Over the past 20+ years, the Lord has given me a platform through public speaking, primarily in vocational ministry. I vividly remember being totally petrified while doing a brief speech on football in a speech class in college. Thankfully, by God’s grace and lots of experience, I have grown to become more comfortable with this aspect of communication.
On occasion, I have been asked, “Do you get nervous before speaking?” My standard response is, “Yes, very nervous, unless I know what I’m going to say!”
You see, preparation is a key to confidence in public speaking, but it’s also a key to confidence in many other endeavors, including personal evangelism.
More specifically, prayer is imperative in the preparatory phase of the evangelistic process, as we’ve noted in previous posts. Additionally, in the spiritual, it’s worth noting that our confidence should be in the Lord, not ourselves.
For it is He who makes us sufficient for all things He calls us to:
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
And so we pray.
Prior to meeting the people, we can and should pray in a variety of ways. May I suggest first praying God would prepare us so we might be ambassadors of Christ, the kind of ambassadors that please Him.
How can we pray in this manner? How about praying a right heart, for readiness, and for a right Spirit:
Praying for a Right Heart
Personal Evangelism is as much about the “want to” as it is the “how to.” More specifically, if we don’t have the “want to,” our knowledge of the “how to” will be of little use to us. It’s kind of like the cart before the horse. So as we think about praying, we start with the issue of the heart.
1 Peter 3:15 puts it well:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”
This foundational verse for evangelism highlights the priority of heart alignment with God. Before we can prepare or be ready to tell someone about Jesus – “to give a defense” – we first need to “sanctify the Lord God in our hearts.”
How do we do that? As with any area of our life, we surrender and commit that area to the Lord and allow Him to conform our heart to His heart, as revealed in His Word.
And what is God’s heart for the lost?
He has compassion for them: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).
The Lord desires people be saved: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
That’s why, in His love, the Father, sent the Son to pay our sin debt in full: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Starting to pray for a right heart is to pray in this way: Lord, I surrender my heart to yours in the area of my personal witness. Give me a heart that breaks for the lost, as does Yours. Give me spiritual eyes to see and have compassion for those in my sphere of influence who need you. Amen.
Praying for Readiness
When we pray, we are preparing to be ready.
In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
Specifically praying for readiness is universal for the Christian in any endeavor, including evangelism, but the application of what that readiness looks like will be different for each of us, as God reveals His will.
You see, the result of praying for readiness as we prepare to witness may be to read a book, attend a seminar, watch a video, study certain scriptures, or get counsel and encouragement from others. Additionally, there may be a book, an article, a blog post, or video link we may want to share with someone. Ultimately, the application of readiness is a “word aptly spoken,” which is unique to the context of a specific moment in time as you’re witnessing to someone.
A couple of years ago God brought me into a friendship with a Muslim man. I remember asking him, “Are you Sunni or Shiite.” He responded, “Neither.” At that point, I felt like a fish out water. Jewish people I felt comfortable witnessing to. A muslim man, not so much. When we first started hanging out, he gave me a book entitled, “What Every Christian Should Know About Islam.” I read it and learned much about his faith. I prayed for readiness in future encounters, where I could share a “word aptly spoken,” a book or some other evangelistic tool with him that communicates the gospel. And God is faithful.
We shared several meals together and he was open to my testimony and to hearing the gospel message. Additionally, while at a Missions Conference, I met a missionary to Muslims, who referred me to some excellent evangelistic literature, including a book which I ultimately gave my friend.
Whether we’re “witnessing on the way” or being intentional with someone we know, we can pray: Lord, please help me be ready to give an account for the hope that is within me. Amen.
Praying for a Right Spirit
Once, I was talking with one of my fellow little league baseball dads (our son Elijah played) – and he mentioned he started going to church with his family and really liked it. I said, “That’s great! What do you think about Jesus?” He responded, “I don’t want to go there.”
Now I could have said, “Why not?” or better yet, “But Jesus is really what church is all about. I think we do need to go there, and quick!” Sarcasm aside, this type of response certainly would reflect interest only in my agenda. I chose to respect boundaries and say, “Ok.” And our conversation moved onto another topic.
1 Peter 3:15 states, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Notice the context of this verse is our answering someone who wants to hear about our faith.
The application for us is that we should only talk with people about spiritual matters when they’re open to such discussion! The spirit in which we speak carries weight as does the content of what we speak, for we’re called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
In my years of engaging in witnessing conversations, whether they be with family, friends, or complete strangers, I’ve never forced a spiritual conversation upon someone. If someone is not open to discussing spiritual matters, respect boundaries.
So, God, please give us a spirit of love as we talk with others about Jesus and may that love be characterized by gentleness and respect, including the respect of boundaries.
May God grant us a right heart, readiness, and a right spirit as we acknowledging our utter dependence upon Him in prayerful preparation. Amen.