Prayer: Evangelism & Prayer
One of the most important things we need to pray for is our evangelistic efforts. When we fail to pray for our evangelism efforts we could be in danger of acting as if it is within our ability to save individuals. Because God is the great Savior, saving people in Jesus Christ, we must pray and ask that He would do His great work as we are faithful in evangelism. We should prayer for the unsaved, pray for their salvation, and pray for our efforts in evangelism. We pray precisely because we believe that only God can save the lost.
First, what compels us to pray when it comes to evangelism is the belief that only God can save the sinner. If we are convinced that the gospel really is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Rom. 1:16-17), we should be asking the Lord to take the message and use it in the hearts of people. In fact, we are told that when the gospel is proclaimed, God is the one who takes this message and declares ‘let there be light’ so that people come to see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). There are people who do not believe, they need to hear the gospel, but in the preaching of the gospel, God needs to remove the blindness of their hearts. So, to this end we pray. God saves sinners; therefore, I am compelled to pray.
Second, when I pray with regard to evangelism, I should pray specifically for the salvation of the lost person. There are, of course, many ways that I can phrase this prayer. But God hears the simplest request to save sinners. The timing or length of the pray does not induce God more or less. I should pray in secret for the lost. I should pray by name for those who I know are not saved. If I have opportunity to share the gospel on a moment’s notice, it would be wise to quickly and silently pray. Ask that God would send the Holy Spirit both to our lips but also to the ears of the listener.
I should also pray that I would have the words to say and that God would call to mind Scripture to use in sharing the gospel. Jesus tells his disciples that when they are handed over for trials and persecution, they should not worry about what to say in order to bear witness, but the Holy Spirit will give them what to say (Matt 10:17-20; Mark 13:11-13; Luke 21:12-15). I believe that it is a faithful application to say that when I am evangelizing, I should ask Jesus in prayer to give me the words to say.
Finally and most importantly, I should pray that God’s name would be glorified and that He would do all according to His will. We believe that God is sovereign in electing and calling a people to Himself. When the Word of God was preached in Acts 13, we are told in verse 48, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” That does not mean that all the elect are saved the moment that they hear the gospel, the timing of their salvation is also in God’s hand. What it does mean is that my mission in sharing the gospel is first and foremost to glorify God. I should pray that when I evangelize God would be glorified, that Jesus’ Lordship would be made clear so that He is honored. I should pray that God’s will be done.
It is entirely possible for you to faithfully share the message, the listener to openly reject the gospel, and for God to still be completely glorified. While we should continue to pray for the salvation of the sinner, our priority is that God’s will be done. So we should pray “save them, if it is your will”—this is akin to how we should pray for all our requests, in the name of Jesus and with a humble spirit ‘if it is according to your will.’
Prayer and evangelism should go hand in hand. Praying for evangelism keeps me humble. You may be the next world-renowned evangelist, but you save no one. Our efforts in evangelism need to be bathed in prayer. We should ask others to pray for us as we too pray for the evangelism efforts of others.
Prayer in evangelism is about asking God to work. It’s about looking to God. Am I evangelizing because I am enthralled with the glory of God in the gospel? Then I pray “God be glorified.” Do I evangelize because I believe the gospel is the power of God? Thus, I pray “God do your work.” We should not have evangelism without prayer but we also should not have prayers for the lost without evangelism. These are the means which God has ordained to use for the spread of the gospel and the announcement of His glory to all the nations.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.