Ì¢âÂÒThy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.Ì¢âÂå These words from the prayer Jesus taught his disciples express God’s plan and purpose in this world. They bring together in the simplest and most powerful way Ì¢âÂÒprayer in evangelism.Ì¢âÂå The compelling vision of the Kingdom of God fully realised on earth draws us into a deeper commitment to Jesus as Lord of our lives. It calls us to truly repent, turn from our own agenda and fully embrace his. We are challenged to open our hearts to the renewing and empowering of his Holy Spirit, to be transformed into his likeness and to be equipped to go into the world and make disciples.
This prayer is a declaration of our sure and certain hope that the day is coming when the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and that he will reign for ever and ever. When we truly pray this prayer, God gives us his eyes to see the need of the world from his perspective and he begins to birth in us the strategies to reach them.
In the Ì¢âÂÒPrayer and EvangelismÌ¢âÂå 2004 Lausanne Forum for World Evangelization Issue Group we explored many different ways in which God uses prayer in the task of making disciples of all nations. We looked at not only the biblical and theological perspective, but also the practical information that would help us better engage in prayer in evangelism.
The paper this group produced was written with the local church in mind and seeks to provide material to inspire, encourage and educate Christians in the why and how of prayer in evangelism. Each section includes stories and illustrations from around the world.
This is a very significant time to be examining the whole question of prayer in evangelism. God is calling people to prayer at every level of church lifeÌ¢âÂÛin local churches, across cities and nations and as a global community. The Ì¢âÂÒPrayer in EvangelismÌ¢âÂå Lausanne Occasional Paper (LOP) provides an excellent opportunity to understand more of why and how we can pray as we seek to engage Ì¢âÂÒthe whole Church in taking the whole gospel to the whole world.Ì¢âÂå
There were forty-four participants from twenty-five countries in the Prayer in Evangelism Issue Group. They represented every continent and are involved in a wide range of ministries. We benefited from an exciting and diverse pool of experiences, cultures and theological backgrounds as we sought God for his strategies and action steps to share with the Church around the world.
The issue of prayer and evangelism is extremely important for the Church today. If the two do not work together, the Church will not see the full fruits of ushering souls into the kingdom.
Evangelism Without Prayer
The Church has long sought to engage in evangelism. However, it has not always integrated evangelism with prayer in the way God intended. This oversight may account for much of the failure of many well-intentioned evangelistic efforts. Attempts to be involved in evangelism with little or no prayer have been discouraging and have yielded limited fruit. Without prayer, God’s people often lack the compassion and the conviction to be effective. If God does not take the initiative in the life of the unbeliever (as he promises to do in response to our prayers), we are limited to human resources and human understanding. It takes the supernatural power of God to release those who are in Satan’s grip (Matthew 17:21) and to open the eyes of those blinded to the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). God will act in response to our specific prayers.
Prayer Without Evangelism
Throughout history, the Church has always engaged in prayer. However, it has not always related prayer to evangelism. This failure results in imbalance. It results in a church’s prayers and activities being inwardly directed toward the needs and concerns of God’s people and seldom or never outwardly directed toward the world that God loves (John 3:16). In our Issue Group, we sought to provide creative and practical steps toward understanding and addressing this imbalance. Here is a summary of the topics covered.
Theology and Motivation of Prayer in Evangelism
1. God summons us to pray in the pursuing of his purpose to evangelize the world. Article One of the Lausanne Covenant states, Ì¢âÂÒWe affirm our belief in the one eternal God, creator and Lord of the world, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who governs all things according to the purpose of his will. He has been calling out from the world a people for himself, and sending his people back into the world to be his servants and his witnesses, for the extension of his kingdom, the building up of Christ’s body and the glory of his name.Ì¢âÂå
2. Prayer is essential for the work of world evangelization. We must address the three components of the mission of the Lausanne Covenant: the whole Church, the whole gospel and the whole world. First, everyone is summoned to join in the work of praying for the world and for others (2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:20-21; Acts 2:42-47). Second, the gospel reaches out to the total needs of humanityÌ¢âÂÛphysical, emotional and spiritual. It is a whole gospel that is to be related to our prayer in evangelism. As the Lausanne Covenant (clause 5) states, Ì¢âÂÒThe salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities.Ì¢âÂå Third, in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 Paul asks for prayer: Ì¢âÂÒFinally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you.Ì¢âÂå We ask for God’s gracious provision that the gospel will have a continuing transforming effect locally, nationally and globally.
Principles and Guidelines of Prayer in Evangelism
Four things happen to those we pray for:
- hearts are softened and changed;
- people are convicted of sin and turn to God in repentance;
- people are delivered from bondage and Satanic deceit; and
- strongholds are broken such that individuals and communities are transformed.
Four things happen in the church:
- people come to Christ, churches grow, new churches are planted and the kingdom is advanced;
- more labourers are released and sent into the harvest;
- the body of Christ is built up as all believers learn to pray and work together;
- there is increased awareness of the power of prayer and increased discernment of God’s vision and guidance.
Five things happen to those who pray:
- they have the joy of partnering with an awesome God;
- they become channels of God’s love birthed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit;
- they learn to use the weapons of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5);
- their faith increases as they see the word of God accomplish that for which it was sent;
- they grow spiritually and learn to be increasingly dependent on God.
We should pray that members of the whole ChurchÌ¢âÂÛevery man, woman and childÌ¢âÂÛbe equipped and motivated to play their part in the Great Commission by utilizing prayer as the key to effective and creative evangelism.
Implementing prayer-in-evangelism action plans for the global Church will require the combined effort of all God’s people whatever their place or position in society and the church. Those in positions of leadership are vested with God’s authority to teach and lead the church in prayer evangelism. They have a prime responsibility to train, mentor and be models for believers in prayer and evangelism. Church members in touch with non-believers daily are in a unique position to be Christ’s Ì¢âÂÒliving epistlesÌ¢âÂå and to share the good news with those around them.
Those in positions of leadership and authority nationally are urged to:
- encourage leaders in the church to unite in prayer for their communities, cities and nations;
- encourage leaders in the church to mobilize all their people to pray for revival and then work together in joint evangelistic initiatives;
- bridge the gap between the workers in evangelism and the intercessors by bringing them together in relationship and collaborative evangelistic initiatives;
- promote existing training materials and produce additional materials for prayer in evangelism;
- recognize and utilize existing prayer networks for use in world evangelism.
Those in positions of leadership and authority locally are urged to:
- embrace and model a lifestyle of prayer and understand its importance in evangelism;
- identify, recognize, affirm and activate others who have leadership gifts in this area;
- creatively teach and transfer the principles and practices of prayer in evangelism to the current and next generations;
- implement and organize prayer for all forms of evangelistic ministries;
- consciously encourage children and youth in prayer evangelism ministries.
The Prayer in Evangelism also deals with the following six topics from a biblical and practical perspective: (1) spiritual warfare prayer in evangelism, (2) healing and prayer in evangelism, (3) the role of prayer and fasting in evangelism, (4) children and prayer in evangelism, (5) strategies for prayer in evangelism and transformation of communities, cities and nations and (6) a life prayer for world evangelisation. This last one is a daily prayer plan for personal use to assist Christians in becoming involved in prayer for world evangelisation.
Stories that Illustrate the Effectiveness of Prayer in Evangelism
1. Church planted in South Asia through prayer. In 1981 a couple returned from Bible college to plant churches in my capital city. The first step in their pioneering effort was a week of fasting and prayer. As they fasted, the Lord guided them to plant the church among the poorest people in our city. They then went prayerwalking in this area full of criminals, drug addicts, pickpockets and prostitutes. They made friends with the people, introducing themselves and sharing about their purposes for being there. God had already prepared a young man’s heart to receive Jesus and his mother welcomed the couple into their home. The couple found the woman’s 18-year-old son to be mute and very short. His mother asked the couple to pray for him. In answer to prayer, God performed a miracle and the young man was able to speak. This opened the door to start Bible studies. As God added people to the Bible study, participants gave their hearts to the Lord. Within four months the group started a church. The young man who was miraculously healed became the pastor of the church. He was a midget who grew to a height of 5’5.Ì¢âÂå
2. Canadian neighbourhood changed through spiritual warfare prayer. The Vancouver Eastside Salvation Army Mission (known as the 614 Mission, in reference to Isaiah 61:4) is committed to win the world for Jesus starting in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. In one slum hotel, 614 has had a non-stop prayer meeting since late February 2004. Some mission members committed to daily prayerwalks through the neighbourhood. They walk in pairs and pray blessings over the few remaining legitimate businesses. They also pray prayers of restraint over illegitimate businesses and prayers of protection and restoration for hurting people and relationships. Many individuals read scripture and pray together each morning for thirty minutes. So far, as a result of prayer, two marijuana shops have closed. The most notorious corner in the country is now unrecognizably cleaned up. People have been saved, delivered and healed. God has given some individuals prophetic gifts for intercession and often leads people into worship as they intercede for the neighbourhood.
3. Story from Bulgaria. Today, we hear numerous accounts of intercessors using physical means which result in unique answers to prayer. One such report describes how thirty young people from America prayed in a large park in Central Sofia, Bulgaria in July 1988 while communism was still alive and well. The team, at the direction of one of their leaders, felt led to dig little holes in the soil of the clearing and plant imaginary seeds of God’s glory. They were then encouraged to praise God that these seeds of glory would grow to produce such fruit that the Communist government of Todor Zhivkov (in power for more than thirty-three years) would fall and doors would open to spread the gospel freely. Within four months of that unique time of prayer, a revolt took place in Bulgaria that did lead to the fall of Zhivkov. Amazingly, according to the Los Angeles Times (13 November 1989), the revolt literally began in a clearing in that same park in Central Sofia where a group of Bulgarian youth began a petition-signing drive against the then-Zhivkov government. The drive began with just a handful of young people (about the same number as had prayed four months earlier) who signed the initial petitions. The signing of those petitions soon led to many thousands protesting. Within a few days the Communist government had fallen as a direct result of what began in that park.
Stories that Illustrate the Tangible Nature of Healing
- A woman with HIV/AIDS was healed in India after a prayer session. She is alive and serving the Lord and has led seven people to the Lord.
- A sick woman in Ghana was laid on a stretcher on a platform during a crusade. By a command of the ministering priest, she was raised back to health and carried her own stretcher out. By the next day there were three times as many people at the crusade. One third of those in attendance surrendered their lives to Christ. Hallelujah!
- The healing of a traditional Muslim leader who had a stroke in Nigeria led to the turnaround of an entire village to God. It also led to the subsequent expulsion of the Imam and conversion of the existing mosque to a church. To the glory of the Lord, the village has remained under the tutelage of the Lord through the ministry of his church.
(The material in the LOP has already been used by a number of groups. It is hoped that an even wider distribution and use will be achieved as the paper is printed and distributed in booklet form. The entire paper is found at http://community.gospelcom.net/lcwe/assets/LOP42_IG13.pdf.)