In their book “Comeback Churches,” Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson emphasize the connection between church renewal and prayer. In a comeback church, the leaders devote themselves to prayer and assemble the congregation for special prayer services. Does this connection surprise us? Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). But why does prayer play such a key role in evangelism?
Prayer opens our heart to spiritual things. A spiritually-minded person is more likely to be conscious of the condition lost people find themselves in, to feel compassion for them, and to do something about it. The praying Christian is the brother or sister who sees and seizes opportunities. Paul calls them “open doors.” If we walk down the street of life with our spiritual eyes closed, we’ll never notice which doors are open and which ones shut.
Prayer also acknowledges our dependence on God. In evangelism the temptation is to think that success depends on us. We must know the answer to every hard question. We must have the perfect method and approach. If we don’t do everything just right, our efforts will fail. Obviously, this sort of thinking is scary. If someone’s eternal destiny lies in the palm of our weak hand, doing nothing is far safer. But the Bible says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Whatever evangelism success we have is God’s gift. He supplies the power. The most effective evangelists I know don’t have perfect methods or always say just the right thing. What they have in common is boldness, a courage born of the conviction that evangelism is the work of God. Prayer reminds us that God gives the increase. Salvation is his idea. He has more invested in it than any human being possibly could. When we pray for opportunities, for church growth, for lost individuals, we are calling on the One who cares about these things to an infinite degree.