Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We have often thought about these wonderful promises Jesus makes to all His disciples. The gift of the Holy Spirit, power from on high, power to be witnesses for Jesus. It is very important that we remember in all our evangelism and outreach and witness that there is absolutely nothing we can do to save people. That is entirely the work of God the Holy Spirit. We know that it is only the Holy Spirit who can bring somebody to eternal life in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who helps people to understand the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin. It is the Holy Spirit who helps people to put their trust in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who brings a person to new birth and gives them new life and helps them to declare that Jesus is risen from the dead and that Jesus is Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s children and who makes each of us part of the Body of Christ, the church. The Bible warns us in different places that that we should never resist the Spirit or quench the Spirit or grieve the Spirit or be afraid of the Spirit or despise the Spirit.
We know that in evangelism, as in every other area of our Christian lives, Zechariah 4:6 is true. `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
It is not us but it is the Holy Spirit who is the principal witness to Jesus and to the gospel. So we need to pray that God will release the Holy Spirit into our lives and into our church!
Acts 5 29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The Holy Spirit is the witness, and then God will help us in our witnessing. And the way we release the power of God into our evangelism is of course by praying.
Ephesians 6 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him that he might be a faithful ambassador for Jesus. He asked them to pray that he might talk about Jesus without being afraid. If the apostle to the Gentiles Paul needed prayer then we do even more! We should be praying those kind of prayers for ourselves and for each other. Especially if we are scared or worried about talking about Jesus, we should pray about that. Paul also asked the Colossians to pray for his evangelism.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
So Paul asks other Christians to pray for him, that God will open doors for him to talk about Jesus and that he will be clear in what he says when he does. We can pray those things for ourselves and for each other. Paul continues,
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
We pray for our evangelism, that God will give us opportunities to talk about Jesus and that He will enable us to make the most of every opportunity. We pray to know how we may answer everyone.
Evangelism must start in prayer, and evangelism must continue surrounded in prayer. We need prayer which includes both listening for God to guide our witness and also interceding for others.
We will pray about our evangelism strategy and evangelistic events and special services.
We should pray for ourselves for boldness (Acts 4:29-31, 2 Timothy 1:7)
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
God gives us His Holy Spirit so that when we talk about Jesus we will be bold and not scared.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.
We should also pray for wisdom, to know what to say and what answers to give.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
And we should always be praying for our friends and our neighbours and our colleagues. There is a wise saying, “Always talk to God about your friend before you talk to your friend about God.”
We can pray for other people.
for their physical needs,
for their understanding,
for binding and loosing remembering that evangelism is spiritual warfare
2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Evangelism is spiritual warfare!
Matthew 12:25 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
Jesus “bound the strong man” when he resisted the temptations in his forty days in the wilderness. Jesus then defeated the devil by His death on the cross. And Jesus has delegated His authority over all the demonic powers to His church
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Evangelism is spiritual warfare. We need to be praying!
If appropriate we can tell others we are praying for them and ask them what they would like us to pray for them. We pray and persevere in praying for specific individuals that they will be saved.
A vital part of Prepared to Answer is encouraging us all to be praying for our evangelism.
We should pray in our personal devotions,
in Home Groups
and special prayer meetings
and days of prayer,
and sometimes praying with fasting.
If we are serious about evangelism we will take every opportunity to pray!
When we come to think of talking about Jesus beyond the circle of our friends and neighbours and colleagues, we need to prepare the ground for outreach by prayer. In particular we can think about PRAYER WALKING.We talked about this back in February 2013
• We do not have to be in a church building for God to answer our prayers.
• We do not need to be on our knees or have our eyes closed for God to answer our prayers.
• The more we know about other people and can empathise with their needs the easier we find it to pray meaningfully for them.
The first historical account of prayer walking comes from as early as 467 AD! Following a series of devastating events that plagued the local people, the Bishop of the town of Vienne in France instituted processions around the town’s perimeter, in order to seek God’s blessing on the inhabitants. The celebration of the ‘Rogantide’ (from the Latin rogatio to ‘intercede’, ask or beseech) probably reached England around the 8th Century as part of the Roman Church’s calendar of festivals.
