Jason Gardner, associate pastor at St Peter’s Harrow, tells us why prayer should be a major part of our evangelisation planning.
Why is prayer so important when we talk about evangelism?
I think that prayer is important as it’s about preparation. First, you’re preparing the ground that you’re going on to – wherever your mission field is. But you’re also preparing your heart. For me the work of evangelism is joining in with God’s mission, and so the first thing we need to do is to recognise that it’s God’s mission and not ours. That’s why prayer is so significant – prayer says I’m dependent on God for what happens.
But as well as being dependent on God, it’s also important to understand that we’re working alongside God. We aren’t in this alone. We do it with the anointing of God’s spirit. Prayer helps you to recognise that God is working in your life, and also the lives of the people you are seeking to reach.
How have you seen prayer impact your evangelism?
I’ve definitely noticed a difference between times when I’ve prayed before going out to do street teams, and times when I haven’t. Preparing beforehand with prayer and worship, or prayer walking, makes all the difference. It’s about getting my head into the right space. Also personally it gives me the sense that I do what I do in God’s strength and not my own.
With the teams we go out with, when we’ve been praying and prayerfully walking the area, we find we have really engaging conversations. It definitely feels like God goes ahead of us and opens doors.
Let me give you an example: recently we were handing out flyers for an event we were starting in a local pub. The event was about helping people take very early steps in opening up about things to do with faith. Before we went into the pub, we prayer walked around the building – asking God to go before us in the conversations we’d have.
The first conversation we had in the pub was with a lady who at first seemed quite defensive, but the chat ended up being a great conversation about life and faith. It turned out that this lady had met my wife in a coffee shop and remembered her as someone who was really kind and generous! Also, this woman doesn’t normally come to this pub, but she just happened to be there on that evening. It felt like God was joining up the dots and had prepared the way for that conversation.
How can we build a rhythm of prayer and outreach?
I think building a rhythm is about doing both prayer and outreach consistently – so it needs to be marked up in your church’s calendar. Make sure that you don’t neglect one or the other. I’ve been in churches where you do a whole lot of praying but then no outreach. And in other churches I’ve seen lots of outreach, but not much prayer. You need to have both.
Prayer is the launch pad that helps you build confidence for outreach. It reminds us we are doing this to honour God, knowing He goes with us and that we are in His hands.
A regular rhythm of prayer and outreach also means that you increasingly take more risks, as you recognise God’s favour in preparing the ground beforehand and you increasingly see him working through you.