Evangelism and Prayer
Sharon Beougher and Mary Dorsett
I. INTRODUCTION—WHY PRAY FOR EVANGELISM?
After reading the last two chapters, it is assumed that you now understand the message and some methods for evangelism. These are important topics, but if you work without prayer you will surely meet with failure. Perhaps the simplest definition of prayer is “conversing with God.” Prayer can and does take many forms, but evangelistic prayer seeks to win the lost to relationship in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Motive and methods give you the rationale and structure for doing the task of evangelism, but only the Holy Spirit can give the power and the success. Someone has compared it to owning a wonderful, shiny, new car. There are two ways to get it down the highway: you can push it, or you can tap into the power and let the gasoline fuel it for you. Most of us do not foolishly push our cars to work or the grocery store. Why, then, do we suppose that we can fuel our spiritual lives without tapping into the power source? You get gasoline at the filling station, but you get spiritual power from the Holy Spirit when you pray and ask for it.
A. Prayer is Commanded
1. Jesus makes it clear that prayer facilitates the harvest process.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 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” [Matt. 9:35-38].
The command to pray for evangelism—the harvest field—does not originate with the church but with Jesus Himself. He is the One who tells us that the vital link between unsaved humanity and the Kingdom of Heaven is prayer—not random or sporadic prayer, but a spe¬cific plea for more harvesters to be found who will go into the fields and perform this vital task.
Agricultural harvesters are those who go into ripe fields and systematically dig up, pick, or cut the crop from the field and then transport it back to the owner’s barn. Spiritual harvesters have similar responsibilities: they gather souls that are ready to leave the fields of the world and guide them to the Kingdom of God. Although the work requires discipline and can often be difficult, it brings unbelievable joy when a new believer enters into God’s family. The cost will never outweigh the utter delight of leading another from the fields of darkness to the Kingdom of Heaven. The harvester does not transform an unbeliever into one of God’s children; that is the work of the Holy Spirit. However, the harvester often becomes the vehicle used by the Holy Spirit to accomplish His task. Why God allows humans to be part of His glorious task of harvesting is a mystery. Yet the role we are to play is clearly delineated, and one of those tasks is to pray for more harvesters. Jesus tells us that there are not enough workers to bring in all the ripe fruit that is waiting in the fields.
In other words, souls all around you are waiting to be harvested but there is no one to take the message. Consider the following challenge issued in the August 1991 edition of The Church Around the World:
“Ripe Mission Field at Our Door”
According to a nationwide survey by Barna Research, one out of four unchurched people would willingly attend a church service if a friend invited them. This represents 15 to 20 million adults in our communities who are ready to reply favorably if you ask them to go to church with you.
2. Jesus gives us a promise of help.
Knowing the human tendency toward timidness, Jesus gave us a promise of assistance:
And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it. If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you [John 14:13-18].
The secret to our success lies in asking what Jesus has com¬manded. From the previously cited passage in Matthew, we see that Christ commands us to pray for more workers for the harvest; and from this passage in John, we find the assurance that Christ will always answer and empower us when we seek to obey His com¬mands. There is no doubt about the outcome. If we pray for harvesters, we will be heard.
B. Prayer promotes intimacy with God
How did Jesus know the mind of God so clearly? He spent long periods in solitary prayer learning the plan of the Father for His life. If Christ needed time in prayer each day to discern the will of God for His life, why do we think it unnecessary for ours? Or worse yet, do we make a mockery of the process by beginning or ending a strictly human endeavor with a glib prayer asking God to sprinkle His divine blessings on our self-centered effort?
Christ never insisted on His own way! Over and over He sought to know and obey the will of the Father, even when it led to the cross. Christ reconciled us to His Father because He was willing to pray—even in the face of death—”Not my will but Yours be done” [Luke 22:42]. Through prayer He was able to discern the will of God for His life and then He chose to obey.