In the Middle Ages “beating the bounds” of the parish became a major event in the church year. Led by the priest, the faithful would walk around the boundaries of the parish with banners depicting the saints, chanting from the Scriptures and erecting stone crosses at intersections with other parishes. During each pause at a boundary mark the priest would give a blessing and pray for the people. For particularly large parishes these processions might take several days!
The people would also literally “beat the bounds” with branches. This did not merely mark the perimeter of the parish. They believed that doing so would drive demons out of the parish so they would no longer trouble the people. Their seemingly strange practices may well show us an important truth.
Proclaiming Christ’s victory – claiming the ground
Beyond asking God’s blessing, listening to God and expressing our faith, prayer walking is also an activity of spiritual warfare. The experience of churches in many parts of the world suggests that some places can be particularly influenced by evil spirits as a result of activities there in the past or present.
`The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’ (1 John 3:8) Part of prayer walking is simply praising God and declaring Jesus’s victory over all the powers of evil. We also seek the Spirit’s guidance in discerning whether evil powers have any claim over any particular places or people. This is one way we fulfil Jesus’s commission to His church, not only to proclaim the gospel but also to bring healing and deliverance. As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. (Matthew 10:7-8)
Bible Basis: Satan is `the prince of this world’ (Jn 12:31), `the God of this age (who) has blinded the minds of unbelievers’ (2 Cor 4:4). The tenth plague of the deaths of the firstborn was in God’s words `judgement on all the gods of Egypt’ (Exod 12:12). Daniel 10:12-13 and the opposition of `the prince of Persia’ to God’s angel implies an evil spirit controlling an area. There may well have been demons behind the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre (Isa 14:12-14, Ezek 28:12-16). The demons in Legion seemed to fear being sent out of `their’ region (Mark 5:1-20). Pergamum was the place `where Satan’s throne is’ (Rev 2:13). The Old Testament teaches that the sins of the fathers will be visited on the children (Lev 26:39, Jer 32:18) even to the fourth generation ( Exod 20:5, 34:7, Num 14:18) sometimes perhaps by demons gaining a hold on families. Curses and spells have real power, as did the false gods of Israel’s enemies.
You can read more about spiritual warfare and territorial spirits in:
C.Peter Wagner Territorial Spirits (Sovereign World 1991) and
Breaking Strongholds in Your City (Monarch 1993)
He also edited Wrestling with Dark Angels and Engaging the Enemy
See also John Dawson Taking our Cities for God
Praying God’s blessing on the homes you pass
We believe that praying for people works. More than that, we also believe that Christians can declare God’s blessings on each other and on the community. In the priesthood of all believers, every Christian is empowered to act as God’s representative and proclaim God’s blessing. Jesus sent out the Twelve (Matt 10:5-15) and the Seventy-two (Luke 10:1-12) to heal, to minister deliverance and to preach the gospel.
Jesus commanded them in Luke 10:5,“When you enter a house, first say, `Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.”
In prayer walking we can both pray for the homes we pass and also proclaim God’s peace and blessing upon them.
Listening to God as you walk
God gives spiritual gifts of prophecy, discernment, knowledge and wisdom to His church. The Holy Spirit at work in every Christian allows all of us to hear God’s voice and be led by Him. So part of prayer walking is listening to God so that we will know more precisely what to pray for (Romans 8:26-27). We also listen for specific guidance about the approach we should take to evangelism, and for discernment about the presence of evil in particular places.
Prayer is an exercise in faith.
Joshua 6 tells us of the “battle of Jericho” – a battle which the Israelites did not need to fight because God gave them the victory. But the Israelites were not passive there. They were obedient. Even when they did not understand what God was commanding them to do, they trusted and they obeyed. Prayer walking is an expression of faith and obedience. And God will honour that! We might actually find it easier to deliver leaflets or knock on doors. We could be tempted into thinking that those things would achieve more. But prayer walking is an expression of our faith in God and a recognition that only the Holy Spirit can bring people to Christ!
All prayer is an exercise in faith. Praying for our evangelism and outreach and witness. Praying for ourselves. Praying for the people we want to share Jesus with. Many of us like to be busy. We can so easily be tempted to put our trust in human activity. We really do need to pray and pray and keep on praying in order to demonstration that we really believe the truth of Zechariah 4:6: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty