The Interwoven Tasks of Prayer and Evangelism

At first glance it may not appear that evangelism and prayer are related. Evangelism focuses on reaching pre-believers. Prayer is primarily an activity of believers. The first is about outreach; the second concerns spiritual growth. This is how I used to think. Not so anymore. I now see these two spiritual disciplines as inseparable.

Evangelistic-praying is necessary. John 6:44 reminds us that no one will come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit’s drawing power. No manner of personal persuasiveness, perfect theological presentation or amount of friendship can save anyone. Although these things may lead someone to pray a prayer of salvation, this is no guarantee of regeneration. In evangelism we work with God, under God and in full dependence on God. Therefore, a life of prayer is essential for the believer in reaching the lost. We must remember that as we reach out to lost people, we are in a spiritual war for souls. Satan (the god of this age) blinds the mind of unbelievers so that they are not able to see the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We also learn from Paul how to ask for prayer in our task as witnesses and evangelists. In Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4 Paul asks the churches to pray for open doors, courage and clarity of speech as he witnesses. It seems the great apostle was fully aware of his need for divine leadership in evangelizing. The prayers of others were his avenue for that anointing.

As I write this article, I am looking out the window at our neighbors’ homes. We are new to this community and only now getting to know the neighbors. The couple who live to the right of us is wonderful. The husband and wife come from different ethnic groups but have a common yet somewhat nominal Christian background. My wife and I do not sense much devotion or commitment to Christ. It is probably safe to assume they do not know the risen Christ as Savior (rescuer) and Lord (king). It is part of our calling as believers to love them deeply by evangelizing them. It is the best gift we can give. However, before we begin evangelizing, we must pray. Please do not get me wrong. I do not minimize the verbal witness. In six months we have been to their home a couple of times and they have been to ours. We are in spiritual conversation on a regular basis, but even that is sporadic and limiting. In many ways it is easier to share once at length with a stranger than to orchestrate several conversations over time with a neighbor or friend. This is why we must pray every day, at any time and from any location for our neighbors. Prayer evangelizes when our words are absent.

Our neighbors to the left are more difficult. We know the husband’s name but have never met the wife. We have not been invited into their home, and they did not respond to an invitation to come to ours. It seems the door of witness is presently closed. However, this would be a wrong conclusion. The door to verbal witness is closed, but the door of prayer is wide open. I often tell people that if a person does not want to listen to what you have to share, just devote yourself to prayer, prayer, prayer.

I have also learned that prayer saves evangelism from manipulation, while evangelism saves prayer from isolation. The life of prayer gives us Christ’s love for the lost. Since his love is an active love, we are, as Paul wrote, compelled (2 Corinthians 5:14) to enter their lives. The life of evangelism on the other hand, gives us an urgency and passion for our prayers. The evangelism lifestyle stops any temptation to withdraw from the world in solitude and silence to the exclusion of reaching out to people dying without our Lord. Indeed, prayer and evangelism are not strangers, but friends.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.