Evangelism Starts on our Knees

Going through the motions is a battle we face in life across the board. Perhaps it’s at a job, in school, in a relationship, or with an athletic endeavor like weight lifting or practicing a sport. 

The Lord calls us to excellence – for whatever you do, do unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17, 23-24).

As we think about being a witness for Jesus, we understand the imperative that evangelism starts on our knees. Yes, we need to go to God on behalf of people before going to people on behalf of God. Yet, going through the motions in prayer in the midst of the spiritual battle can be a losing proposition. 

Here’s a case in point. In early September 2004, I was in Colorado for a couple of weeks helping lead an evangelistic campaign with Jews for Jesus. One night during one of our witnessing “sorties,” I led a group of six people to the Pearl Street Mall, a four block pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado. The pedestrian area stretches from 11th Street to 15th Street along Pearl Street and is home to a number of businesses and restaurants as well as the Boulder County Courthouse. 

As you may know, Colorado is a bastion for New Age and occult activity. As was normal protocol, just before our team began handing out literature and talking to people about Jesus, we said a prayer. We prayed something brief and along these lines, “Lord, open up doors and hearts and give us lots of fruitful conversations about Jesus. Amen.” 

After a brief prayer, we dispersed and went on our mission. Ninety minutes later we met to debrief what God had done. Everyone was discouraged because we got spiritually stonewalled. People were not open, and we didn’t have many meaningful gospel conversations. Each of us shared a similar experience. 

I understood one thing. The next time we came to this place, it would be different. I told the leader of our campaign to send me back to the Pearl Street Mall, for I wanted to try another strategy. A few days later I took another group there. 

This time I gave our group specific instructions. Since we’re in a spiritual war, one of the weapons of warfare at our hand is prayer. Before we prayed I paired our group into two-person teams. I assigned one team to prayer walk for twenty minutes. I told them not to engage anyone and not to hand out any literature. Simply pray over the locale, for the people, for our witness and for the Lord to move. Every twenty minutes another two-person team would take over. For the entire ninety minute mission we had a prayer team lifting up the effort and imploring the Lord to work. 

What do you imagine happened? Doors opened, and God moved. It so happens that we all experienced much more freedom in sharing, more open hearts, more evangelistic literature distributed, and more and deeper witnessing conversations.

This was a tremendous object lesson for me in understanding the power of prayer in evangelism. That was street evangelism, I know. Yet the principle applies in our typical course of activities where we’re seeking to share the gospel with people in our own sphere of influence. 

As we noted in our last post, there is praying with fervency for our witness and for the salvation of another. Fervency in evangelistic prayer, the opposite of going through the motions, is a heartfelt plea to the only One who can bring a precious soul out of darkness and into the light.

May the Lord grant you and me a fervent heart in prayer for the lost and for our witness to those precious people in our lives who need Jesus!

While fervency in prayer is one thing. Frequency in prayer is another.

While there is no formula for evangelistic prayer, frequency in evangelistic prayer can be important. In my witness to people over the years, I have seen regular evangelistic prayer for my witness to others make a difference, especially with my family. 

Being the only Christian in my family and living in a different locale, I only see them in person on occasion. I count those occasions as precious opportunities to be salt and light.

A few years ago I visited my sister in Atlanta for my nephew’s college graduation. I had been praying for an opportunity to witness to her and had something very specific on my heart to share with her from God’s Word. I had been praying for praying for a chance to be alone with her to share what I wanted to share.

Between lots of family in town and from out of town enjoying the festivities and events associated with the graduation, I wondered how the Lord might open a door for me to have a one on one with my sister.

On the way to the graduation the family took two vehicles. I was able to go with my sister to pick up two other family members on our way to the graduation. We had about 30 minutes alone in the car. During that time I was able to broach the subject and share exactly what I wanted to share! Praise the Lord!

Over three days, with all the pomp, circumstance, family, and friends, the Lord opened up a door of opportunity! And I’m grateful. Yet I also recognize I had bathed that weekend in fervent and frequent prayer for months prior to that precious moment in time. And God is faithful!

Although while today in 2023 she has not yet become a believer, I’m still encouraged by what the Lord did that weekend and continue to lift up my sister and other lost family members to the throne of grace for salvation.

Go to God on behalf of people before you go to people on behalf of God. This is a primary principle of prayer in evangelism and one we need to take to heart. It’s also a principle we’ll unpack in detail in upcoming posts. For we are in a spiritual war, where the souls of men and women hang in the balance.

When we go to God first, we acknowledge our dependence on Him, the vanity of witnessing to people in our own strength, and the necessity of God to move and work in the hearts of those we desire to reach. For Jesus said, “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), including the work of evangelism. Yet “we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13).

In this series of blogs on prayer and evangelism we’re going to focus on praying for:

·        A Right Heart

·        Readiness

·        A Right Spirit

·        Peace

·        Protection

·        Wisdom

.        Boldness & Courage

·        Open Doors 

·        The Lost

·        Other Witnesses

Regarding the primacy of prayer in the evangelistic endeavor, Hudson Taylor stated, “Brother, if you would enter that Province, you must go forward on your knees.” Amen!

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

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