BP Toolbox

Six Ways to Pray More Evangelistically

A group of men prays together at the prayer gathering ahead of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim. BP file photo

The majority of self identified Christians do not invite others to church, or mention a Bible verse to a lost family member of friend, or ever explain the gospel to a lost person. The result of this inwardly focused Christianity is apparent in the SBC’s latest mixed bag of statistics.

Last year we saw a post-pandemic uptick in baptisms. While that represents positive news, the actual baptism numbers still hover near a 70 year low. The evangelistic slump, combined with the largest annual decrease in total membership in over 100 years paints a challenging denominational picture.

We’re in a battle. The war on lostness can and must be waged on numerous spiritual battlefields at once, but one weapon immediately available to every believer is prayer. Consider, therefore, this incomplete list of 6 scriptural ways to pray more evangelistically. 


Paul said “…my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Paul prayed with a passion to see people saved. Do you? The use of the word “desire” urges us to do more than “phone it in” when we pray for lost family members, friends, and co-workers. Desire makes a demand upon us as we pray. Are we passionate or perfunctory when we pray? Charles Spurgeon exemplified the kind of evangelical heartbeat reflected in Romans 10:1 when he said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”


Do you remember the old saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”? Paul was clear in Romans 10:1, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” He prayed for the lost to be saved. The main thing in evangelistic prayer is the appeal to God to save our lost friends, family members, and everyone else. We have no reason to hesitate when it comes to  praying for lost people to be saved. Why would we ever pray for less? 


Despite his long term success in Ephesus, Paul ran afoul of a prominent segment of the community. The resulting disturbance was a city wide riot which led to Paul leaving town (Acts 19:23-41). That incident was probably on his mind when he wrote to Timothy, a pastor in Ephesus, suggesting “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Maintaining a peaceful relationship with governing authorities, though not always possible, 

is nevertheless good for evangelism because God “desires all people to be saved…” (1 Timothy 2:4).


Paul mentions prayer about 40 times in his letters, often appealing for prayer for his own evangelistic ministry (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; etc). Paul asked the church to pray for him because, as a front line evangelist, he knew he needed the prayer support of fellow believers in order to experience evangelistic success. We should regularly pray for those who are regularly sharing the gospel. 


Leonard Ravenhill once said, “God doesn’t answer prayer- He answers desperate prayer.” In Acts 4:23-31 the infant church was faced with persecution when their leaders were targeted for imprisonment and execution. Lacking any political influence the church turned to prayer, imploring God to “look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In other words, when faced with overwhelming opposition the church believed the promises of God, prayed, and asked God for more, not less, boldness for evangelistic witness. We can’t wait for an easier environment for evangelism, desperate times call for desperate prayers! 


When Jesus rose from the dead He spent 40 days with His disciples preparing them to lead the work of God’s kingdom (Acts 1:3). Still, the disciples were initially confused about the message of Jesus (Acts 1:6). In spite of what they had personally observed, experienced, and learned they weren’t ready to evangelize until they spent significant time in prayer seeking and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8). If the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry needed to pray for the power of the Spirit, shouldn’t we? Obviously, their prayers set an example for us to follow. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the answer to their prayer. 

It’s difficult to imagine a more confrontational assessment of our inaction on this subject than from the late Billy Graham in his 1978 book, “The Holy Spirit.” In it he wrote, “Christians have more equipment and technology for evangelizing the world than ever before. And there are better trained personnel. But one of the great tragedies of the present hour is this: Christians so often lack the fullness of the Spirit with its true dependence on God‘s power for their ministry.” If the evangelist was correct, if we suffer not from lack of opportunity or absence of resources, if our essential problem is our failure to depend upon the Holy Spirit, what should we do? The answer is astonishingly simple and provided by Jesus Himself who said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13)! So, if we want the power of the Holy Spirit, the path for us is prayer. We ask the Lord to empower us by His Spirit so we can be more effective in evangelism.

As previously mentioned this list is representative rather than comprehensive. It’s not the final word on this all important subject. It should go without saying that prayer does not replace the proclamation of the gospel, or ministry to the real needs of hurting people, or personal evangelism. Instead, evangelistic prayer reinforces all other aspects of evangelism. As the prolific American author S. D. Gordon wrote, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” 

    About the Author

  • Kie Bowman

    Kie Bowman is senior pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas and the SBC National Director of Prayer.

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