As followers of Christ, we each are called to share our faith with a lost world. In these next few weeks, we will look at a biblical, simple way, to think about evangelism, helping it to become a natural part of our lives. It is called “Prayer, Care, and Share.” These three words will help organize our thoughts and our efforts of evangelism as both individuals and as a church body.
When talking about sharing our faith, “prayer,” the first word of the three, is asking the Holy Spirit to go before us as He prepares our hearts to share the gospel and the unbeliever to receive it.
“Care,” the second word, can be described as “building relationships that show that we really love God and sincerely care for others.” We trust that they will see Jesus in our actions and have a greater desire to know more about Him.
Our evangelism starts with prayer, continues with care, and finally arrives at “Share.” “Share” means that “we speak the good news of Jesus Christ to a person who is ready to hear because the Holy Spirit has opened their heart and they trust our love for them.
“Prayer, Care, and Share” is the way that we will think about evangelism and talk about evangelism as we move forward as a church.
Today we will start with the first word, “prayer.”
The year was 1857. The place was New York City. In the years previous gold had been discovered in California. The railroad was now stretching from the east coast towards the west coast. The economy was thriving and the people of the United States had turned their hearts away from God and towards the riches of this world. In New York City many of the people with money moved out of the city to build homes in the outskirts. The city was now filled with the common people. The laborers who worked hard for minimum salaries.
In the midst of the masses of people in New York City was the North Dutch Reformed Church of Manhattan. Many of the other churches had decided to follow their members and move outside of the city as well, but not this church. This church decided to remain in the center of the city and minister to the lost masses that now surrounded them. This decision was admirable but it was very difficult. The church struggled. Some even said that it should close. To accomplish their task they hired a 48 year old man by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier. He had chosen to leave his career as a businessman and focus on the ministry. He began to pray, visit homes, distribute Bibles and gospel tracts and publicize church services. At one point an idea came to mind to start a midday lunch prayer meeting at the church. He put up a sign that said, “Prayer Meeting from 12 to 1 o’clock—Stop 5, 10, or 20 minutes, or the whole hour, as your time admits.” On September 23, 1857 the first prayer meeting was held. Lanphier climbed the stairs up to the third floor room in the church, laid down his Bible and pocket watch and waited. At 12:00 noon no one else arrived. At 12:10. . . no one. 12:20. . . no one. Finally at 12:30 Lanphier heard the creaking of the stairs and one gentleman entered. By the end of their prayer time the number had grown to six. That was only beginning. The next Wednesday almost 20 people came. The third week almost 40. They were so encouraged that they began to meet daily.
Then the economic crash of 1857 occurred. In New York City, 30,000 people lost their jobs. There was much talk of a possible civil war. The country still faced great disagreements over slavery. During this time of turmoil the prayer groups began to grow even more. One room full, then a second and then a third.
People were attending who were not yet believers, but convicted of their sin. The prayer meetings spread to other churches, theaters and even public buildings. According to some, within six months’ time 10,000 people were praying daily, confessing their sins and pleading for God to send revival. The prayer meetings eventually spread to other cities like Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago and even Washington D. C.
Many churches began to have nightly worship services to lead people to Jesus Christ. At one period, 10,000 people a week in New York City were being converted. So many people needed to be baptized that churches would go to the frozen river and cut a hole in the ice to accommodate the need. It is estimated that from 1857-1859 around a million people in the United States started a new life in Christ.
Charles P. McIlvaine, a pastor in Ohio at this time, described what happened with these words, “I rejoice in the decided conviction that this is the Lord’s doing; unaccountable by any natural causes, entirely above and beyond what any human device or power could produce; an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon God’s people, quickening them to greater earnestness in his service; and upon the unconverted, to make them new creatures in Christ Jesus.”
It began with God burdening one man to pray.
Can you imagine something like this happening in our homes, our workplaces, here in Alief or in our country? It is amazing to see God’s use of prayer to bring about a spiritual awakening.
This story of masses of people putting their faith in Christ is great, but it happens one at a time. Who is one person that you wish with all your heart would become a follower of Jesus Christ? It may be your spouse, your boss, your neighbor or even your enemy. Are you praying for them?
When we look back through the life of Jesus Christ, the early church and even church history the pattern is that God puts a burden in people’s hearts to pray. They obey in prayer. Then God works.
Prayer has a special place in the heart of God and prayer has a special role in the work of evangelism. As a church we must take hold of that.
F. B. Meyer was right when he said, “One of the greatest tragedies of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”
We have been invited to be ambassadors of Christ and carry the Good News of our King to a lost, needy, and unbelieving world. We see this described in 2 Corinthians 5:16, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. “
If we are to be Christ’s ambassadors where do we start? Prayer.
Why is prayer a necessary part of Evangelism? It is necessary because God tells us to pray.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 we read, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
In Romans 10:1 it says,” Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.”
