The 411 on Evangelism: The First Word Is Prayer

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossions 4:2-6

Yesterday I enjoyed teaching evangelism to the  folks at the First Baptist Church of Cumming, Georgia. In the morning I taught the Life on Mission 3 Circles produced by NAMB; last night I walked them through what I call the 4 P’s of Evangelism. I want to share these four with you in the next four posts.

The first word of evangelism is PRAYER. Before we talk to people about Jesus we should talk to Jesus about them.

As you read through the story of gospel advance in the Acts, you will see that prayer laid the foundation of everything they did.

The church was birthed in a prayer meeting. The early church emerged not from a think tank, or a denominational meeting, or even in the synagogue.. In Acts 1:14, the early believers prayed in unison for the ten days from the ascension of Jesus to the day of Pentecost as Jesus has told them.

The church was marked by prayer from her beginnings. In 2:42 even as the church was born they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to prayers.

The church advanced through a prayer meeting. In Chapter 3 Peter and John were going to the temple at the normal time to pray when they met a lame man. He was healed and began to praise God (wouldn’t you?); he joined Peter and John as they entered the temple to pray.

The church overcame persecution through prayer. Take a minute to read Acts 4:23-31. In this passage they faced their first persecution, and we read their prayer. They did not ask God to make it easier in the face of persecution, they did this: 1) They “prayed” the gospel (23-28); they started with a sovereign God, then affirmed Him as Creator, then recognized the fallenness of man (“the heathen rage,” etc). Then they acknowledged Jesus’ work for salvation was God’s plan all along. 2) They asked God to give them boldness to proclaim the gospel. 3) God answered! The place shook, they were all filled with the Spirit, and they all continued to share Christ with boldness.

The church made changes to help their growth so prayer would not be hindered. In Acts 6, Hellenistic widows were being neglected because of the growth of the church. The apostles sought to keep their focus on “the ministry of prayer and the Word.” We often hear pastors speak of the importance of preaching the Word, but do we hear the same focus on prayer? They chose helpers and the church continued to reach others.

The church turned to prayer as their first resource rather than their last hope. As in Acts 4, the church prayed when faced with persecution. In Acts 12 Peter had been arrested; the church gathered to pray (v. 5). When God answered and he was released, the believers did not believe it at first!

The church sent out missionaries in a prayer meeting. In Acts 13, Saul and Barnabas were sent out as the first formal missionaries from Antioch in the context of ministering to the Lord and fasting. Many other examples in Acts could be cited, but suffice it to say the early church, as Paul in Colossians 4, valued prayer.

Do you want to be effective in your witness? Don’t start with your technique or your knowledge. Don’t start with the lost around you. Don’t start with the how, start with the Who.  Start with God. Talk to Him.

Here is a 3fold prayer you can pray daily to assist your witness:
God, give me an opportunity to share Christ today;
Give me the wisdom to see it;
Give me the boldness to seize it.

[This was adapted from a forthcoming book Get Out co-authored with my son Josh Reid. It will be released in 2015 by Rainer Publishing.]

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