This is the second installment of a 2-part review of how prayer related to evangelization has increased and changed in phenomenal ways. In the first installment, Hawthorne wrote that in the past two decades evangelicals have not merely prayed more, but have come to mobilize and to organize prayer for world evangelization differently. The most dramatic developments have come about since the 1984 International Prayer Assembly for World Evangelization (IPA). The mutations and maturations of prayer can be clustered into three broad categories: information exchange, networking, and a more dynamic engagement with the world. The continuation below deals with the third category: how our praying has been bringing us into more dynamic and direct engagement with the world.
Engagement with the World: We Are Praying Closer
Perhaps the most dramatic change in the last two decades has to do with how prayer has become not just something to do before setting out to do evangelism, but that it is in fact the core of evangelism. We are no longer merely praying for the evangelizers or the people we hope to evangelize. We are praying closer to our community by praying with and amidst the people we hope to evangelize. Here are some examples:
Prayer walking. Prayer walking is simply praying in the very places in which we hope to see God bring about the answers to our prayer. It is nothing more than intentional on-site intercession. When Graham Kendrick and I did a bit of research for our book, Prayer-walking: Praying On-Site with Insight,1 we thought we would find hundreds of examples of on-site intercessory prayer throughout history. We were surprised to find only a handful of instances before 1980, and thousands thereafter—most emerging independently in the late 1980s. The Praying through the Window efforts in the 1990s encouraged prayer walking efforts in every part of the 10/40 Window (the nations ten to forty degrees north of the equator, including the countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia).
Today, thanks to the continuing efforts of Praying through the Window, prayer walking has become an essential component of evangelism and church planting in just about every country and almost any tradition.
Power evangelism and prayer evangelism. In the 1980s, John Wimber, an American pastor and one of the founders of the Vineyard churches, worked with others to introduce the idea of power evangelism in which God’s love and power were demonstrated by the answered prayers of everyday believers. Demonstrations of God’s power to heal, to provide, and to deliver from oppression were seen as intrinsic to the presentation of the gospel.
Shortly after power evangelism had been cautiously accepted in some circles, Ed Silvoso, the president and CEO of Harvest Evangelism, Inc., introduced what he called prayer evangelism. Silvoso and others defined prayer evangelism as an approach to evangelizing communities. Christians were encouraged to pray for people throughout cities and towns in quiet ways and then seek to pray directly with these individuals and households.
Prayer, care, share. In the spring of 1995, the American counterpart of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization identified itself as the Mission America Coalition (MAC). At this conference (held in Lisle, Illinois, USA), I listened to chair and CEO Paul Cedar announce the formation of the Mission America Coalition. The initial vision of the MAC was “to pray for every person, and to present the gospel to every person in America by year-end 2000.”
I was sitting next to C. Peter Wagner, president of Global Harvest Ministries and chancellor of the Wagner Leadership Institute, when this was announced. Wagner was arguably the person most informed about prayer efforts in the world and among the best acquainted with mission strategy. I asked him if he knew of any other time or place in which Christians had set out to pray for every person in a country. He paused, thinking hard for about a full minute, and then answered with an astonished look on his face, “I don’t think it’s ever been attempted before.”
The following year, the simple 2-part strategy of praying for and presenting the gospel to every person was amended with a third element: not only would we pray—which would lead to a relevant way to present the gospel—we would expect our prayers to lead to practical demonstrations of the love of Christ. A 3-part strategy emerged from this vision: prayer for others leads to opportunities to care, displaying God’s love, which, in turn, opens the way to share the gospel. Even today, the MAC commends “prayer, care, share” to be pursued as the basic operative dynamic of churches working together to bring the gospel to their communities. The same approach, with different terminology, is practiced by many churches throughout the world. Prayer has become inextricably fused with evangelism.
From prayers of identification to prayers for transformation. A surprising outcome of public worship helped to join prayer with missions. The March for Jesus and the Global Day of Prayer events which followed served to gather Christians from many traditions to worship Christ openly. This public worship has invariably positioned the gathered Church as representing its community before God in prayer. The prayers have been prayers of identification with the community as sins have been confessed and the healing work of God has been sought. Going public with worship has helped Christians identify with the unevangelized in their communities. The public prayers have tended to be prayers of blessing and hope instead of expressions of condemnation. Praying in this way necessarily turns one’s vision forward and has helped form a shared vision for God bringing about transformation in every part of society and culture. The Transformation videos produced by the Sentinel Group have provided vivid portraits of what prayer movements can pray toward.
24-hour prayer communities: around the clock and into the world. Perhaps the most explosive thing we are seeing now is the increase in 24-hour prayer rooms and communities. Many thousands of prayer rooms and prayer watches have been launched in the past few years, many in significantly under-evangelized settings.
One of the most extensive networks of constant prayer got underway as Pete Grieg and friends gathered to pray for a few days. They found that by praying together, God formed in them a sense of community and mission. Today, there are hundreds of prayer rooms and prayer houses where constant prayer is pursued. The overriding purpose of constant prayer is for God’s global mission. Grieg is the director of 24-7 Prayer, which “exists to transform the world through movements and communities of Christ-centered, mission-minded prayer.” There are 24-7 prayer rooms in well over fifty countries.
Praying Our Way toward an Evangelized World: Closer, Together, and Clearer
Many other names and developments could be mentioned. However, these few examples encourage us to look for ways prayer may be more intricately fused with the pursuit of world evangelization. During the same years mentioned in this article and the previous installment, we have seen prayer linked to the most vibrant endeavors. More prayer has not led to less action. When we pray well, we are more likely to see where we need God to work in miraculous ways—and where we simply need to get to work. An evangelized world will have first been a prayed-for world.
The three changes I have noted in our praying align with the often-quoted vision of Lausanne: that we want to see the whole Church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world. As we pray closer to our community, we will increasingly envision the fulfillment of the whole gospel. As we pray together, we will increasingly find ourselves working together as the whole Church. As we pray clearer, with a better exchange of information, we will grow in our resolve to bring the gospel to the whole world.
1. 1993. Lake Mary, Florida, USA: Creation House.