Evangelism and Prayer, part 1

It’s easy for us to use prayer as an excuse for not witnessing.

I remember when I was in college, I had a friend who wanted to witness to one person a day.  One day, he asked me to come along.  So we jumped in his car and drove into a neighborhood, and he got out and started knocking on doors.  Now he was much more bold than me, so I stayed back by the car, and offered to pray for him. 

I was using prayer as an excuse not to witness. 

Now obviously, praying without witnessing is foolish, but so is witnessing without praying. 

In fact, one of the most important things we can do, if not the most important thing we can do, if we desire to see the gospel spread, is pray.  There is no way we as individuals can do more to promote the work of God and advance the gospel than through prayer. 

There are few passages which express that more clearly than Colossians 4. 

You see, Paul is writing these verses from prison, and more than anything else he wants the gospel to spread.   

So he writes the Colossians and challenges them to pray. 

“Continue steadfastly in prayer…”

That’s the key command in this passage.

He challenges them to pray because he considered the prayers of these Colossian believers to be vitally connected to the success of his ministry and the spread of the gospel.   

We know that he considered the two to be vitally connected because of what he tells the Colossians to pray about in verses 3 and 4,  “Pray also for us, that God may open a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak…”

Paul wants an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.  That’s what he means when he writes, “…pray that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…” 

And he wants the ability to proclaim the gospel, that’s what he means when he writes,  “…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak…” 

Paul’s not asking them to pray about these things because he thinks they need something to do, or simply to fill in time, but rather because in Paul’s mind the spreading of the gospel and the Colossian’s prayer life were connected.

It’s as if he’s sitting in a prison, contemplating his problem, and comes up with a solution:  I’ll write a letter to the Colossians and ask them to pray.

For he knows that the opportunity and the ability to proclaim the gospel both come from God, and that God gives the opportunity and the ability to proclaim the gospel in response to his people’s prayers; so Paul pleads with them to pray.

Now what I want you to see is if that was true for the apostle Paul and the Colossian believers it is also true for us. 

If the apostle Paul saw himself as completely dependent on God and in need of prayer, how much more so, should we see ourselves as completely dependent on God and devote ourselves to prayer. 

Fervent prayer is an essential part of effective evangelism. 

For if the gospel is going to spread we need the opportunity to proclaim it and we need the ability to do so clearly and God has so designed it that one of the primary ways we as Christians are given the opportunity and the ability to proclaim the gospel is through the prayers of His people. 

Thus if we like Paul are really committed to the spreading of the gospel, we must like the Colossians commit ourselves first to prayer.

Specifically we must commit to persistent prayer.  Half-hearted, stop and start, when I feel like it, praying will not do. 

No, Paul writes,

“Continue steadfastly in prayer…”

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