Effective personal evangelism: prayer

The marks of effective personal evangelism we have surveyed so far are love, tenacity, boldness, consistency and understanding.

The sixth mark of the effective personal evangelist is prayer. The place of prayer in this list is not a marker of its relative insignificance. Could it be that one of the reasons why, with our children, friends, colleagues and communities, we are less effective than we wish to be is because we have not proved to be men and women of earnest, pleading prayer, borne of a love for God that seeks his glory above all else and a love for people that longs to see them saved from sin? Think, for example, of our Lord's mourning over Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Lk 13.34). I know that this is not a prayer per se, but can we imagine that a spirit such as this would not find an outlet in prayers to his heavenly Father? Or consider the words of the psalmist: "He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps 126.6) - is that merely generic and diffuse weeping, or does it not suggest some earnest and heartfelt pleading? Do you think that Paul taught men and women night and day with tears, and that there was no counterpart in his private wrestlings with God for a blessing on his labours? How often does the apostle assure Christ's people of his continued prayers for them, and how much would he have prayed for them to come to new life? He agonises until they are brought to birth and then to see them mature in the faith. We must be pleaders with God. Perhaps you think of the vast number of people to be reached, the great number of streets to be visited, the endless number of words that might be spoken, and you would be tempted to conclude that we do not have time to waste in prayer. I know one gifted man who would give the first hour of his appointed time in this work to poring over an open Bible and pleading with the Lord for a blessing on his efforts before he ever opened his mouth to men. Could it be that our relative prayerlessness lies behind both our faint appetite for the work and our feeble strength in it?