Unfortunately, many Christians view God as a distant and rather impersonal force. However, these same folks often expound the wisdom of spending quality and quantity time with their families and friends building loving, trusting, and enduring relationships. They would never dream of going a day or a week without speaking to their husbands, children, parents, or other housemates. They set a high priority on interpersonal relationships but exclude God from this category—not so with Jesus. God the Father was more real to Jesus than a beloved husband is to a loving wife. Furthermore, Jesus delighted in the time He spent alone with the Father.
C. Prayer enables us to conform our lives to God’s plan for us and for evangelism
Prayer involves two-way conversation between a person and God. It should never be a monologue on the part of the petitioner. Our society increasingly stresses the importance of good communication. Spouses, parents and children, co-workers, and friends are constantly encour-aged to be open and honest with each other. Our newspapers, magazines, and bookstores are filled with “how to” advice concerning this important topic. Yet it is ironic that society recognizes the vital role of communication in our interpersonal lives, but often fails to apply the same truth to our relationship with God.
When a wife answers the phone and her husband speaks, she has no need to ask who is calling. His unique voice is immediately recognizable to her. Regular communication through prayer tunes our “spiritual ear” so that we easily learn to identify God’s voice, and it helps us to grow in spiritual knowledge and wisdom. With practice the listener can increasingly hear, understand, and then obey the will of God as He reveals it through prayer and Scripture. The process of listening, not just talking, to God enables the Christian to perceive evangelism from God’s perspective and follow His plan for soul winning.
D. Prayer brings power
Before His Ascension, Jesus predicted the effects of the Holy Spirit living in the lives of His followers. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8].
At the time of His Ascension, Jesus gave His disciples the command and the authority to go into the world and preach the Gospel to all nations, but they still lacked the ability to carry out Christ’s directive. The needed power would come at Pentecost. But during the ten-day interval after the Ascension, the disciples spent their time alone in the upper room seeking God in prayer. They knew that their mission would fail if they attempted it on their own. The same is true today.
Evelyn Christenson in her book, Battling the Prince of Darkness, recounts the story of a frail, elderly lady who served on the board of her organization:
I can still see my almost ninety-year-old (now deceased) board member Edith sitting in board meet¬ings with a little pile of pictures in her lap. She couldn’t stand it until she had shown us that month’s pictures. Of what? Children, grandchildren, birthday parties, vacations? Oh, no. Missionary friends from her “special mission field” regularly sent her the names and pictures of those they were trying to win to Jesus. Edith would then pray, by name, for them until they accepted Jesus. In her sleepless, pain filled nights, Edith often prayed all night. The pictures were that month’s harvest of her new converts! Her pain-ridden wrestling for those souls was the power that produced their release from Satan’s evil kingdom.’
The unsaved became Christians because someone cared enough to pray. Edith had found the secret of praying for souls one at a time until they were safely part of the Lord’s kingdom.
E. Evangelism battles Satan
Many non-Christians erroneously believe that there is a safe, neutral middle ground between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. Reading 1 John 5:19 makes it clear that everyone belongs to Satan until each person chooses to become a child of the Lord. “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Those who are not part of God’s heaven are automatically slated to spend eternity in hell with Satan. That is why Satan so opposes evangelism. Every soul saved is one “stolen” from him. No wonder he works so hard to discredit the lifesaving words of the Gospel. Jesus won the battle when He died on the cross—the doors of heaven are now open to all who will accept Christ’s redemptive power. Knowing this defeat, Satan works all the harder to see that as few as possible find the true path to salvation. Satan will always oppose evangelism.
1. Pray Defensively
Defensive prayer protects the Christian who evangelizes lost souls. Satan seeks to destroy those who bear the good news of Jesus to the darkened souls of the lost, but the power of God to protect His own supersedes that of Satan. The wise evangelist not only prays for protection for herself, but also enlists prayer partners who ask God to protect her and enable her to carry out her task.
At the end of the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul • lists the spiritual armor that is available to all Christians who go forth in battle for the Lord. Today we might see these as bulletproof vests, crash helmets, special plexiglass cages or other protective devices. The purpose of this spiritual protection is to enable us to successfully fight Satan and the Kingdom of Dark-ness—to fight and win!
We put on this special cover¬ing through prayer. Those involved in evangelism need to pray daily for this protection [defensive] and then pray to take the battle to the gates of hell [offensive] and prevail. Wise evangelists daily arm themselves with the protection and power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Pray Offensively
While defensive prayer protects Christians, offensive prayer for evangelism asks God to soften the hearts and prepare the ears of the hearers that they might be receptive to the message of the Gospel. Offensive prayer asks that Satan will be blocked in the lives of
unbelievers and that they will be open to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Acts 26:18 puts it this way: “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
A few years ago, Floyd McClung wrote a book titled Living on the Devil’s Doorstep that tells of his battle with Satan in the city of Amsterdam. With its permissive society—legal drugs and prostitution—its red-light district has gained a notorious reputation. In the years that the McClungs and YWAM [Youth With A Mission] have ministered there, they have battled the power of evil and the occult. They have watched as it sucks young people to an early grave and an eternity in hell. The YWAMers and others involved in the fight against Satan know that prayer is the front line of their defense and their offense against the enemy. Spiritual warfare is not a game. Satan and his demons are real and they seek to devour anyone who attempts to “steal” souls locked in their dark world.
Like Christ, Christians who aggressively battle evil do not hide inside their houses and hope that Satan will be defeated. They take their battle to the streets, the bars, the houses of prostitution, and any place that they find hurting people. But before, during, and after their encounters with these folks, they pray that they will be the conquerors in this spiritual battle and that new souls will be added to the Kingdom of God as a result of their efforts.
We should only pray to God, but we can and should address Satan, if the situation arises. When Jesus was confronted by the devil in the desert, Christ quoted Scripture and gave commands that reinforced His position of authority over the Evil One. We should follow this example. When battling the devil for the soul of an unbeliever, quote Scripture and use the name and power of Christ’s blood to claim the soul for God’s kingdom.
Robert Savage authored a volume entitled Pocket Prayers in which he encourages Christians to use the words of Scripture when praying for friends or loved ones. The following list of Scriptures all relate to the great need for faith in the life of the unbeliever. By simply restructuring the sentence, it is easy to turn any of the passages into a prayer. For instance, Psalm 105:4 could be prayed
“Dear Lord, may ____________ look to you and your strength and seek your face always.” Certainly not all-inclusive, this list is intended to help you to use Scripture in this special way.
II. PRAYING FOR EVANGELISM
A. Direction of Prayer
Just as human relationships are based on good communication, so, too, is ours with God. Ask yourself if you are working in God-given or human strength and direction. If your communication with God is poor, perhaps you need to concentrate more on Him and less on yourself. Talk with Him as you would to a beloved and respected parent or spouse. Speak of your love for Him, as well as mentioning problems or concerns.
What if a wife met her husband at the door each day with a list of what is wrong or things that she wanted him to do:
Good evening, Husband:
1. The dog got sprayed by a skunk—where were you when I needed you?
2. The back screen door is torn and needs fixing,
3. I think the roof is leaking and it’s going to cost so much to fix,
4. I’m so tired from doing all the chores—how come you don’t help more? and,
5. [apologetically] Yes, I know you do a lot of good things and I appreciate it but [whine] I NEED MORE.
Now how’s that for a lover’s litany? Yet, that is what we often do with the Lord. We only communicate when we want something, and we seldom ever stop to say “thank you” or “I love and worship you.” Begin your time with the great Lover of your soul by offering Him praise and worship. Tell Him you love Him; He never tires of hearing it. After you have spoken of your love, then proceed to other types of prayer.
