Teaching Teens How to Pray for Their Friends

One of the most powerful evangelism strategies I learned 25 years ago involves writing down the names of 5 people in my life who don’t yet know Jesus and praying for them. I keep a prayer journal where I think about where I live, where I work, and where I go each day. I know it’s no accident where I am; God placed me there because as I follow Him, He will “send me out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). And it begins with prayer.

But like other spiritual practices, praying for our friends to come to know Jesus isn’t something that we only do in adulthood. Not only is this a good practice in our own lives, but youth ministers can also teach their students to pray for their friends who don’t yet know Christ. Though it may sound simple, this is an excellent way to encourage students in prayer and show them how to love their neighbor well.

Consider encouraging your students to write down the names of just 5 people. Then, have them choose a few ways to pray from the list below, and ask God to begin to move in the lives of the names you listed. Of course, there is no magic prayer formula, but here are seven Biblical ways we can pray for our friends:

7 Ways to Pray for Those In Your Life You Don’t Yet Know Jesus 

  • Ask for revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19) so they will come to know God.
  • Ask that God turn their eyes from worthless things (Psalm 110:34-37).
  • Ask that they come to their senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26) to stop sinning.
  • Ask God to send others to help (Matthew 9:38).
  • Ask for an open door for the message of the gospel (Colossians 4:2-4).
  • Ask for boldness (Ephesians 6:18-20) to not fear talking about Jesus.
  • Ask that the gospel spreads quickly (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

After 25 years of keeping my list of names and praying from Scripture like this, I’ve seen the Lord work in marvelous ways. Sometimes, I see rapid results (like when my new friend began asking me about Jesus because she thought all the money she spent on wellness practices were worthless), and sometimes, I wait patiently for decades to see the Lord work (like when my own family members finally returned to church after I prayed for them for two decades that God would send others to help).

Whether at school, on a team, or even online, God has placed countless people in the lives of our students, and we should introduce them to the joys of praying for those they love. Teach them to encourage one another in their prayers for their neighbors. When your students aren’t sure what to pray, lead them into the fruitful and life-changing prayers for the lost sheep God has placed in their lives. And as you pray, you’ll grow closer to the heart of Jesus who is right now working to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Prepare your students for a great adventure as they begin praying for those who don’t yet know Jesus.


Learn more about praying for those who don’t yet know Jesus in Sent: Living a Life that Invites Other to Jesus (Moody, 2020)

Heather Holleman, PhD, is a speaker, teacher, and author who loves helping people connect with Jesus, especially through scripture. She teaches advanced writing at Penn State and loves rooting for the basketball team. Heather has written eight books, her most recent being Sent: Living a Life that Invites Others to Jesus (Moody, fall 2020) that followed Chosen for Christ: Stepping Into the Life You've Been Missing (Moody, Fall 2018) the third in her trilogy of overlooked verbs in scripture that includes Seated With Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison and Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keep Us. Heather and her husband, Ashley, also serve with Faculty Commons (Cru) with Ashley in the role of Executive Director for Graduate Student Ministry. They have two teen daughters and three cats. Heather blogs daily at HeatherHolleman.com.

More From This Author