Prayer for Family Members
At my first parish in southern Minnesota, two of the utterly faithful members of the congregation were Clyde, a retired farmer, and his wife Evelyn. If the doors of the church were open for any event, they were there. Someone could always depend upon them for sincere positive comments. They were the least selfish people I knew and their thoughts about Christ seemed to be the most prominent part of their lives. As the pastor, I always felt they appreciated me and lent support in every way. Perhaps most of all, they prayed – and I knew they prayed.
They prayed for me and they prayed for our church. They prayed silently but they were unafraid in any situation to pray aloud. They prayed with confidence yet they prayed with humility. They had been through the school of prayer with the Lord and anyone who spent time with them came to know it.
One of my favorite stories was from Evelyn, who shared that she had grown up as the only daughter in a family of six children. She and her mother were the only ones who believed in Christ. In fact, Evelyn described her brothers as being “pretty wild” in their younger years. So Evelyn and her mother committed to praying for those five boys. They prayed for them for years. One by one, starting with the oldest, the brothers experienced dramatic conversions. They were vibrant disciples, who then, in turn, joined their mother and sister in prayer for the remaining brothers.
I was privileged to meet some of the brothers when they came once from South Dakota to visit their sister Evelyn for a milestone family event. I was struck by how much like her they were in spiritual temperament. I could almost feel Christ’s presence in their presence as they joked with one another, wove their conversations around Christ and His Word, and conveyed pure Christian love to everyone around them.
Evelyn said that the last brother to be won over was the youngest. As the older ones dramatically changed their lives, the youngest grew hardened in his obstinance. Almost as if to make a statement that he had the power to independently defy their hopes for him, he grew more resistant. He loved to make coarse statements or brashly throw down alcohol in front of the others to call attention to the fact that he was not going to be bound by their vision for him.
Evelyn’s mother did not give up. She continued to pray all the more earnestly for him. At her advanced age, she finally departed for glory having seen five of her six children professing Christ. She never did get to see her youngest prodigal repent and return home to the Lord; but after her death, he did just that! All six of the kids rejoiced together to see that the prayers of their mother and sister were mighty. Believe me, I loved knowing that Evelyn lifted up her prayers on my behalf!
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, he replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” In light of the Gospel which promises salvation to each who believes, it would seem right to take that verse as a promise that each member of the jailer’s household believes and is saved; but many including myself have wondered if there isn’t a hint of God’s deep concern for his household also to believe. So that while my faith cannot save my children – they must believe for themselves - nevertheless, bringing the entire household to faith is something to which the Gospel leans, even if not promising it.
So I think we should pray for our family members with boldness and confidence. There are many things they will need in life for which we intercede for them, but surely the greatest is that they would believe upon Christ and trust him for the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. The story of Evelyn’s family would seem to indicate that God indeed hears such prayers.
Are there un-churched or even unbelieving people in your family? In 2018, I encourage you to renew your intercessions for them. Pray in faith, knowing that God alone can bring someone to salvation; but look also for open doors to bear witness to Christ. After all, if God is going to answer your prayer, you can expect that He might use you to do it. Your good example is ineffective if there is never a verbal witness to the thing to which your example points. So don’t be afraid to talk about your own faith, to invite them to church or Bible study, or encourage them in deeper walk with Christ.
Of course, do this with patience. Be alert to how the Holy Spirit may make you aware of ways in which you might have hindered the message of the Gospel. For example, has that person resisted the Gospel because of something on our part? This could have been manipulation, a lack of gratitude, an offense for which we have not asked forgiveness, or many other things. In prayer, God not only changes things and people external to us, but he often starts with us.
You cannot bring your car to heaven with you – or your house, or your money, or your diplomas, or your toys, or even your favorite shirt: But if you get there and learn that God has used you to bring your family, that will be something in which to rejoice forever.