Years ago, I picked up a small tract from Back to the Bible entitled, “How I Learned To Pray for the Lost.” It was the first time I had ever seen anything, in print regarding prayer and evangelism. Much of what I had heard regarding evangelism dealt with methods and programs. There was little in regard to prayer except the obligatory, “Lord bless us as we go out to witness in your name.”
In this tract, the author said, “I have taken my place of authority in Christ and am using it against the enemy. I have not looked at myself to see if I am fit or not; I have just taken my place and have prayed that the Holy Spirit may do His convicting work. If each and every member of the Body of Christ would do this, what a change would be made in this world.”
Do you have someone in your life who is lost? An unsaved parent, child, relative, friend or work associate? I’m afraid we are guilty of fretting more than we are of praying by faith. The church in America is becoming ingrown because we don’t have a lost world on our hearts. Nothing is more inconsistent with the Great Commission than an ingrown church. P. T. Forsyth wrote, “Prayer is a weapon, a mighty weapon in a terrible conflict. Our prayers are to be a continual, conscious, earnest effort of battle, the battle against whatever is not God’s will.”
According to the Scriptures, “It is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Prayer is on the leading edge of our calling in evangelism. We seek new innovative methods, God is seeking intercessors. If prayer is simply an afterthought or a supplement it makes our methods primary and prayer secondary. Prayer is not incidental in the work of God, it is the work. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Only in a prayer environment can our evangelistic efforts find power.
J. O. Frasier said, “Satan’s tactics seem to be as follows: He will first of all oppose our breaking through to the place of real living faith, by all means in his power. He detests the prayer of faith, for it is an authoritative notice to quit. We often have to strive and wrestle in prayer before we attain to this quiet, restful faith. And, until we break right through and join hands with God, we have not attained to real faith at all. The real battle begins when the prayer of faith has been offered.”
Is it really a prayer of faith if we give God an escape clause like “if it’s your will.” Praying for the lost is something we talk about and do little about. Very few have boldly approached the throne of grace on behalf of the lost. We pray for the lost world in general, that’s safe. We pray for missions and missionaries in general, that’s safe. But we seem to be afraid of specific praying for specific people. Dr. Oswald J. Smith said, “The light that shines the farthest is going to shine brightest at home.”
An evangelist told me about preaching a crusade in a church a few years back. As he was walking down the hall toward the preachers office, he could hear women in a side room praying and crying out to God. He asked the pastor about them. The pastor’s response was, “Oh, that’s our women’s mission group. They are praying for the heathen overseas. The problem is, I’ve been here eight years and not one time have they ever made it to visitation.” If faith without works is dead, so is prayer without putting your feet to those prayers. Prayer and evangelism are inseparable.
Evangelism birthed in prayer is unstoppable. As you study Christian history, you see men of great prayer and faith who were used by God to shake nations. The Reformation was sparked in a prayer environment. John Knox prayed, “Give me Scotland or I die.” The Wesley’s and Whitfield began historic prayer meetings that resulted in a Great Awakening. A true prayer warrior has eliminated ‘can’t from his vocabulary.
William Law said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him.” Andrew Murray said, “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelism in history.” We can’t reach out until we reach up. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he was broken and burdened. The only way we will keep a hot heart for evangelism is if our eyes are fixed on the Lord high and lifted up. The Lord who came to give His life a ransom for many.
(Copyright 2008, Michael C. Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.