Simply address Him in prayer and ask Him to fill you with love and compassion for your family member. In addition to this, ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your awareness anything you may need to confess or forgive that may be impeding your ability to love this family member. When your heart is filled with love for the person you’re praying for, you will find it much easier to pray and intercede for them before God. Why? Because then you may begin to feel compassion for what they may be going through in life, what experiences has led them to resist God, and what pain or hurt that they have gone through in the past. The Holy Spirit will bring thoughts to your mind of specific things to pray for that you may not have thought of if you didn’t have a heart full of love and compassion.

2 – Create a prayer battle plan

And the Lord answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

(Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV)

Habakkuk was a prophet during the fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, when God’s people stubbornly refused to change their sinful ways. After inquiring of the Lord regarding His people, Habakkuk was instructed by God to write down what the Lord showed him, even if it seemed out of reach or improbable. Similarly, we are to inquire of the Lord regarding our loved ones and ask Him to reveal to us what He is saying about them, what does He want us to have faith for? Often times God’s answer to you will come through His written Word found in the Bible as you read it.

I recall back in early 2016, I was eagerly wanting to pray for some of my own family members who had not put their trust in Jesus yet, and as I was reading Romans 12 and 13, I sensed the Lord telling me that there were key verses in these chapters that I needed to use in my own family prayer battle plan. I proceeded to write them on a blank page at the back of my Bible, inserting specific names where relevant. Here is one example:

“I pray that (NAMES) would no longer copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but that they would let God transform them into a new person by changing the way they think. That (NAMES) would learn to know God’s will for them, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Allowing God’s Word to inform your prayers is significant because we learn from Hebrews 4:12, that God’s Word is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and of spirit, and of joints and of marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (NKJV). In addition to this, it’s important to remember our battle is not with any physical person, but against principalities, powers and rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). And so to intercede in the spiritual realm, we need spiritual weapons and a spiritual battle plan!

3 – Fuel your faith and don’t give up

Perhaps the most challenging of all when interceding for family may be how long you need to intercede for. For some you may see the fruit of your prayers in a couple months, others in years, and even others in decades. But as we read from Habakkuk earlier, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (2:3 ESV). This word, “wait” in Hebrew also means to “long for”, in the same way the Lord longs to see His creation turn to Him. How do we fuel our faith and build such perseverance to not give up in our intercession for family to turn to Jesus? We can learn from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing … Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5: 11, 16-22 NLT)

The Apostle Paul is reminding us to find others who can encourage you in your intercession, and who may intercede with you. At Coastal Church, one of the best places we do this is in Life Groups, where a small group of people get together in a home or office to build community, grow in God’s Word, and pray together. Hearing other people’s testimonies can also be fuelling for our faith! The Apostle Paul is also reminding us to choose joy and be thankful in all circumstances as we persist in prayer. It’s a choice to speak well of family, to be kind and loving toward them, and to thank God for what He is doing in their lives, even if we can’t see the full picture. Lastly, as we continue to intercede for our loved ones, we must keep our hearts right and pure before God. We don’t want anything to interfere with our prayers from being effective. And so it’s important to confess anything in our lives that we know is not right before God (Psalm 66:18). The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us. (1 John 1:9).

We intercede for family who don’t believe in Jesus by asking the Holy Spirit to fill us with His love and compassion, we develop a prayer battle plan, and we fuel our faith and not give up! Something that has always stuck with me as I pray and intercede for family, is to remember that God loves my family even more than I do. And He is more than able to do draw them to Himself, break barriers and do the impossible in their lives. His timing is perfect. When I get sad, weary or discouraged, I know the Holy Spirit is still at work . You and I can trust in Him! (Proverbs 3:5-6)