Connecting Prayer and Evangelism
Over the past two Sundays, we’ve heard God’s Word instruct us to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” and to live honorably among non-believers so that they would see our good deeds and glorify God. Living an honorable life, filled with good deeds done both among non-believers and directed to non-believers, while proclaiming Christ’s excellencies––this is Peter’s prescription for effective evangelism.
But that “e” word scares us.
Yesterday I noted that the word “abstain” is not a popular word in our culture, but the unfortunate truth is that the word “evangelism” is not a popular word among Christians. We want to leave it to someone else; we’re afraid we’ll mess something up; we’re not sure what to say; and even if we were prepared, we don’t know if or when we’d ever have an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus anyway. That’s why I want to urge you to use these 40 Days of Prayer to build the habit of praying about evangelism.
CONNECTING EVANGELISM TO PRAYER
Jesus made some remarkable promises regarding prayer, including two such promises recorded in John’s gospel.
In John 14, Jesus promises us: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” This promise reminds us of one of the primary purposes of prayer: like everything else in life, prayer is all about the glory of God.
And Jesus connects prayer, evangelism, and the glory of God in one incredible verse in John 15:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.John 15:16
To be sure, “bear fruit” has a much broader range of meaning that simply “as a result of evangelism.” But it does include that. D.A. Carson writes of this verse, “however comprehensive the nature of the fruit that Christians bear, the focus on evangelism and mission is truly central.” And what this verse shows us is that the means of our fruitfulness is prayer in Jesus’s name.
Therefore, during these 40 Days of Prayer (and beyond!) it would be good for us to regularly pray for evangelism. How do we do that?
HOW TO PRAY FOR EVANGELISM
I want to give you three biblical prayers for evangelism—one from Acts 4 and two from Colossians 4—and ask you to join me in cultivating a habit in praying these three things regularly.
Pray for boldness.
Early in the book of Acts, immediately after Peter and John had been arrested and interrogated for their evangelism, the believers gathered for prayer. Read their petition at the end of that short prayer recorded in Acts 4, and pay close attention to the result of that prayer in the final verse:
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.Acts 4:29–31
It takes boldness to proclaim Christ when you’re faced with the very real possibility of arrest, so the believers prayed, and just like Jesus promised in the verses mentioned above, God answered that prayer.
It also takes boldness also to proclaim Christ when you’re faced with the very real possibility of rejection, of ostracism at work or in your school, of misunderstanding and anger and perhaps, even, a loss of a friendship. It takes boldness. So let’s pray for boldness, and then let’s trust God that he’ll supply all that we need.
Pray for an open door.
That’s what Paul asks the church in Colossae to pray for him:
“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”Colossians 4:3
When we pray for an open door, we’re praying of course for opportunities to proclaim the gospel. I’d note here, also, that Paul’s prayer request is specifically for opportunities to declare the word and the mystery of Christ (that is, the gospel). Therefore, having prayed for boldness to proclaim Christ, we’re now asking for God to give us opportunities to do just that––not just to share how we feel about the church, or something vague about God, but we’re asking for opportunities to declare biblical truths proclaiming Jesus.
Pray for words.
Finally, pray for words. One of the greatest hindrances to our engagement in evangelism is that we’re afraid we won’t know what to say, but apparently, we’re not the only ones to feel this way. Paul himself asked the church in Colossae to pray for him, that when he had that open door, he would clearly speak the word of the gospel.
“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word . . . that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”Colossians 4:3–4
Another post, perhaps, is needed on how to turn conversations to Christ, but in short, think through the two main headings of God’s Design and Brokenness. How should the world be? and Where do we encounter suffering because the world isn’t that way? We have numerous regular conversations that touch on both of those topics, both of which can be used to turn a conversation to the gospel. For more, pick up Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright’s very helpful, very practical, very short book Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations.
What do we say once we have turned the conversation to Christ? People need the Scriptures. Memorize a few key verses (Ephesians 2:8–9, Romans 5:8, and 2 Corinthians 5:21 are great starting places), and give people God’s word. The book by Scroggins and Wright will help you in this regard as well, as will the excellent The Story gospel tracts available online or through Pastor Rhett.
BOW in Prayer
So let me encourage you to BOW in prayer. We should do that physically, of course, as a representation of the attitude of our hearts, but also, let that simple little posture remind us of how to pray for evangelism. BOW in prayer. Pray for:
- Open doors
- Words to speak
Let’s bow in prayer, remembering that whatever we ask in Christ’s name, that he will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.