Is there a secret formula for winning souls to Christ? Does the Bible lay out a series of steps to assure successful evangelistic efforts? If only it were that easy! Even Jesus Christ saw His Word rejected by those who had cold hearts and closed minds. Likewise, Paul knew the Roman Road was only part of the equation. However, by examining the efforts of Paul, one of Christ’s great evangelists, we discover prayer is one of the secrets to successful evangelism.
Paul must have had a great prayer life. He opens most of his letters (epistles) with a statement regarding his prayer for the people or churches to whom he is writing. Examine how he mentions prayer in Romans 1:8-10, 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:15-16, Philippians 1:3-4, Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:3, and Philemon 1:4. In each of these verses, he gives us an indication of how much time he was spending on his knees.
These verses also give us an indication of how balanced Paul’s prayer life was. Most people find it is easy to slip into the routine of praying for the health and prosperity of fellow believers, devoting much of their attention and prayer life to this topic. It is harder to devote energy and effort to praying for the eternal salvation of non-believers. We like to concern ourselves with immediate, temporal, material, and health issues, foregoing the need to pray for eternal spiritual issues.
Paul was faithful in praying for the churches and people who had accepted Jesus Christ as LORD. He was also faithful in providing intercessory prayer for unbelievers. A major portion of Paul’s prayer life was devoted to praying for the salvation of others. He knew it was important to pray for unbelievers and had a burden in his heart to do so. He had a clear understanding of a deep, eternal truth – repentance and salvation is a fierce spiritual battle in every person’s life.
Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, and Paul realized only the Spirit of God can remove the blinders of disbelief to bring an unbeliever Gospel understanding and spiritual Truth. He tells us, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “And even if the Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Paul recognized the spiritual nature of the battle to get someone saved. It is not an intellectual battle. Even the most simple-minded person can understand the concepts of the Gospel intellectually, but does not assure they will embrace it spiritually to the point of accepting Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. Paul knew Satan is pulling out all the stops to keep the Word of God from finding a root in a lost person’s life and to intensify confusion in their heart. Perhaps Paul was remembering Jesus’ own words: “When anyone hears the Word of the Kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matthew 13:19).
Paul knew deep in his heart that praying for unbelievers was normal and good. He knew great intercessory prayer was a primary spiritual weapon. He understood that winning souls is first and foremost a spiritual battle. This is why we must all pray for the unbelievers we know. We need to defuse the arsenal of spiritual weapons the enemy is using to confuse and confound those who have been blinded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to pray they will be relieved of their spiritual blindness so they may see the light of Jesus Christ (John 9:25).
It is normal to pray for the health and welfare of other believers. It is normal to pray for yourself. It is also normal and crucial to pray for those who have not yet received the gift of salvation. Paul shows us it is normal to prepare hearts with prayer. Take some time today to start praying for the salvation of others, just as others have prayed for you.
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