Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6).
Prayer is communion with God. It is going into God’s presence to be with him. Prayer is bringing God and his resources into our earthly realities. Prayer is drawing upon divine resources to influence human reality. Prayer is breathing the breath of heaven. It is the master key to everything we have been called to do. Without it, our activities are empty, human and lack the breath of heaven. Our works will be temporal and will never last.
In evangelism, the need is even more acute. Evangelism is snatching souls from the grips of Satan and bringing them into God’s kingdom. This means conflict between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. Without deep, fervent and intense prayer, the results of our efforts will be meager and beggarly. Why should we pray? Why is prayer so important in the work of evangelism? Here are eight reasons.
1. The knowledge of God. The most important reason we need to pray is not just to evangelize; rather, it is to get to know God. Those who spend time with God know him better. Those who know their God shall be strong. Those who abide in God’s presence are those who bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
2. Release of laborers. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” True laborers are released into the harvest through our prayers.
3. Evil forces opposing the harvest are bound. Evangelism is frontier spiritual warfare. It involves physically going into enemy territory and releasing prisoners. Satan is not just going to sit down and watch us do that. He is going to do everything in his power to stop us. That was why Jesus said in Mark 3:27, “No one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.” Jesus has given us power such that whatever we bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mathew 18:18). He also said in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
4. Release of God’s presence and power for evangelism. Prayer, one of the greatest tools God has given us, is also the one that is the most neglected. Prayer releases God’s presence in our lives and empowers us as we reach out to others. A very modern illustration would be the mobile phone. If we use it continuously without charging it, there will come a time when the battery will die. No matter how expensive and how modern it is, it is useless unless you recharge it. Similarly, if we do not get charged, we are useless as a force in expanding God’s kingdom. A praying Christian is filled with God’s presence, power, boldness and unction. It is the anointing that breaks the yoke, not our eloquence and logic.
5. Prayer prepares us to receive answers. When we pray, we are brought to a spiritual level where we can receive answers to our prayers. A mass conversion of souls to a dead and worldly church is worse than if they had never heard the gospel. God touches and changes our hearts as we passionately pray for the harvest. We are prepared to love them and make sacrifices. Our coldness and indifference are turned into passion and enthusiasm for the lost. This creates a warm and loving spiritual atmosphere where these spiritual children can grow and flourish.
6. The fruits are lasting. Souls won through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit are different from souls won out of human ingenuity, logic and wisdom. Such souls have come into a place of being born again spiritually. Jesus said in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We can use all the human and material resources we want and get results, but these results will be temporal and have no lasting spiritual impact. Prayer changes this reality.
7. We can also evangelize by praying for people. Do you know what will happen when we begin to really pray for our friends, neighbors and family? Do you know how they will feel when we ask them what we can pray for them about? Do you know what a testimony it will be when they receive answers to our prayers? Prayer is not just an indirect tool in evangelism, we can also evangelize by praying.
8. The example of Jesus. Jesus prayed and preached the gospel. It was his habit to wake up a great while before it was day to go to a solitary place to pray. He sometimes spent all night in prayer. He often separated himself to be alone with God. Jesus is our example. If Jesus, being the Son of God, needed to spend so much time in prayer, how much more do we need to spend time with God?
It is not enough to talk, write and read about prayer. We need to pray. The men and women God used in the annals of history had different qualities and came from different backgrounds; however, they had one thing in common: they prayed. We are living in a generation that has all the material resources needed to evangelize the world. So why have we not completed the task? Why has twenty-seven percent of the world never heard the gospel? Because we do not pray. Much evangelistic effort and money is wasted in the name of missions. We cannot accomplish what God has committed into our hands unless we make a full use of the resources (including prayer!) that he has put to our disposal.
Let us make prayer a conspicuous part of our lives. Let us cry out to God for help. Let us humble ourselves and declare our spiritual bankruptcy. Let us seek him with all our hearts. God will hearken. He will send revival. May God teach us what an infinite resource he has placed at our disposal. May he give us the faith and tenacity to take hold of him for our generation.
E.M. Bounds once said, “We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel….What the church needs today is…men whom the Holy Spirit can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men.”
Let God work through us in prayer.