I stared in bewilderment at the memorandum in my hand: "The Jews for Jesus Ingathering is coming up, and I’d like to ask for your involvement. Specifically, would you please assist with the children’s program and give a workshop on Praying for Unbelieving Mishpochah (Yiddish for family)." Children’s program? Sure. But a workshop on praying for unbelieving family? I am a missionary with Jews for Jesus. I have been a believer for seven years, but I have yet to see any members of my family come to faith in Yeshua. My mother is the only one in our family besides me who is a believer, and she got saved first!

Having shown no level of expertise in that area, I was not sure how I could make an effective delivery at the workshop. But I agreed to do it. I figured God surely had a plan.

As I began to pray and ponder my assigned topic, I had to admit the frustration that so many of us believers feel in praying for our unbelieving families. Some of us have been praying for years and have seen virtually no fruit for our labors. We read Scripture passages like Acts 16:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be be saved, and thy house," and we become disillusioned. We think, "Was this a prophecy only for the Philippian jailor’s household? Or dare I apply it to myself?"

My mother only prayed a year for me before I accepted Jesus. Not too bad! How do success testimonies like that make the rest of us feel? Sometimes frustrated. Jealous. Even bitter.

Stan Teichin, a Jewish believer, wrote his story in the book, Betrayed! Stan’s daughter Judy was saved first, and within a year her mom, dad and sister were saved. When I took a closer look at those accounts, I began to realize why the Lord wanted me to do that workshop. It was apparent that I had a lot to learn.

I decided I would go to some who had success stories about praying for their loved ones’ salvation and inquire about their methods. Out of three interviews, two had at least one family member who had come to faith within the year. The one factor that stood out clearly was their high level of faith. Both believed. That sounds so simple. Yet when we review the Parable of the Mustard Seed, unbelief seems a common hindrance to the effectiveness of prayer. Certainly the Lord does not desire anyone to perish. Although it is his Spirit who draws people to himself, God does ask that we believers be actively involved. Whether it is preaching the gospel to every creature or praying without ceasing, faith without works is dead!

So what? Out of all that I observed in the two success stories, I was able to discover four parallels.

  1. Both believers had tremendous burdens for their families. They prayed a lot. Judy Telchin even fasted, but not to change God’s heart. She fasted so that God would change her heart.
  2. Both believers were in a constant attitude of prayer.
  3. Both were very submissive to the Lord. They asked him for the words to say to their family members, whether in writing or in a visit with them.
  4. Both were brand-new believers themselves. The zeal of their own conversions was very fresh, very tender and very sweet.

This led me to examine my life, and I recommend such examination to those who want to see their loved ones come to faith in Yeshua. You might ask yourself the following questions: What is my own prayer life like? Do I feel guilty for not praying enough? Is there unresolved anger or bitterness brewing within? Is my own heart clean before God? What are my motives, really?

My research has had a direct effect on my own family relationships, particularly in regard to my father. I have been asking God to increase my burden for my family and to forgive my lack of faith that he will touch their hearts. My involvement with my dad has become much more intimate. When we talk, I don’t try to stick Jesus in everywhere. Jesus is everywhere in my attitude. I simply care and inquire actively about my dad’s life. I have, however, become very open with him about the fact that I am praying for him and have asked others to pray for him.

Two weeks after the workshop I had the oppportunity to see my dad. For a week, people had been praying for our time together. On the last day of our visit my dad and I had breakfast together. Before we began to eat he looked at me, expecting me to pray. I praised God for our time together, and asked him to bless my father’s travels and to guide him in a possible new business endeavor. When I looked up at my papa, his eyes were filled with tears. He smiled through quivering lips, confessing hope that God had understood my prayer.

I know God’s Spirit is working.

My earthly father may not be able to confess his Messiah yet, but I know that as long as I confess my Messiah openly, my heavenly Father will be glad. The rest is up to the Lord. I now have more confidence than ever that I am to persevere in prayer, believing that the fruit will come in due season. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The first mandate in this promise to the Philippian jailor was to "believe in the Lord Jesus." The rest fell into place.