Many Christians find it helpful to follow the “ACTS” plan. Begin with adoration, follow with a time of confession where you humbly and openly confess all known sins and submit yourself in obedience to God. Thank Him for all the ways that you see Him working in your life and those around you. Supplication completes this four-layered plan of prayer. It is now that you will want to lay your petitions before Him.
1. Pray for conviction of sins.
The Lord cannot use us if we knowingly live a life of sin. If you are serious about evangelism, ask Him to convict you of any sin in your life that will hinder you from completing the task that He is assigning you. This is a difficult prayer for some because it presup¬poses that you really want to weed out any sin that comes to your attention. That means turning your back on it and firmly resolving not to commit it again!
2. Pray for the church to have power.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” [Matt. 16:19]3. Christ has chosen to delegate much of His authority to the church, but, unfortunately, the church seldom uses it properly. Christ gave it to us that we might take the good news about Him to all the unsaved in the world. Instead, it is often used to further human ambitions or build monuments here on earth. Christ wants us to use this power to enlarge the kingdom of heaven, and He wants us to pray that others will come to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
a. There is power in the name of Jesus.
Jesus clearly told His disciples that His name held power: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” [John 16:24]. Jesus was telling His disciples that His name stood for (or represented) Himself. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are not invoking magic or a trite formula. We are coming before God in the name of the one whom He [God] has exalted above all other names [Phil. 2:9].
Imagine the doors that open every time the voice says, “This is the President of the United States.” His name is not just his personal possession but a reflection of his power. Yet no earthly leader will ever compare in power to that of Christ, and Christ has said to evangelize the world “in My Name.”
b. There is power in the blood of Jesus.
Why does Satan fear and hate the blood of Jesus? Because it atoned for the sins of the world. Our society is so sanitized that blood makes most of us squeamish, but it was different in Israel. There the people saw the daily animal sacrifices; they watched the blood flow and smelled the burning meat. They relied on these offerings to appease God. Without that blood they were in deep trouble; without the animal sacrifice they were responsible for the consequences of their own sins.
It is much the same today. We can choose to accept the punishment of hell caused by sins we have each committed, or we can receive our pardon by acknowledging that the blood of Jesus already paid the debt for each of us.
Occasionally we read an inspiring story where one person out of love for another offers to die in the place of a friend. It is not often that such self-sacrifice occurs; when it does, it is usually front-page news. Now imagine the power behind the blood of the person whose death was able to save everyone who has ever been born. Even the power of a million nuclear bombs pales in comparison, and Jesus places the knowledge of this life-changing power at our disposal when we carry out His task of world evangelization.
Countless evangelistic stories attest to the power and necessity of such prayer. For instance, the story is told of a missionary working in a small town on the border between Brazil and Uruguay:
One morning he went and began passing out tracts on the Uruguayan side of town and was rebuffed by all he met. Discour¬aged he crossed over to the Brazilian side and met with the opposite reaction. The people were not only polite, they were friendly and interested.
Much to his surprise, he spotted a woman who had also crossed the street and was shopping on the Brazilian side. When he offered her a tract, she graciously accepted even though she rudely refused him earlier that morning. Then he began to notice a pattern. Everyone on the Brazilian side of the town accepted his material openly and graciously regardless of the side on which they lived.
Puzzled, he began to pray about this reaction and felt the Lord bring the Scripture from Mark 3:27 to mind: “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.” Further investigation revealed that a group of Brazilian Christians had been praying for the strong man [the devil] to be bound in their town.3
3. Pray for Revival
Although some Christians use the terms “evangelism” and “revival” interchangeably, evangelism refers to the conversion of unsaved souls to faith in Jesus Christ, while revival refers to the process whereby Christians are renewed and empowered to do the tasks assigned them by God—especially evangelism.
a. God has promised revival under certain conditions.
The text most often associated with revival is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Notice that God includes an important “if” in this powerful promise. Revival always presupposes that God’s people are willing to reform totally their sinful ways, become humble, and pray for God to restore them to their former spiritual health. Although God can and often does restore individual souls who take this promise and its requirements seriously, it is primarily intended for the people of God as a whole3.
