The prayer-care-share model is super – and succeeding. To everyone using it. Bravo! As Lon Allison admits, however, it’s a lot easier to do the prayer and care part. The actual sharing of the gospel tends to get left behind.
What will it take to uncork the life-changing, miracle-producing power of the church to share the gospel? We’ve found some help and it’s hiding right under our eye-glasses.
A leading man at church had gone years without leading anyone to receive salvation. Then he led an Army Special Forces officer to Christ. For thirty years, a church elder had not led anyone outside his own children to Christ. Then he shared the gospel with a student and ended up baptizing him in water. Rani, a corporate executive recently led a Muslim to salvation.
What’s helping us? Being simple enough to take God at His Word. Put another way, we are starting to use the Bible’s evangelistic prayers.
There are only eight Scriptures in the New Testament that link prayer and evangelism together. In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus notices so many needy people; compassion for them rises in Him. He then puts his finger squarely on the problem–many people are ready to receive salvation, but few workers. His solution: Pray for workers.
In Luke 10:2 Jesus offers the same command to a different group. “Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Does He ever specifically ask people to pray for the lost? Strangely, no. His solution is invariably the same: Pray for believers to work in the harvest.
“O Lord, open our mouths” summarizes four evangelistic-prayer Scriptures (Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Acts 4:29-31). In each case, the prayer is for God to open the mouth of the believer, not once to open the heart of the unbeliever. The problem is not the heathen, but the “heavenly.” The solution is with the saint, not the sinner.
God answers prayer! The NT evangelistic-prayer emphasis focuses on the witness, not the one we are trying to witness to.
Is it wrong to pray for the unsaved? Of course not. Check out Romans 10:1 where Paul prays for the Jews. And in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 he enjoins intercession for kings and all in authority. Then there are the common Bible promises such as “Ask and you will receive.” So no, it’s not wrong to pray for the unsaved.
Nevertheless, of the eight verses linking prayer and evangelism, six focus on the believer and only two focus on the unbeliever. It’s a lop-sided ratio. (Note: Some translations, based on weak manuscript evidence, place Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20 in the future tense which makes it seem like He’s praying for the lost. If you want to include this verse in the list, go ahead. At this point, we’re more interested in the overall emphasis of Scripture than manuscript details. Our goal is to pray effectively for the lost.)
We all want to go by the Bible. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be sufficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). When God adjusted our church (including me) regarding evangelistic prayer, more of our people began caring for the lost and actually sharing the gospel that leads to salvation.
These thoughts–pray for open mouths more than open hearts. Pray more for the saint than for the sinner. Pray more for the harvester than for the harvest – are so revolutionary that we need to stop and ponder. First, are these ideas accurate? Next, why do the majority of Scriptures linking prayer with evangelism instruct us to pray specifically for the believer instead of the unbeliever? Could this be a hold-up for revival?
Think about it. This type of prayer that directly affects the unsaved is largely unheralded and untried. Is there something significant here? Could this be a weak or missing link in our evangelism efforts? When it comes to witnessing, are you praying more for the sinner or for the saint?
Sample prayer: “O Lord Jesus, open my mouth and help me make the gospel clear. Amen”
I’d be interested in your thoughts. What’s your experience with evangelistic prayer? Have you tried this secret of praying for the lost? What results are you getting?