Until Argentine-American revivalist Edgardo Silvoso coined the words and wrote the book Prayer Evangelism, some assumed that praying people rarely shared their faith and that evangelists rarely prayed. We’ve discovered that’s not the case at all. People who pray for the lost are rarely reluctant to share the gospel with them. And people who share the gospel with those who are lost typically pray fervently for them! Thankfully Ed Silvoso’s insightful concepts concerning prayer evangelism have helped us to understand this fact.
Read Acts 4:31. What happened to the members of the early church after they prayed and were filled with the Holy Spirit?
Read Isaiah 6:8. After Isaiah had a powerful encounter with God’s presence, what did God ask him?
How did Isaiah respond?
As intercessors, we should expect that when we are in the place of prayer, God will give us a burden to share His message with those who have not heard.
Charles Swindoll tells a moving story about how prayer and evangelism worked together.
My mother loved the woman who lived across the street from our home, who had married late in life. She really had found her security in her husband. He was a wonderful man, and one day, he had a sudden heart attack and died within seconds. After his funeral, she began to visit the gravesite. My mother became very concerned over her friend Thelma.
She said to me one hot summer afternoon, “Charles, I want you to pray. I’m gonna take these cookies and this lemonade across the street, and I’m gonna try to encourage Thelma. Just pray that her heart will be open to what I have to say. I’m gonna talk to her about Jesus.”
And so I did. My mother, wonderfully, very graciously, led her to Christ. She said to Thelma, “You know, Thelma, there’s something I need to mention to you. You really don’t need to keep going back to the cemetery.”
“Oh,” she said, “Lovell, I just have to do that.”
So my mother said, “Well, let me suggest you do it for another reason. Why don’t you go back, not to try to make a ‘connection’ with your husband, but to minister to other people who are trying to do that.”
Thelma took my mother’s advice. As a matter of fact, she’s the only cemetery evangelist I ever knew. There at the memorial park in Houston she has led a number of people to Jesus Christ.
Praying people listen to God
People of prayer are intercessory partners with Christ. In fact, they speak only what they hear. You see, all true prayer begins in heaven, where Jesus is interceding at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 7:25).
When He was on earth, Jesus did only what He saw the Father doing. We should be like Him—as praying people, we should pray what we hear Him praying.
“How?” you may ask.
The apostle Paul wrote two interesting verses. First he said, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). From the moment we are saved, we have the mind of Christ. We are also to “put on the mind of Christ,” as Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5, NKJV). These verses do not conflict, as it may first appear. Let me illustrate. I (Eddie) have a blue suit. But there is a distinct difference between my owning the blue suit and my putting it on.
As Christians, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit. He intercedes in and through us. He knows the mind of the Father. We “put on the mind of Christ” by emptying ourselves of ourselves and allowing Him to fill us. (Read Romans 8:9, 26–27; 1 Corinthians 2:14–15; Ephesians 5:18.)
A young mystic traveled a great distance to study at the feet of a revered sage. When the young man arrived, he proceeded to try to impress the master with his knowledge and wisdom. Instead of asking questions, the would-be student ranted on about his beliefs and philosophies. The master listened quietly for a long while.
Finally, the student stopped talking for a few moments. The master asked his guest if he would like some tea. “Why yes,” the young man replied.
The old man began to pour the tea into his visitor’s cup. But he didn’t stop when the cup was full. He continued to pour as the tea overflowed the cup, into the saucer and then onto the tabletop where it began to run out on the floor.
“Stop!” the young man cried. “The cup is full. Can’t you see? It can hold no more.”
“It’s true,” the wise one explained. “We cannot put more into an already full cup. And you are like that cup. Until you empty yourself of yourself, your fullness will prevent you from learning.”
The same is true of us. Our fullness of self can keep us from being filled with Christ through the Holy Spirit. We should never forget that His “power [strength] is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Paul summarized his experience this way.
I have been crucified with Christ [emptied] and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me [filled]. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. —GALATIANS 2:20
When we are totally surrendered to and filled with the Holy Spirit, we will seek only His pleasure and purpose. At that point, we will begin to hear His voice deep within our spirit-being.
We will have “put on the mind of Christ” in prayer.
Read Romans 12:1–2. How is it that our minds are renewed so that we can think the thoughts of God?
With a renewed mind, what are we able to prove?
Read Titus 3:4–6. What else renews us?
Remember, God answers prayer that originates in heaven! So, the next time you pray, may we suggest that you spend the first five to ten minutes quieting your heart and mind before the Lord. Allow the Word of God and the renewing of the Holy Spirit to help you discern what God’s perfect will is in the situation. Put yourself at His disposal! (Read 1 Samuel 3:10.)
Some praying people from history
- John Knox prayed so powerfully that Mary, queen of Scotland, is said to have broken out in cold sweat three times a day—at precisely the times when he was praying! Most of Scotland was converted because of his life and prayers.