When the history of Christianity is charted, it looks rather like a long line of mountain peaks separated by deep, dark valleys of negligence and sin3. As early as the Book of Revelation [end of the first century], Christ was calling Christians to repent of their evil ways and return to Him with wholehearted commitment3. Aside from the obvious need to turn from sin, the church needs times of revival because they inspire people to a fresh and vigorous commit¬ment to spread the Gospel at home and abroad.
Great revivals are never self-contained events3. The joy of being in right relationship with the Lord wells up and spills over, first to the surrounding community and then into the world as these spiritually refreshed and invigorated disciples go out and tell others about the power of God to change lives.
b. Revival is the work of the Holy Spirit
Just as there is power in prayer because the Holy Spirit works in and through prayers, so He is responsible for revival. Over the years, many countries and places have experienced revival. For instance, Wheaton College has experienced several of these dramatic outpourings of the power of the Holy Spirit3. Preceding each occasion, one finds that the student body spent significant time in prayer3. In 1936, a Wheaton student asked the famous evangelist J3.
Edwin Orr, when he felt that Wheaton might experience revival. Orr answered, “When Christians get right with God about their sins.” Less than a month later, revival came to Wheaton and for more than twelve hours students took turns confessing their sins and seeking God’s forgiveness. Many of the students involved felt the call of God on their lives and have spent over fifty-five years laboring in the harvest fields.4
In 1943, a similar outpouring occurred and this time faculty joined with the students in seeking God’s forgiveness for sin in their lives. Results of that February meeting eventually reached the far corners of the world as over thirty percent of the graduating class of 1943—including Billy and Ruth Graham—ultimately became involved in some form of full-time ministry.
Seven years later, in 1950, the campus again witnessed a dramatic answer to their prayers for forgiveness and spiritual cleansing. As before, these renewed lives scattered to the far corners of the world and took the Gospel to all who would hear. One of the more prominent results of this revival can be found in the establishment of radio station ELWA in Liberia. From 1954 until its takeover during the coup of 1990, it broadcast in 42 languages to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. The Holy Spirit used these surrendered men and women to be His hands, feet, and voice to the unbelieving world.
B. Pray Simply
Many people who are willing to pray for evangelism falter because they do not know how to begin. Evangelistic prayer need not be complex. In his book, A Force in the Earth, David Shibley suggests that Christians who wish to pray for evangelism keep the following points in mind:5
• Pray that the nations of the world and their leaders will be such that the atmosphere is peaceful and conducive to evangelism.
• Pray that Satan and his demons will be bound so that harvesters can do their job.
• Ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of those who do not know Him that they might become ripe fruit.
• Quote Jesus and ask the Lord of Harvest to send forth workers into the fields that He has prepared.
• Beseech God to send His angels to do battle with the evil forces that would keep people from Christ. Some may wonder if angels are part of God’s plan for the harvest, but Hebrews 1:14 teaches: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
C. Pray Regularly
Most people never notice that Jesus spent great quantities of time alone with His Father in prayer. Before beginning His three-year public ministry, He spent forty days praying in the desert. Furthermore, the Gospels chronicle many other occasions:
• “Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” [Mark 1:35].
• “leaving them, he went to the hills to pray” [Mark 6:46J.
• “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray” [Luke 5:16].
• “One of those days Jesus went out into the hills to pray, and spent the night praying to God” [Luke 6:12].
These are only a few examples of His prayer life. If Christ found a time of regular conversation with the Father to be vital to His ministry, it’s foolish to assume that we can ever be successful without following in His footsteps.
If you do not have a regular time alone with the Savior, re¬solve to make this a part of your daily life. It is best to begin with a modest commitment and make sure that you keep it—perhaps five or ten minutes at the start. Then as prayer becomes a natu¬ral part of your daily schedule, the Holy Spirit will guide you.
