Look with me now at three pertinent passages that teach us about bringing our loved ones into the heavenly kingdom. They hold faith-inspiring insight that, as we receive and live in their promises, will help us not get in the Lord’s way as we continue to pray:
“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your household’ ” (Acts 16:31, NKJV).
“There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border” (Jer. 31:17).
“Wives, likewise, be submissive [biblically respectful] to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives” (1 Pet. 3:1).
Let’s draw the following from each biblical passage given above: from the first, the power of God’s promises; from the second, help to avoid being trapped in hopelessness; and from the third, deepening our sense of the importance of our own behavior. All are inescapably significant if we would effectively pray for those we love. They show how the kingdom enters and eventually takes over.
The Promise for Your Household
The Bible speaks to us often of the penetration of the power of the kingdom of God into our homes and families. Acts 16:31 is probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible—certainly the one quoted most often when it comes to the expectation in our hearts that our families will be brought to the Lord. This scripture shows the power at work when belief is present in just one individual in a family.
Acts 16 relates an incident regarding Paul and Silas, who have just broached the European continent with the gospel. They have been cast into a Philippian prison because of the events surrounding the deliverance of a slave girl who was demon-possessed. This young woman was a fortunetelle—she had a spirit of divination—and her masters gained a certain income from exploiting her dubious gift. When Paul cast out the spirit, her masters saw that their hope of making profit from her was gone. They incited a multitude against Paul and Silas, which had them beaten and thrown into prison.
At midnight Paul and Silas, with their feet in stocks, were singing hymns and praying when suddenly a great earthquake occurred. “All the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:26). The keeper of the prison awoke and supposed the prisoners had fled. He was ready to kill himself, because his life would be taken anyway by his superior officers for dereliction of duty, but Paul cried out for him not to harm himself because all were still present.
The jailer came running with a light into the inner dungeon. Trembling, he fell down before them and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Obviously, some conversation had taken place between Paul, Silas and that jailer. He did not just come up with those words out of the sky. He perceived that there was something more to life that he did not know about. Verse 31 is the answer Paul and Silas gave: “They said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ ”
Further we read: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:32-34).
The beauty of this story is not only the man’s conversion, but the fact that his whole family was brought to Christ the same day by the impact of what had happened in his own life. We could only wish that that would be exactly the timing for all of our families when we come to the Lord! Even though the timing is not the same, however, the truth is the same.
Listen again. The Bible says: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” The promise of the Word is that we as individuals may expect that what God has done in our lives will infuse the lives of those we touch. In the same way that the leaven fills the whole loaf, the presence of the leaven of the kingdom in your life and mine will begin to penetrate our homes. Just as the mustard seed grows into a great tree, so will the seed of gospel light in us begin to develop through the whole family tree.
The Promise of Return
The next Scripture passage is a beautiful prophecy. It addresses the desire that our children come into the kingdom.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they [that is, your children] shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border’ ” (Jer. 31:15-17).
To the weeping parent whose children could not be found, the Lord said, “Stop crying. Your work shall be rewarded.” Your prayers, your sowing of the seed, your introduction of the leaven will be rewarded. Your children shall come again from the land of the enemy and enter into their own border.
The Promise of Potential
The third passage is another instance of awesome potential for the praying believer who does just the little bit that is his part. I want to address here briefly the aspect of promise in 1 Peter 3.
This chapter begins with a case of direct address to wives. The husbands do not escape requirements without accountability either. Verse 7 has enough material to keep them occupied. In fact, one day I spent about an hour and a half with the men in our church’s men’s growth seminar on this verse alone! There is a lot of thunder to get the guys straightened out, too.
But here the Scripture is speaking to the wives. Be in subjection, or in submission, or in a right-ordered relationship to your husbands, verse 1 says, so “that even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” This verse is almost offensive to some dear believers who profess that the only way to witness is to “get the Word into their hearts.” Their habits are based on two suppositions: first, that their hearers have not already heard it (and certainly not as well as they can “lay it on”), and, second, that “witnessing” is accomplished solely by a verbal presentation.
The ancient preacher St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying this: “Always preach the gospel—and when necessary, use words.” He obviously believed, as we wisely should, that God’s Word becomes incarnate through us when we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the character, charisma, sensitivity and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, of course! The Word of God is present here in the behavior of the wife this text describes. The message asserts that if wives whose husbands
do not know Christ will live in a sensitive, loving, pure, self-giving and godly relationship with them, it will lead to their salvation.
Qualities of the kingdom with its resident power will transmit even though no word about it is spoken—it will be evident in their conduct. In other words, reaching an unsaved husband is not accomplished by parroting Bible verses or goading him to go to church. I am not proposing it as a strategy, but I know one woman who, never losing her passion for Christ or His Word during the season of time involved, would not go to church during the years her husband had stepped back on his earlier commitment to Christ. It was a case involving a longer story, and when she told it to me I commended her for her wisdom—even before he returned to the Lord. It was a matter of believing or disbelieving the Word of God in the text above: She believed it and proved its promise, but not without living out its expectations of her.
I believe there are numerous men who avoid the Lord in their outward behavior, but who are not successfully escaping His voice in their inner soul. How His partners represent the Father during such times—irrespective of gender or domestic status—will without doubt be effective as the Holy Spirit erodes their barriers to belief or commitment. Let’s teach and live the dynamic that abounds within and around the truth we are discussing here!
The Next Step
These three passages of Scripture regarding the penetration of the power of the kingdom of God into our homes and families are lovely. The first one says with certainty that “you will be saved, you and your household.” The requirement is believe. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ—not just “believe and get saved” but “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe for your house.”
The second word includes a promise also, a promise of return: “Your children will return from the land of the enemy.” Whatever drifting has happened with family members, they will return.
In the third word we see awesome potential. It says that people who are not obeying the Word may be won by the character of a believing spouse.
These are promises in the Word of God—the leaven that can introduce God’s rule into persons or places where His kingdom has not been before.
Adapted from Praying for Those You Love by Jack Hayford, copyright © 2009, Jack Hayford, ISBN 978-0-8007-9454-5. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.