Personal Prayer and Evangelism

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I was recently asked to give a TED-type talk about prayer and personal witnessing. This post represents the heart of the talk.

Personal Evangelism and Witnessing

In this post, I’m using “evangelism” and “witnessing” interchangeably. If we were going deeper into the Scripture behind “evangelism,” I would draw distinctions between the two. I’ll save that for a later post.

Witnessing is sharing with others what Jesus has done, is doing or will do. “Others” includes Christians and non-Christians alike. All Christians share this role, as seen in an array of Bible passages (Colossians 3:16, 1 Peter 3:15, Philippians 1:14).

Personal Evangelism: Praying for Myself

As in every area of faith and life, there is a risk we will make witnessing an ungodly activity instead of a godly pursuit. “Soul-winning” can serve as a source of spiritual pride. Engaging in evangelism so our church has more members to pay the bills reveals a poor motive.

For these reasons, I pray for myself concerning evangelism. I ask God to purify my motives. Love should be my motive for witnessing. Love for God. Love for my neighbor.

From time to time, I also pray for my evangelistic fervor. There are seasons when I am consumed by the cares of life and concerns for our churches. I stop noticing opportunities to talk about Jesus with others.

Personal Evangelism: Praying for My Neighbor

When praying for others, I find Christians focus much more on physical and emotional health than spiritual well-being.

In part, this is because spiritual wellness is so difficult to discern through external actions and attitudes. It’s also because Western culture has made faith a “private matter.” And it’s impacted by fewer Christians believing Scriptural teaching about eternal condemnation.

My prayers for the spiritual welfare of others become “evangelistic” the more specific I make the petitions. God may well answer the prayers by providing a witness to those who need everything from encouragement to salvation. And, yes, sometimes I ask for God to open the door for me to be the witness.

I remember baptizing a teenager. After the service, I noticed one of teen’s grandparents had tears in her eyes. I said to her, “This is a special day. “ She looked directly into my eyes and said, “I have prayed for this day, every day, for 16 years.”

Personal Evangelism: Praying with My Neighbor

We all have routines. We shop at the same stores, watch the same sports teams and socialize in the same spaces. So the number of people with whom we have regular contact ranges from a dozen to as many as a hundred.

The simplest form of personal evangelism is offering to pray for or with people we see on a regular basis.

Let’s say the clerk at the supermarket you see on a weekly basis shares she’s concerned about her daughter. This is an opportunity to ask if you can pray for her daughter, then ask for updates on subsequent visits. If possible, make the first prayer with the clerk.

Let’s say you always sit with other grandparents when watching your grandchildren’s baseball games. The grandson of another grandparent gets injured during a game. Tell the injured player’s grandparents you will pray for their grandchild. If possible, pray with the grandparents right then and there. Then ask for progress reports on the child’s healing.

Here’s the connecting point. Sooner or later, you will be asked questions. Why are you offering these prayers? Why are you concerned? This is the moment when you have permission to witness Christ.

I played pickup basketball on a weekly basis with a guy for well over a year without a single conversation about spirituality or faith. One of his daughters became ill, so I asked if I could pray for her. This opened the door to witnessing. Four months later he joined one of my discipleship groups.

Personal Evangelism: Praying with Brothers and Sisters

Prayer partners can serve as a godly influence on personal evangelism. I have prayed for some friends for two decades now, asking God to bring them to faith or restore them to Christian community. From time to time, I get discouraged. Prayer partners have helped me stay focused for the long run.

A prayer partner can also help us see when it’s time to witness. It’s amazing how long he can pray for someone without actually talking to that person. We assume someone else from church is providing a Christian witness for encouragement. We assume a Christian family member will Christ with them. After months of petitions, I’ve had pray partners finally say, “Maybe you are supposed to be God’s witness this time.”

What is your experience with personal prayer and evangelism? Share your thoughts in the comments or shoot me an email.


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