D. Pray Fervently and Persistently
Americans live in an “instant society.” We want what we want when we want it. We hate lines, waiting, and any inconveniences. An attitude of instant self-gratification is diametrically opposed to that taught by Christ. Nowhere does He teach that the life of the disciple will be anything but difficult. However, He also reminds us that persistence pays off—just as the woman in the parable in Luke 18 eventually receives justice.
Praying for the conversion of a loved one, a friend, or even the unsaved of another country does not always bring immediate response. But the prayer is never forgotten by God, who hears all our utterances. History is replete with the stories of men and women who have faithfully prayed for the salvation of spouses, children, or loved ones. These prayer warriors often persevere for years before they see any fruit for their efforts.
In his small volume, The Work ofFaith Through George Mueller, the editor, Abbie Morrow, recounts an interview between Mueller and the Reverend Charles R3. Parsons. Morrow quotes the venerable saint from Bristol, England as saying:
“Thousands of souls have been saved in answer to the prayers of George Mueller. He will meet thou¬sands, yes, tens of thousands in heaven!… The great point is to never give up until the answer comes. I have been praying for fifty-two years, every day, for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but will be! How can it be otherwise? There is the unchanging promise of Jehovah, and on that I rest. The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire any-thing for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it. 0 how good, kind, gracious and condescending is the One with whom we have to do! He has given me, unworthy as I am, immeasurably above all I had asked or thought! I am only a poor, frail, sinful man; but He has heard my prayers ten thousands of times, and used me as the means of bringing tens of thou-sands into the way of truth. I say tens of thousands, in this and other lands. These unworthy lips have proclaimed salvation to great multitudes, and very many have believed unto eternal life.”6
According to David Shibley, in A Force in the Earth, God heard and answered the persistent prayer of George Mueller for the salvation of his friend. Shibley writes:
The day came when Mueller’s friend came to Christ. It did not come until Mueller’s casket was lowered in the ground3. There, near the open grave, this friend surrendered his heart to the Lord. Persis¬tence had paid off!’
E. Pray Boldly
All greatly-used saints of God [whether they are famous or not] know that they must approach the heavenly throne as boldly as Christ did. Christ prayed with confidence and certainty that the Father would hear and answer any prayer that would bring glory to Himself and advance the Kingdom of God on earth. That was why Christ could know that the Father would raise Lazarus from the dead, cure ten lepers, restore sight and hearing, or preserve and strengthen the timid disciples so that they could form the strong backbone of the Christian church.
This power in evangelism is not only granted to the prominent but also to the simple members of the Kingdom. As a youngster, Evelyn Christenson watched her mother
…as she prayed for every single member of her extended family. Not one of whom knew Jesus Christ when she found Jesus. And my mom had the privilege of leading every single one of them to Jesus Christ before they died3. And she prayed for twenty-five years for my dad, and she prayed thirty years for my only brother to find Jesus. That was my mom3. When she died at the age of ninety-one, they all said that my mother had won more people to Jesus Christ in her town than all of the pastors put together. Because she was some great, wild evangelist? [Oh no] My mom was a simple little lady who knew how to pray. And she prayed for them, she loved them, she involved herself in their lives—lived a sacrificial life for them. And had the privilege of leading—I don’t know how many—it’s hundreds of people to Jesus. My little mom. So you see I was brought up in that kind of atmosphere, and I was rather surprised when I got a little older and realized that plans and programs and projects somehow replace the power.8
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER TO EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH
A. Prayer Supports and Undergirds Evangelism
Ask sincere evangelists and they will tell you that without prayer, their efforts are doomed to failure3. Even Billy Graham, who has preached to more people than any person who has ever lived, finds that his success is entirely dependent upon prayer. Time and again, his crusades have relied on prayer support to overcome the powers of evil which seek to destroy the outreach. Some of this prayer support is visible. Members of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association work with churches from each crusade city and orga¬nize teams of local believers who commit themselves to pray for the success of the crusade. In addition, they each intercede for several unbelieving men and women whom they hope will attend the meetings. For up to a year before the crusade, these praying people meet on a regular basis to pray specifically for friends and loved ones. Once the crusade begins, they invite these prayed-for friends to accompany them to one of the meetings. Most of the people who go down to the platform at a crusade are ones who have been brought in such a fashion. Their hearts have already been softened by the Holy Spirit to accept the message they hear.
