Evangelistic Praying: Prioritizing Congregational Prayer Times 9th Essential for a TRULY Evangelistic Church
If I could listen to the prayer requests in your church, they would tell me what your church folks value as they go before the throne of God.
I suggest you try this a few times. Take note of the kinds of prayer requests your church members make. It’s a great way to get a “feel” for the EQ (evangelistic quotient) of your congregation. Are they primarily “here and now” prayers, or “now and for all eternity prayers”?
The disciples of Jesus said, “Lord teach us to pray.” So our Lord gave them a model prayer, a prayer He didn’t intend for them to recite verbatim. It was a prayer to teach them what kinds of things to pray about—priorities in praying. Yes, there should be priorities in praying.
It’s certainly OK to pray for a loved one who is home with the flu or a friend who is having outpatient surgery tomorrow. There’s nothing wrong with “here and now” prayers and prayer requests. All of us feel the need for prayer, as well as the urgency to pray for the temporal needs of others. So we want to be careful not to trivialize prayer requests that are sincere, even if they are not for extremely serious matters.
But most evangelical congregations need to be taught to prioritize their prayer times to focus more on lost sheep who need the Good Shepherd.
Components of a Model Evangelistic Prayer Time
In a sense, our Lord has given us a model for evangelistic praying. Jesus started this model prayer Himself and finished it through the writings of the Apostle Paul. Pastors, you may want to teach your congregations this model:
One: Pray for Harvesters. My first mentoring pastor taught me that one of the best ways to get people to do something is by getting them to pray for that something to happen. For example, if you want them to get behind a building project, get them praying about the need for a building, etc. Prayer not only “moves God,” it also moves the pray-ers to move with God.
Assuming His disciples prayed this prayer, they eventually learned that they were becoming partial answers to their own prayers.
Two: Pray for Opportunities. One reason Christians fear evangelism is because of the evangelistic method they have been taught, a push-the-door open method, or even knock-the-door-down approach. You probably know exactly what I mean.
When you go to someone’s home, the visit will be much more pleasant and productive if they open the door and welcome you in, rather than forcing or inviting yourself in. Even Paul felt the need for open doors and believed that God (God!) could open doors for the gospel. And Paul believed that the prayers of other Christians were effective in helping make that happen.
In addition to a regular, perhaps daily, practice of praying for open doors for yourself and others, pray the “onion peeler’s” prayer as you converse with unbelievers. The onion-peeling process, as taught by Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship, is based on the “open doors” principle: Look for open doors for deeper levels of spiritual discussions with unbelievers. In the process of normal everyday “human commonality” conversations, pray silently for “entry points”—open doors that invite us to ask unoffensive investigative questions that may (or may not) lead to welcomed conversion discussions.
Three: Pray for Boldness. On a timid to boldness scale, we might think that Paul was a “10.” Well, maybe he was but his boldness was empowered by more than personality.
Paul’s boldness was empowered by prayer—his prayers, no doubt, and the prayers of those who supported him—the same kind of power that his predecessor apostles experienced:
Fear may be the number one reason Christians fail to witness for Jesus. Good preparation helps overcome fear, but prayer-based Holy Spirit empowerment energizes boldness.
Our fellow believers need to understand—it’s OK to be fearful and it’s OK to say, “Pray for me that God will give me the boldness to speak up for my Savior.” Paul did.
Four: Pray for Clarity. Boldness in evangelism without clarity may be more harmful than no evangelism at all. Scores of people will probably spend eternity in hell because some bold Christian pressured them to say a prayer based on a “gospel pitch” that promised them heaven without clearly explaining the basis of saving faith.
According to Matthew, Jesus addressed the importance of clarity in messaging “the word” of God.
And even Paul, a seasoned veteran evangelist, requested prayer for clarity in his presentations of the gospel.
Clarity in 1content and clarity in 2presentation—these are the reasons we spend several hours in our Good Soil seminars focusing on how to help unbelievers clearly understand the gospel, even anti-believers with other deeply seated faith commitments.
Five: Pray for Receptive Hearts. As we have illustrated in the Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship Scale, evangelism is a divine-human partnership. God has chosen to use us in presenting His message of redemption, but only He can convict, open hearts, and draw sinners to Himself. And, in some way that I do not totally understand, God responds to our prayers to convict sinners, open their hearts, and draw into His family the sinners we pray for.
Paul’s “heart’s desire and prayer to God” for Israel was “that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1)
And because this was Paul’s heart’s desire and personal prayer, he sought the supportive prayers of churches that wherever he went unbelievers would be receptive to his gospel ministry and message—Gentiles too, not just Israelites.
If we really believe that God can convict sinners, open their hearts to the gospel, and draw them to Himself, why do we focus most of our prayers on earthly things that pale in comparison to the eternal destiny of our friends, family, neighbors—and the strangers God brings into our paths?
Leading Your Church in Evangelistic Praying
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Followers of Jesus need to be taught how to pray and what to pray for. Our Lord is not among us in person, but He has left “under shepherds” (pastors) to carry out His will in the churches. For starters, here are some suggestions for leading a congregation in the ministry of evangelistic praying.
- Model evangelistic praying yourself. Let the congregation hear you practice what you teach.
- Don’t allow all of the prayer time to be consumed with requests related to here and now needs. Divide the time into two periods, one for general requests, the other only for evangelistic requests—for harvesters, opportunities, boldness, clarity, and receptive hearts, etc.
- A significant part of peer accountability partnerships and groups should be their focus on prayer—prayer for specific unbelievers and gospel sharing opportunities, boldness, clarity, and receptivity.
- Teach the congregation the five types of evangelistic prayer requests mentioned above. A one-time (“one and done”) sermon, or even one series of sermons, won’t do it. Find some way to keep these emphases in their minds.
- As part of these evangelistic seasons of prayer, allow for and encourage members to share answers to these prayers—what God is doing through their gospel ministries. It’s the praise and thanksgiving part of evangelistic praying.
Here’s a look back and a look forward to the entire set of articles in this “Twelve Essentials to a TRULY Evangelistic Church” series:
- Evangelistic Pastor
- THE Mission
- Local Focus
- Congregational Warmth
- Equipped Congregation
- Basic Discipleship
- Peer Accountability
- Evangelistic Praying
- Public Rejoicing
- Strategic Simplicity
- Persistent Pursuit