Prayer is necessary because our own strategies, knowledge, and persuasion are not enough. Without Christ we can do nothing. God alone can open one’s heart to the gospel. We see this truth at work in Acts 16:14. “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
We are to pray, care for others with a God-honoring love, and share the truths of the gospel, but it is the Holy Spirit who draws one to Himself. The apostle Paul described this essential truth with these words in 1 Corinthians 3:7. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Prayer is necessary because the battle for the salvation of souls is a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 the Apostle Paul writes of how “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians. 10:3-5).”
In this battle prayer is our greatest weapon. When we pray, God works. It is an expression of our helplessness and our dependence on Him. As we pray in faith God receives the full credit and glory every time a person comes to salvation in Christ.
In scripture we find many ways and descriptions of how to pray in regard to evangelism. One of the clearest examples is found in Colossians 4:2-4.
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 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— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
It is interesting that Paul did not ask to be released from prison or any other personal requests. Instead, He prayed for God´s work in the ministry there in Rome. They were separated from the Colossians by thousands of kilometers but could stand side-by-side with them in ministry as they prayed for one another.
Paul asked that they pray “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” Paul was well aware of the way the God could open doors. In Philippi God had used an earthquake that opened prison doors and prisoner´s chains, resulting in the prison guard coming to them and pleading to know, “What must I do to be saved?”
God had already opened doors for Paul to speak to kings and queens in Caesarea, to the residents of the island of Malta because of miracles, and to the greatest minds in Athens at Mars Hill. Through Paul’s time in prison in Rome God had opened the door so that the whole Imperial Guard now knew about Paul and Christ (Philippians 1:12-13) and there were now even believers in Caesar’s household. Paul understood how essential it was for God to go first and “open a door” so he specifically asked them to pray for it.
Paul´s story was an encouragement to those in Colossae. If God was powerful enough to open a way for the gospel into the household of the emperor of Rome, surely He could open doors for them to share as well. The same applies to us.
Where in your life are you needing God to open the door for you to share the gospel? Are there people for who you have a burden that have been closed to the gospel up to this point? Let’s pray, to the same God who opened doors for Paul.
Sharing our faith is a joint venture with God. God opens the doors for evangelism, not us. is for this reason that Paul is asking for their prayers.
Paul also asked for prayer so that God would “make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
We all need to be praying this same prayer. It is often difficult to know exactly how to speak the truth of the gospel once the door has been opened. Scripture tells us that the conviction of sin, the revelation of who Christ is and the gift of faith are all a work of God, but we still have a part to play. In Romans 10:13-14 we read that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
There is a time that the gospel will need to be spoken and we will need to be prepared to give reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). At the same time the presentation of the gospel is not always the same because every person and situation is different. We see it in both Jesus and Paul. They talked to many people about faith but they very rarely did it the same way twice. That is why we must guide us as we share the gospel with others.
As we share the gospel only God can pull back the spiritual blinders of a nonbeliever so they can finally see the truth of the gospel and believe.
Prayer is an admission of our need for God. Just as a small child cries out to her parents for help, so a follower of Christ is to cry out to His heavenly father as we seek to share our faith. In scripture we find prayers that we can apply as we seek to lead others to Jesus Christ. Read through the following verses and look for prayers that would apply as you seek to share your faith.
Pray that God would open a door for our message (Colossians 4:3). That we would proclaim it clearly (Colossians 4:4). That we would be wise in the way we act towards outsiders (Colossians 4:5). That we would make the most of every opportunity (Colossians 4:5). That our conversation would be filled with grace so that we may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6). That the Lord would send workers into the harvest field (Luke 10:2). That words may be given us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:19). That we may declare it fearlessly (Ephesians 6:20). That the Holy Spirit would convict them in regard to sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:18). That we would not be ashamed to testify about our Lord (2 Timothy 1:7). That God would draw the unbeliever to Himself (John 6:44).
Prayer is asking the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts to share the Gospel and the heart of the unbeliever to receive it. Salvation is a work of God in the heart of man. We are greatly mistaken if we think that the right words or the right kind of friendship alone will be enough to persuade someone to turn from their sin and believe in Jesus Christ. Prayer is essential because the working of the Holy Spirit is essential. As we are faithful in prayer God will give us the heart and the discernment that is needed to share our faith. As we pray God will also work in the unbeliever’s heart in a way that will move him or her towards greater openness. . . but prayer comes first.
I would now like to ask you to take the bookmark that you received as you entered the service today. On the front you see Prayer, Care, Share and brief explanations of each point. On the back of the bookmark, on the bottom half, you will find some examples of scripture that you can pray. On the top half of the back of your bookmark you will find three lines. These are to put the names of three people that you will intentionally seek to usher closer to Christ. You may know immediately which names belong on these lines. For others you might need to prayerfully seek what names God would have you write on those lines.
As you think about each name discern at which stage they are at this time and begin to prayerfully move forward with them. Feel free to use this bookmark with your Bible during your devotional time as a reminder. The goal is that Prayer, Care, Share will become such a natural part of our lives that eventually it will just become the natural, default way of sharing Christ with others both as individuals and as a church.