When Pearl Goode died in 1972, Ruth Graham spoke at her funeral. She pointed to the casket told the congregation, “Here lie the mortal remains of one of the secrets of Bill’s [Billy Graham’s] success.” From 1954 until her death, Pearl Goode was at every one of the Billy Graham crusades. She came not to join in the inspiring and festive atmosphere that often accompanies the meetings. Instead, she quietly remained in her hotel room praying—some-times all night—for the spiritual success of the outreach. Without fanfare or publicity, she poured out her heart to God on behalf of the efforts of thousands of men and women each of whom had a part to play. Only God can say how many souls are now part of His kingdom because of the prayers of Pearl Goode.’
B. Prayer Must Always Precede Evangelism
Prayer for a specific evangelistic outreach strikes most of us as logical and necessary, but there is another type of evangelistic prayer that is not always so obviously required. Pre-evangelistic prayer should be a daily part of the prayer life of all believers. Although some Christians appear to receive a special gift of evan¬gelism from the Holy Spirit, all Christians are commanded to share their faith whenever possible with all who will listen. Jesus makes it quite clear that we are all to be involved. His words in Matthew 10:32-33 contain both a promise and a warning: “Whoever ac¬knowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
If you have never prayed in this way, begin by asking the Holy Spirit to help you. Then keep your eyes open for places or people where you can share the good news about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit loves to be creative, so you might find yourself praying for some unlikely candidates. The following are merely a few ideas to get you started on this great adventure.
1. Take Joshua walks
Much of America seems bitten by the desire to exercise and stay healthy. More and more of us are attempting to “stay fit” in a variety of ways. Concern for physical health is not bad, but our bodies will one day die. While out jogging or walking around your neighbor¬hood, why not use the time to pray for souls? Pray for the houses that you pass. If you know something about the residents, pray specifi¬cally for God to soften their hearts and lead you to find ways to reach out and build a bridge to them. Pray that God will give you an open door, and boldness to clearly and succinctly explain the gospel to them. Then pray that the spiritual blinders will fall off their eyes and that they will accept this life-changing truth as reality in their lives.
When the Holy Spirit gives the “go ahead” signal, consider inviting these people to a church service, an evangelistic Bible study, or possibly a neighborhood discussion about the claims of Christ. Look for ways that you can creatively present authentic biblical truth about Jesus in such a manner that your friends will find it irresistible.
2. Form or use existing prayer chains
Most churches have prayer chains that usually work overtime when someone is ill or in unusual distress, but often they go days, weeks, or months without praying for unsaved souls. Mobilize this untapped resource in your church and turn it into a powerful evangelistic weapon for advancing the kingdom. Have these hidden prayer warriors beseech God to protect and embolden the ones who that day will be involved in the process of evangelism. Ask God to protect and defend those who battle the kingdom of Satan, but also plead with God to help His people break down the strongholds of the evil one that inhabit every community.
3. Pray for church services
Evelyn Christenson tells of a pastor who walks around his church on Saturday night and prays for the folks who will be sitting in each pew the next morning. Even if you cannot go to your church on Saturday night, why not covenant to pray for the unbelievers—whether new or regular attenders—who will worship with you on Sunday morning?
4. Take advantage of pictorial directories
If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then consider the link between pictorial directories and evangelism3. High school and college yearbooks or other pictorial directories provide a rich field for prayer and harvesting. Young people are especially open to new ideas and are just beginning to form opinions on a variety of subjects. If you are committed to helping these young people find the path to Jesus, agree to take one or more pictures, post them in some prominent place in the house and then pray daily for the salvation of the young faces that greet you.
