So many books, seminars and DVD series exist on the topic of evangelism. Most of these resources describe mindsets, motivational pep talks, and above all else a wide variety of techniques. I want to suggest that in the midst of all these voices we often overlook the most productive evangelistic practice: PRAYER.
Last Sunday I was blessed to speak at the Center Road Church of Christ in Kokomo, Indiana. They asked me to address the topic of evangelism, so I did.
A significant part of my sermon focused on the benefits of prayer in the evangelistic process. I’ve provided a summary below.
5 Reasons to Make Prayer Central to Evangelism
- Prayer involves God in our circumstances. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) begins with Jesus’ statement, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore…” Our evangelistic mission emerges from the fact that Jesus has all power! When we pray, we request the holder of all power to act on behalf of the lost in our lives. This single function of prayer is 99.5% of the reason prayer should always be central to evangelism. The power of God that we request through prayer is real!
- Prayer reminds us that it’s not our expertise that’s on trial, we’re just joining God on His mission. Closely related to the previous point this reason just shifts the focus. If all power belongs to Jesus, then we need to remind ourselves that we’re just His tools. I suspect the #1 barrier to sharing our faith is that we take complete responsibility for bringing people to Christ. When we do that we subvert the work of God and the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Yes, we have to meet people, speak to people, express our faith, but we also need to give God space to work.
- Offering to pray for (unchurched) people is a a super non-threatening way of expressing our love for God, our love for the individual, and God’s love for that person all at the same time. It is amazing how people will open up when you ask if you can pray for them.
One of the first time I asked a waitress if I could pray for her when I gave thanks for my meal she nearly burst into tears telling me how her cat was suffering and about the surgery it needed. Now I’m not a cat person, but I prayed for her cat (can’t remember its name) as I gave thanks for my meal. I was at a conference that week, but if that happened in Rochester, I’d have gone back to that restaurant to ask that lady how her cat was. I’ve gotta think that lady hated being separated from her cat while she was at work that day, but that God was able to give her some encouragement through my question.
- Offering to pray for people leads to spiritual conversations. How often do we psych ourselves out of speaking up for God because it just seems inappropriate. But when a stranger asks you to pray for something specific, they’re having a spiritual conversation with you whether they realise it or not. They’re asking you to approach God with a need on their behalf. Then as the above story demonstrates you can come back and ask how God responded to that prayer. Before you know it, you’re talking about God with a stranger and they’re viewing you as a conduit to God.
Or you could just walk up to people and ask them if they know where they’re going to spend eternity. Try that with your waiter and see how it goes. 🙂
- When prayer for the lost is part of church gatherings it raises the awareness of the members. One of the few specific things that Jesus commanded his followers to pray for was workers to spread the Gospel. Do you remember this passage from Matthew 9:37-38 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” When is the last time you heard this prayer at your church? Church leaders will often lament about church growth and evangelism, but are we praying as Jesus instructed us to pray?
Yeah, I know I cheated and there’s some overlap between those points, but I’d love for you to add to this list. Please leave a comment below.
And many thanks to Kairos Church Planting for helping me focus on prayer as the locus of evangelism.
I have been taught that one of the responsibilities of a minister (christian?) is to see people the way God sees them: to see them the way than can be, not just the way they are. That’s a difficult task. It’s much more natural to view people the way they are now, with their struggles, troubles, and difficulties often resulting from their past. It’s difficult to picture that new member with strange piercings and clothing choices as a future deacon or elder, or even Sunday School teacher.
When I come to the Lord’s Table each Sunday, my thoughts often reflect on my past shortcoming and my present repentance. I have difficulty reminding myself of how the Holy Spirit is currently at work sanctifying me, making me holy, and transforming me into the image of Christ. While the view out the windshield is much more attractive, I spend a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror.
In Jeremiah 32:6-12 God tells Jeremiah to purchase a piece of property. At the time, this made no sense. Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonian army and the siege ramps were nearing the top of the wall. In addition, Jeremiah was locked up by the king, and he was prophesying that the city was about to be destroyed. This is not a good time to invest in property!
But God has a reason for making Jeremiah buy the land.
In v27 God asks, “I am the LORD, the God of the whole human race. Is anything too hard [impossible] for me?” The nation of Judah thought they were God’s people and therefore it was impossible for Jerusalem to be destroyed. God proved to them that nothing is impossible for Him. But once they are in captivity they will think their nation has been destroyed, that it has not future, just a past, and God will again demonstrate that nothing is impossible for Him by returning the nation from captivity to the land and rebuilding it. Jeremiah purchases the property as a statement of faith that after the devastation they will regain the land. God will not forsake them.
We often feel overwhelmed by our current circumstances and allow them to not only cloud our future, but to obscure our vision of God. We can allow the status quo to strip God of His power to accomplish the impossible. We often need God to ask us, ” I am the LORD, the God of the whole human race. Is anything too hard [impossible] for me?”
We might not answer “Yes” to God’s face, but our actions and attitudes often provide that answer.
- Does a discussion like this make you want to say, “Yes, but I have to do my part too”? Is that a healthy response? or a sign of weak faith?
- Have you been influenced by someone who saw your potential rather than your limitations? How did they encourage you?
- What have you found helpful in reminding yourself to hand a situation over to God?