I am prone to action. I am prone to “do – do – do.” I am prone to taking matters into my own hands and hoping that God will bless what I am doing. This is especially true of me when it comes to being on mission and doing evangelism. I want to create a system, develop a fool proof strategy, or figure out the latest and greatest methods for evangelism. In one sense that’s a good thing, we want to be faithful in accomplishing the task that God has entrusted us with – and part of being faithful is working hard at it. However I often find myself placing too much confidence in these sorts of things and not relying enough upon prayer.
In The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel With More Than Our Lips, John Dickson calls us back to rely upon the power of prayer for evangelism…
Evangelism is grounded in heartfelt prayer. I realize this is a mother’s-milk statement, but sometimes I am in danger of treating prayer as if it were mother’s milk – something I have grown out of. How many churches have spent more time crafting mission statements, devising strategic plans, and organizing evangelistic programs than pleading with God for success in these activities? I am charging myself here. In my own church we tried to remain conscious of the priority of prayer. Instead of developing a manifold strategy for evangelism, we decided to produce and distribute a seven-paragraph congregational prayer, something that captured our hopes as a congregation and gave focus to our pleas to the Lord and planning evangelism. We figured that even if our strategies failed, the Lord might still answer our prayers. (66)
Evangelism is grounded in heartfelt prayer. That truth permeates scripture. Paul tells the Romans that it was his practice to plead with God on behalf of people who did not yet follow Jesus…
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1)
Paul urges Timothy (and us) to pray for non-believers in the world…
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Paul urges Timothy to pray for all people in order that all people may be saved and come to a knowledge of truth. Praying for those who don’t believe is one of the most important things we can do when it comes to mission and evangelism.
But its not just Paul who urges prayer for evangelism and mission – Jesus urges us to pray too! Before Jesus sends out his disciples he tells them
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
As you reflect on the importance of prayer to evangelism and mission I would ask you to ponder these three questions:
- What are the names of non-believers that you are praying for?
- What unreached people groups are you praying for?
- How can you begin to incorporate prayer for the lost into your everyday prayer time?