5. Establish Prayer Triplets
One effective method of evangelistic prayer involves the forma¬tion of a Prayer Triplet. In a little pamphlet published by Evelyn Christenson Ministries, Prayer Triplets are introduced as “a simple convenient way to win people to Christ. You just link up with two Christians and pray together regularly for the salvation of nine friends or relatives who do not know Jesus personally3.”
The format for a Prayer Triplet group is wonderfully simple. As the pamphlet explains:
Format for a Prayer Triplet
1. Choose two Christian friends or relatives to make your triplet.
2. Each of you choose the names of three people who do not know Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.
3. Agree on a time to meet once a week to pray together for your nine. Just 10 or 15 minutes in your home, at work or school, before or after a meeting, etc3. is all it takes.
4. Pray together for the nine people by name to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Include their personal needs and families.
5. As much as possible, as God leads, involve yourself with your three in a friendly, helpful way. Pray for each other as you seek to do this.
6. When your friends become Christians, continue to pray for them even if your triplet takes on other names to pray for.
7. If possible, incorporate them into your church, Bible study and/or fellowship after they accept Jesus.
IV. THE EFFECTS OF EVANGELISTIC PRAYERS
A. It fulfills the biblical mandate
When we ask God to raise up workers, we are fulfilling the vital command of Jesus [Matt. 9:36-38]. In doing so, we become united with believers around the globe who are likewise involved in a similar pursuit, and we are actively advancing the kingdom of God on earth3.
B. It strengthens individuals and churches
When churches are united in their purpose and obedience to Christ, they become attractive to the secular world that surrounds them3. Christ, Himself, tells us in John 12:32: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Not surprisingly, then, the healthiest churches in every country of the world are those that seek to follow the words and example of Jesus most clearly.
C. It opens our eyes to “hidden” or new harvest fields
Sometimes Christians overlook other obvious connections to the secular world. Have you considered the spiritual state of the friends of your children, the woman who does your hair, the people at your health club, the lonely, talkative widow who lives on your street, or the single Mom who needs a friend and someone to help carry her burden?
D. It enlarges the Kingdom of Heaven and brings glory to God
When a soul is reborn into His eternal kingdom, glory is restored to God. Only God is worthy of the praise and adoration of all of creation. Evangelism, then, gives to God the glory that He deserves because it restores a rightful relationship between Creator and creature. Every soul that is added to God’s heaven represents a precious life saved from eternity in hell. The church today is involved in a spiritual battle of cosmic proportions. Each morning brings us one day closer to the return of Christ and an end to our opportunity for evangelism. Let us greet each day on our knees.
Now if you haven’t already done so, listen to cassette tape *2A featuring Prayer and Evangelism by Evelyn Christenson. Also on the tape are excerpts of messages by Millie Dienert and Carolyn Peterson.
1 Evelyn Christenson, Battling the Prince of Darkness (Victor Books, 1990), pp. 107-108.
2 Robert C. Savage, Pocket Prayers (Tyndale House, 1982).
3 David Shibley, A Force in the Earth (Florida: Creation House, 1989), pp. 73-74.
4 Mary Dorsett, “Revival” (Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Apr/May ’89).
5 Shibley, pp. 74-77.
6 Abbie C. Morrow, The Work of Faith Through George Muller (Cincinnati: M.W. Knapp, 1899), p.149. 7
7 Ibid., p. 84.
8 Evelyn Christenson, Talk given at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois on April 9, 1991, pp. 3-4 of transcript.
9 John Pollock, Billy Graham: Evangelist to the World (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1979), p. 113.
The above article, “Evangelism and Prayer” was written by Sharon Beougher and Mary Dorsett. The article was excerpted from their book, Women & Evangelism.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”