Before talking to people about Jesus, we need to talk to Jesus about people.
On this page we are looking at why and how to do prayer evangelism. When Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt 9 :36-38) he was looking at a crowd of many people who were coming to him hungry for an encounter with God. In terms of evangelism there ARE places in the world where the harvest does seem to be plentiful and many are open to hearing and receiving the gospel. But in other places this seems to be less the case. In these places it seems to be that a very large proportion of the population are neither open to, nor interested in hearing or receiving the good news of Jesus. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt 13 : 15) In other words, the ground is hard or full of thorns – the seeds scattered on the ground are not falling on good soil (Matt 13:1-8). The church is working in fields where there are few crops to be harvested and so attempts to evangelise produce small results.
Evangelism, of course, is first and foremost God’s work. Jesus said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” (John 6 : 65) So this is why, for us, prayer is the primary answer to the problem. Paul writes, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2 :1-4) So it is our prayers which will prepare the ‘soil’ in people’s hearts so that the ‘seed’ sown by the Holy Spirit has a chance to germinate and grow. On this website page I aim to present some ideas for using prayer to ’till the soil’ in the lives of people we know, as well as in the region where we live. If you have other ideas for similar prayer exercises that I can add to this page then please do get in contact and let me know. Thanks!
I am dividing these prayer exercises into three categories with agricultural titles:
Tilling the Garden
These exercises are for tilling the ground in the lives of those we know well, our friends or family, or the people we work or study with.
- One way is to simply list people that you want to remember to God each day. It doesn’t have to take long, and is particularly good if you work with a group of people. You could do this exercise on your way to work, but as you list each name, take a second or two to picture them in your imagination.
- Regularly light a candle for someone. Candles are often associated with specific traditions of the Christian church, but there is no reason at all why this should be the case. If a candle helps you to focus on God in prayer then let it do so!
- On occasions, pick someone that you can spend more time talking to God about. This kind of prayer is more like the sort of conversation you might have with a friend and can be as in depth as you want it to be. Allow God to guide your heart and thoughts as there may be something that he wants to show you about that person, or something that he wants you to do for them.
- A small but regular fast! I’m not talking about starving yourself until someone is saved! Fasting is a very powerful form of prayer and little but often is a good way to go. So if you are able, why not skip one meal each week, for example, and use the time to pray for a small group of people who are on your heart. Remember to keep your fasting on a ‘need to know’ basis. There may be people who should know you’re fasting, but otherwise it should only be God who knows.
- Use your imagination when praying for someone. Here are some examples:
- If someone is unwell, you might imagine them at the pool of Siloam (John 9:1-12) and help them into the waters.
- Or if someone is afraid to come to Jesus you might imagine them as paralysed (by fear) and help to carry them to him as in the story of Mark 2: 1-12.
- Or you might simply imagine yourself in a conversation with Jesus, and then imagine your friend walk into the room to join you. After a while you get up and leave the room with your friend talking to Jesus.
- In Luke 10 : 5 Jesus said “When you enter a house, first say ‘Peace to this house.'” These words are a prayer for the God of peace to be present to the people in the house. You do not need to say exactly the same words, but praying a brief prayer when entering someone’s house is a good habit to get into. Also, if you travel to another town, city or country, take a moment to pray for the people of that place.
- Pray for someone in the spaces of your day. You might pick a different person each day, and then, as spaces in your daily activity happen, remember that particular person to God in prayer.
Tilling the Allotment
These exercises are for tilling the soil at a local town or parish level.
- One way to do this sort of prayer exercise is through prayer walking. There are three ways of prayer walking that I know about:
- The first way can be done on your own or with a group of others. It involves simply walking whilst silently praying a blessing on the people or houses or streets or businesses that you pass by.
- The second way is to walk a preplanned route with regular stops for the group to gather together and pray for the area they are in at that point.
- The third way is to walk in twos praying out loud for the things you see happening around you. This can be quite fun as it looks to everyone else like you are just two people in conversation.
- Another way, if you’re a musician, is to go into your town centre and play worship music as if you were busking (though do not collect money) and play your prayer of blessing on the town.
- Start your own local House of Prayer. These are small groups of Christians who meet in someone’s house to pray for the people in their street. This movement is currently being pioneered in Wales and comes out of the Ffald-y-Brenin Christian retreat house.
Tilling the Field
These exercises are for tilling the soil on an international, national, region or city level.
- There are a number of prayer events for national and global concerns that you could join in with, either on your own or as a group at your church. See the Prayer Events page on my website for some suggestions.
- Your church could get together with other churches in your city to create a venue for a House of Prayer like the ones on my Houses of Prayer page.
- Go the the website for Operation World to find out more information about how to pray for the nations and get involved in this great work.
- In Joshua 6:1-27 the Israelites are faced with the huge problem of capturing and destroying the city of Jericho. God did not tell the Israelites to make ladders to scale the walls, he ordered them to march around the city thirteen times over seven days praying to God and worshipping him. After they had done this God brought down the walls of Jericho and the city was taken. What Jericho demonstrated was that no walls can ultimately stand against the power of God when Christians pray. So, whether the ‘walls’ you are concerned with are the walls of secularism, or any other kind of ‘ism’, or anything else which stands in the way of God’s kingdom growing, we can pray against those walls in our imagination and they can be brought down.
In our desire to see people saved (especially those we know and love) it can be hard to keep on praying when there is no evidence that our prayers are making any difference. I want to assure you that prayer always does make a positive difference, though it often takes time and may not be the difference you were expecting.
What then should I pray for when I lift people and places up to God?
There are three attitudes people need to have if they are going to find God. The first is desire. If a person has no desire for God then they will not look and they will not find. We need to pray that those who are on our hearts and do not yet know God will gain that desire to do so. The second is faith. Jesus said we only need a faith the size of a mustard seed for prayers to be answered, and mustard seeds are very small. Sometimes it is enough for it to be the faith of the pray-er, rather than the one who is being prayed for, in order for the prayer to be answered. But whoever has the faith, some faith is definitely needed and should also be prayed for. The third is humility. No one will do business with God without approaching him in humility. As pray-ers, we need to approach God in humility, but we also need to pray that those on our hearts will also acquire a sense of humility towards God. If you would like to learn more about prayer take a look at my free to download prayer course Seekers through Prayer, or read a good book on the subject like those recommended on my Reviews page.