Is there anything we can do to soften the heart of someone else, such as a spouse, neighbor, or estranged relative?
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Absolutely yes. God is the only One who can soften or harden someone's heart, but we can pray fervently, consistently, according to God's will for Him to soften someone's heart so that HE ALONE receives the glory. I have seen this happen for myself recently after praying for my ex-husband who left me and his children in 2006. I was told of a woman who prayed for her husband's salvation for 23 years, and he was recently born again. Parents have prayed for lost children, children have prayed for lost parents, churches have prayed for "tares" in the church, evangelists pray for those they share the gospel with and people pray for those they minister in prison or wherever. More and more examples of this are coming to light through testimonies, youtube videos, baptism stories and messages between believers of answered prayer that over a period of time God softened the person's heart, made them aware of their sin and gave them the gift of repentance and faith for a saving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.God does the work for those He has chosen--it is no work of ours. We need to be getting the word out of God's mighty power to save and to listen to our cries--His children for our lost loved ones, enemies, our nation and the entire world. After praying for years, this year I had God answer my prayer. We need to be like the relentless woman going to the Judge; we need to have examined ourselves for our own confession and repentance of sin; we need to be growing and desiring more holiness in our lives; and we need to come to God in the proper posture of thankfulness and humility. This year, I got very specific for God to "soften the heart" of my ex-husband (I believe the Bible teaches the permanence view of marriage so to God and me, he is still my husband). I had prayer warriors, elders, Bible study small group friends and my children praying the exact, specific request, just for God to soften his heart. Anne Graham Lotz today spoke about being very specific with your prayers, enlisting others to intercede for you and being persistent until God comes through with an answer. God hardens the heart as He did to Pharaoh in Exodus, hardened Israel's enemies (Joshua 11:20, Isaiah 6:9-11) Matthew 13:14-16, John 12:40 and in Romans 1, He hardens us by giving us over. Romans 9:18 says So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Hebrews 3:15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” God also says that He gives people a mind of delusion-- 2 Thessalonians 2: The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. In Revelation 5:8-10 we see that in heaven the prayers of God's people ie. The saints here on earth are held in golden bowls at the throne. God is a good, good Father to listen to the cries of His children who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and even have His Spirit praying when we don't know how to. We have the Advocate. Jesus Christ is pleading on our behalf too. Some that I have "led" to Christ came to Him because I kept telling them my testimonies of His still, small voice or His answers to prayers or His directing my path (Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 30:21, John 10:27). They wanted God to speak to them too, and I had people praying that God would if they asked Him to. Then when He did, I prayed that they would have ears to hear and hearts to understand. The Holy Spirit pursued them. They got born again! To God be the glory, great things He is doing!
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