- David Brainerd was sickly, weak and died as a relatively young man. Yet he faithfully shared the gospel with the Indians on America’s Eastern seaboard. He witnessed and prayed, sometimes for hours in knee-deep snow. He lived to see one of the greatest movements of God in the history of North America.
- Marianne Adlard was a bedridden girl who carried a prayer burden for her church. Upon reading about D. L. Moody in the newspaper, she prayed that the Lord would send him to her church. Eventually God did. Moody preached, and four hundred new members were added!
- Gladys Aylward, known as “The Small Woman,” worked in some of the most difficult regions of China. She was turned down by every missionary society, so she went to China without any financial backing, traveling from London by train and crossing war zones in Russia and Central Asia. Her years of ministry in China won her a reputation for fearlessness. One time, she went into a bloody prison riot all alone and stopped it cold, using nothing but her authority in Jesus.
- Jonathan Goforth, a missionary to Manchuria (China), saw a powerful move of God. When he visited England in 1909, he was taken to a crippled lady intercessor. During the visit, she showed him three particular times in her prayer journal when she had felt led to pray for him. To his amazement, they occurred on the three days when he saw the power of the Holy Spirit released in Manchuria!
- China Inland Mission’s Hudson Taylor saw millions saved in the interior of China as a result of prayer. Friends reported that no matter how difficult the day, you would hear the rustle behind his curtain and see the flickering candle as he rose a few hours past midnight to have his time with God.
- A young man named William Carey read about the Moravian missionaries and became convinced that God was calling him to take the gospel to India. Carey went to his denominational leaders in England, asking for their endorsement to set up a mission society. One of his leaders replied, “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.” Hardly any Christians believed as William Carey did, but Carey went to India anyway. Others followed his example of obedience, and the trickle became a wave of missionaries going out—to China, to the islands of the Pacific, to India, to Africa and to Latin America. Eventually, most of the church came to believe what one young man believed, almost all alone.
In India, William Carey baptized his first convert only after praying and working for seven long years!
- Famed missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson, observed seven fixed prayer times a day!
- John Hyde, missionary to India, became known as “praying Hyde.” He ministered only a few years, yet thousands were born again due to the fact that he prayed for one, then two, then three, and, before he died, four souls every day.
- Southern Baptist missionary Lottie Moon was so successful at evangelism, church planting and the training of indigenous pastors in north China in the late 1800s that her leader said, “I estimate a single woman in China is worth two married men.”
- George Müller began praying for five friends. He prayed five years before the first one came to Christ. For the second one, he prayed ten years. For the third one he prayed twenty-five years. The last one was converted after fifty-two years of prayer, at Müller’s funeral! He supported four thousand orphaned boys and girls by making his request known to God alone. Müller recorded fifty thousand answers to prayer in his lifetime.
- George Whitfield, who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s, saw one thousand people saved in one day as a result of his prayers. Amazing in his day!
Praying people today
Today, the greatest prayer movement in history is taking place. Pastors are gathering regularly across denominational and ethnic lines to pray for their cities. Churches are setting their sights on becoming houses of prayer. God is mobilizing men and women, boys and girls, from every nation, tribe and tongue to cry out to Him night and day. For what are they asking? They are asking the Father for the nations. And the Father is responding with an unimaginable harvest of souls around the world (Ps. 2:8). This prayer movement is fueling unprecedented evangelism and church planting around the globe.
David Bryant says, “About 70 percent of all progress toward completing the Great Commission has taken place since 1900. Of that, 70 percent has occurred since World War II. And 70 percent of that has come about since 1992.”
Think about it…
People of prayer tend to live in a state of “holy dissatisfaction.” Have you felt the tug of holy dissatisfaction in your life? What issues cause this feeling in your spirit?
Like Jesus, as His intercessors we too are in the “building and wrecking business.” On the lines below, list three works of Satan you want to see wrecked through your prayers. Beside Satan’s works, list the work of God that you want to see begin to replace the work of Satan.
This lesson teaches us that to be “full” of God’s plans and purposes, we must be “empty” of our own plans and purposes. On the lines below, write down at least two areas of your life where you feel you still need to be emptied of your own purposes in order to be filled with God’s.
We learned that God is raising up an army of intercessors who will pray for a harvest of the nations. What are the nations of the world for which God has given you a burden? What would you like to see God do in each of these nations?
Your time with God
Isn’t it amazing to learn how God has used praying people? You can be one, too. We learned that God gives intercessors a holy dissatisfaction for the way things are. Are you content with things around you? Are you willing to pray to see things changed? The greatest prayer movement on Planet Earth is occurring right now. Pray big prayers! Believe God for big things!
Lord God, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of Your glory, I never want to be satisfied with the way things are. Stretch me! Enlarge me! Teach me to believe You for the nations! Please help me to empty my heart of all other affections and distractions so that I can truly be filled with the thoughts and desires of God. I want to pray Your will, not mine. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.