Prayer Evangelism

At prayer meetings in many churches you’ll hear this request: Pray that so-and-so will be saved.

There is nothing inherently wrong with such a request … except to say that it is not a request you find more or  suggested in Holy Scripture.

“WHAT?  Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t be praying for our friends and loved ones to be saved?”  I’m not suggesting anything, but I am saying hat if evangelism were as simple a matter as praying people into Heaven,  wouldn’t we be commanded to take such action?

Curiously, we are never told to pray for unsaved people to be brought into the Kingdom of God; we are, however, to pray for opportunities to share the gospel message with the unsaved.

Consider the following:

  • Jesus said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ (Luke 10:2).  Shouldn’t Jesus have said, ‘The harvest is great, pray that the Lord save the harvest,’ but He doesn’t.
  • Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matt 28:18-19). The Lord missed it again.  He didn’t say, ‘Pray that people will be saved when you go …’.
  • Acts 1:8 records the last words of Jesus before ascending into Heaven.  You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  The emphasis is on the empowering of the Spirit in the believer to share the Word, not the empowering of the unregenerate listener to accept the Word.
  • We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).   Here Paul goofed like Jesus did.  He should have written something like, “We are ambassadors for Christ.  We pray that people will receive the message of reconciliation when we share it.”
  • Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you  (2 Thess 3:1).   The Apostle to the gentiles asks for prayer for himself and his missionary companions that they be given opportunities to preach – not that people to whom they preach will accept the message.
  • One more prayer request from Paul: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak(Col 4:2-4).
  • And consider John 17. Jesus prays from Himself, His immediate disciples, and His disciples in years to come.  The Saviour blew it by not praying that people would be saved.  Instead He specifically prays, As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (John 17:18).  Then after the Resurrection Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.‘ (John 20:21).

Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if God had just told us to pray people into Heaven?  It would certainly be so much easier and less costly.  And think of the personal embarrassment saved if we only had to pray for people to accept the gospel.  The emphasis in the New Testament, however, is not on the field, but those going into the field, that we be given opportunity and boldness to share.

“Prayer Evangelism” if such a thing exists, is not in praying for the lost to be found, but praying that we, God’s children, take every opportunity we have to share our faith.

Why aren’t we told or even hinted in the direction of praying for unsaved people to be saved?  I have an idea, but it will have to wait for another day.

As always, desirous for your thoughts.

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About Richard L Rice

Just an ordinary, balding, blind guy, making my way to Heaven by grace through faith in Jesus. Richard has been an ordained minister since 1986, and pastored 6 churches. A graduate of Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland, OR) and Abilene Bible Seminary (Abilene, KS), Dr Rice is the author of numerous books, including a commentaries on Matthew, Romans, and the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. He is the pastor of a congregation in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the faculty of the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. He lives outside of Portland, Oregon with his wife Kimberly and son Daniel. Further details about him can be found written on the pages of his blog.
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10 Responses to Prayer Evangelism

  1. Noel says:

    Richard, excellent post. My thoughts on your question of why Jesus did not teach us to pray for the “unsaved” but for those who are going to share the gospel, is that the main message was to serve the poor and the least of these, not to teach people about what to do to go to heaven. Salvation occurs when we empty ourselves from our natural, selfish ways of living, and be able to genuinely serve others. This is what I have learned so far in life.

  2. Freedomborn says:

    Hi Richard, I agree with you God never goes against our free will, yes if we are His Redeemed Children known from eternity, then He knows we will come to heart repentance and accept Salvation which will be shown in our actions and words and so He will Discipline us by letting us have our own way and we will indeed reap what evil we sow and suffer like the Prodigal son did but like him we will come to our senses.

    You are spot on Richard, to pray for hearts to be changed is not what the Scriptures confirm as you shared we are to pray for workers, faith comes from hearing the word, and when understood by The Living Word Jesus our only Teacher as He empowers us through the Holy Spirit, having asked for and received His wisdom, we mature as we put to death our flesh by The Spirit by choosing to walk in the fruit of the Spirit by His empowering. God has planted seeds of Truth in His Children’s heart, so has Satan planted lies and sadly many are deceived but they will recognise the Truth given time which God is doing patiently, not wanting any to perish He never forces our Love or submission, it must come from our hearts willingly.

    Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

    Colossians 3:4-6 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

    Christian Love from both of us – Anne

  3. I used to pray for friends and family to be saved and then God caused me to realize how could they unless someone shared the gospel with them, so I began to pray instead that the Lord would send a laborer into their lives, one who would share the good news of salvation with them.
    Then God caused me to realize that I was that laborer.

  4. Jayne says:

    What a great reminder! Thank you. We need to be praying for opportunities to share the gospel and the words to say when it comes along. We can pray that their hearts are receptive to what we have to say and for the lies they have been believing to have the light of truth shone on them.

  5. GodGirl says:

    Really thought-provoking, and I like the way you pulled apart those scriptures. I agree, our focus in prayer needs to be on God ‘going ahead of us’, of Him giving us opportunities and courage. Not just magic wand/formulaic prayers that end at words, not actions.

  6. Deborah says:

    Wow, reading that just gave me an epiphany!

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