BP Toolbox

Prayer and evangelism reinforce one another

Adobe Stock Photo. Do not publish.

Editor’s note: The following excerpt is by Joe M. Allen III, published with permission from Before You Go: Wisdom From 10 Men on Serving Internationally, edited by Matthew Bennett and Joshua Bowman. Copyright 2024, B&H Publishing.

Prayer and evangelism go together like chocolate and peanut butter. The two practices mutually reinforce one another and enhance the other spiritual disciplines. The dynamic happens like this: the more you pray, the more you attune your heart to God’s heart, and specifically, God’s heart for the lost. The more you seek to evangelize, the more you sense your need for the Holy Spirit’s divine enablement and long for his intervention. Prayer should lead to gospel proclamation, and gospel proclamation should intensify your prayers.

The irony is that prayer is often a solitary activity that appeals to introverts, while evangelism is a social activity that appeals to extroverts. Regardless of your personality, maintaining a close interrelationship between prayer and evangelism will push you out of your comfort zone and force you to grow. When you join prayer and evangelism, watch out! Something special is about to happen.

Jesus links prayer and evangelism in Luke 10:2 when he says, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for harvesters and then, in a surprising twist, he sends them to be the answer to their own prayers! The same thing might happen to you, so when you pray, be ready to obey.

A verse that I find myself returning to time and again when I think about prayer and evangelism is Romans 10:1. Here, we get a glimpse of Paul’s heart, which proves instructive for us. He writes: “my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.” As we consider the importance of prayer and evangelism in the life of a missionary, let me make three observations about this verse.

First, Paul cared deeply. His desire was not a shallow, fleeting desire, but a core longing that sprang from the center of his being. If you do not feel deep compassion for the lost, go back and review the gospel. Consider afresh the glory of the One who calls you into fellowship with him. Meditate on the majesty of God as revealed in Scripture. Think about the sacrifice of Jesus and the depth of the love that bought your salvation. Contemplate the joys of heaven and the horrors of hell until your heart is stirred for others to know the gospel. Feed your godly desires so you can say with Paul, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.”

Second, Paul prayed fervently. The people of Israel had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but Paul remained hopeful that they might be saved. Paul did not give up on them, and he did not leave his heart’s desire unexpressed; he acted. That action first took the form of prayer. We must do the same. Do not bottle up your desire; let it bubble up and overflow in prayer. Give expression to your desire through intercession.

Third, Paul prayed specifically. He did not pray ambiguous prayers for some amorphous spiritual blessing. Instead, he prayed for their salvation. Elsewhere, Paul prayed for boldness (Eph. 6:18–20), for opportunity (Col. 4:2–4), and that the Word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1). A couple of years ago, I realized that if I only make vague or general requests with lots of qualifications and caveats, then I would never be able to tell if God had answered. So let me encourage you to pray such focused prayers for the salvation of souls so that you can recognize God’s answers and rejoice.

    About the Author

  • Joe Allen

    Joe Allen III serves as Assistant Professor of Missions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    Read All by Joe Allen ›