Question: Praying For A Faithless Friend

 ahookintheheart asked:

Hey Pastor J, I have a quick question about prayer. How do you pray for someone who is, as far as you know, not a believer, and is making very poor and (potentially) dangerous life choices that could ruin their life (for lack of a better phrase)? I know that more often than not, people come to God when they get to the absolute end of themselves and realize they need a change. There’s a guy I know that has shut me out of his life,so the only thing I can do is to pray for him,but I don’t know how.

Hey my dear friend: You’re really awesome to be so concerned and loving for your friend.  He or she is very lucky and blessed to have you.

I think prayer is an automatic necessity, and it can’t be emphasized enough.  I’m always wary about giving too many instructions for prayer because it can easily be a formula, but I think it’s certainly okay to pray for a divine face-smashing intervention.  It’s okay to pray that your friend totally gets that uppercut wake-up call.

Here are some other things to consider.

1) You can show there’s way better than the world.

I know this will feel like a waiting game until your friend crashes and burns: but you don’t have to wait.  Before I really came to know God, my Christian friends would always take me out to the movies or dinner or their home to show that you can have fun without reckless substances and liquids and chemicals, and that there can be a good time without all the cheap mindless, sexual, gyrating pig-slop.  They didn’t really give me a “Christian lite version” of something, but it was really their total love and laughter and craziness, and most importantly, their vulnerability.

I found that the biggest difference between my Christian friends and everyone else was that I didn’t need to “measure up” all the time by puffing out my chest.  When I was at the club or at a drunken party, there was always this sizing up ego-pissing-contest with certain code words and cool language and false bravado.  It was exhausting.  But most especially with my genuine Christian friends, I could relax.  I could be myself.  I wasn’t relying on alcohol to build a pseudo-interaction or to make me fun.  I could be loud and nerdy and messy and not worry about being the social definition of a “man.”  When I saw a better way, I wanted that.  I wanted how God wanted things to be.

My Christian friends also cooked crazy good food, and that’s one thing you can’t ever enjoy at a drunk drug party where everyone is throwing up on their shoes.  Not to judge anyone: but I like chicken parmesan better than half-digested chips and salsa.

2) Open your arms, your home, and your mouth to pour out grace.

There are some Christian friends that I would never ever go to if I get in trouble.  Not in a billion years: because I know that a lecture is waiting.  It’s the “I told you so” finger-wagging.  And when I’m drowning in consequences, the last thing I need is someone to describe the water.

If you can be that friend who loves no matter what, then they will find you.  This also means that you balance out your love with a fair warning; occasionally you do need to speak up and say, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”  But overall, you’re the one who helps out with the hangover with some baked cookies and prays for your friend when you drop them off at home.  You’re the one who can firmly say, “You’re better than this, and I hope you find out sooner than later.”

3) Bring your friend to churchy stuff.  They’re more open to this than you think.

In the end, your friend trusts you.  No matter how they feel about God or the church, they like you.  And when you invite them to some churchy event, whether a potluck or revival or small group or service or charity, they’ll at the very least go to support you.

I don’t mean to say that your friend is a project.  There’s no checklist where after ten services they’ll suddenly sign up for seminary.  There can’t be any inkling of recruitment or “victory” or bragging rights.  You want your friend to know what you love: and if your friend is your friend, they will care about what you care about, even if they don’t believe in the details.

Sometimes along the way, they’ll start to really hear the small print, and they’ll want to know more.  They might ask questions, and that’s how the awkward conversations get started.  But either way, we keep inviting them, even when they say no and get annoyed and dismiss it all.  Because love persists regardless of the response.  And deep inside, when your friend sees you rejoicing in the God you serve, they will want that too.  Everyone secretly wants the pure love that God offers, but most times they just need a passionate friend to bring them there.

When you do invite your friend, tell them what to expect so they’re not all weirded out.  Pray for them.  Tell your pastor.  Tell your church.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It does have to be real.

— J.S.

2 thoughts on “Question: Praying For A Faithless Friend

  1. Hi! I’m grateful for this post. But something kind of bothered me. It kindddda sounds like a false dichotomy exists of what Christian friends look like and non-Christian friends look like. All Christian people make awesome choices for having fun (woo, movies after Church!) while all non-Christian 20 something year olds use “reckless substances and liquids and chemicals” or are into “mindless, sexual, gyrating pig-slop…” etc. I think it’s harmful when Christians, myself included, come up with these generalizations about how every other 20 something year old must be living. It kind of makes it harder to empathize with people, don’t you think? Plus, I think it puts us in the danger of being proud without realizing it. “Ah man, I’m so blessed I’m not like totally like caught up in that stuff wow isn’t God so good.” *Pats self on the back. Because people can be living a “dangerous life” spiritually while looking completely spiritual. Anyways, I’m not sure if I properly communicated this. Thanks for your posts, and thanks for allowing me a chance to put some of my thoughts out there!


    1. Absolutely agree with you. I apologize if I implied that false dichotomy. If anything, I pride myself (perhaps falsely) about being way more nuanced than that, so I probably didn’t do a good job of it this time. My own personal experience on the “other side” of things was definitely at the extreme end. I hope I would never be so self-righteous to pat myself on the back in comparison to anyone, no matter how far apart each of our lifestyle choices may be. I appreciate you bringing the balance here!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.