Have you ever wondered why people are indifferent to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Scripture says that the gospel is a mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations (Colossians 1:26-27). The Apostle Paul understood that the gospel is a mystery and confirms this in Ephesians 6:19, “and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (emphasis mine).
The American Heritage Dictionary gives one definition of “mystery” as follows: A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ is knowable only through divine revelation, not through reason. In Matthew 16:15-17 Simon Peter recognized that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But Peter did not come to that realization through his own reason. God the Father revealed it to him by divine revelation. Jesus confirms this in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Evangelism Founded in Prayer
The result is that roughly ninety-five percent of all Christians in the US have never led anyone to accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Our approach is too often man-centered and based on reason. We need God-centered evangelism. This first and foremost includes prayer. Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” If we passionately cry out to God for the lost, we shall see many come to Christ. It is well documented that every great revival or awakening has been birthed out of prayer.
In 1 John 5:14-15 we find that “if we ask anything according to his will…we have the petitions that we have asked of him.” God will give us what we ask if our prayer is according to his will. The following two scripture passages clearly tell us God’s will for the unsaved:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Since God is not willing that any should perish, and God answers prayers that are according to his will, we simply need to pray fervently for the lost. John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Paul was one of the greatest evangelists of all time. He had many open doors to share the gospel:
“Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27, emphasis mine).
“But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).
“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord ” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13).
Many people came to know Jesus Christ through these open doors. When God opens a door, people come to Christ. Why did Paul have so many open doors for the gospel of Jesus Christ? We can trace these open doors directly to Paul's prayer life as exemplified in Colossians 4:2-6: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
This passage clearly shows us the importance of prayer in evangelism. Verses two and three tell us to be earnest and vigilant in prayer. If the Bible tells us to pray a certain way, then we are praying according to God’s will and we can expect God to hear and answer our prayers. This is evident in 1 John 5:14-15.
Verse three tells us one of the things for which to pray: “that God would open to us a door for the word.” This is why Paul had so many open doors for the gospel. God simply answered his prayer. If you and I pray this way, we too will have open doors for sharing the gospel with unbelievers. Prayer is the secret to an open door.
Verses three and four tell us to pray that we may “speak the mystery of Christ” and “make it manifest as I ought to speak.” In other words, we are praying that God will give us the very words that will unveil or reveal the mystery of the gospel. Since God must reveal the gospel to the unbeliever, it is vital that God put his words in our mouth, just as he did for Moses in Exodus 4:12 (“Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”) and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:9 (“Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’”).
God will still do this for us today according to John 14:26: “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Finally, verse six enhances this prayer for our speech to be always with grace and that we would know how to answer all of their questions.
Testimony of Prayer
One day I boarded a plane and prayed the above Colossians prayer. Within minutes a young man sat in the seat next to me. The plane took off and I soon found myself engaged in a pleasant conversation. The young man seemed very bright. I said, “You sure have your head screwed on right for a young man.” He replied, “No, you don't know me very well,” and he began to pour out his heart.
He was besieged with personal problems and was hurting deeply. I pulled out a New Testament and after some discussion, shared the plan of salvation with him. He looked at me and said, “God put you next to me, didn't he?” I said, “Let me tell you what I prayed as I got on the plane,” and I quoted the Colossians prayer. Tears began streaming down his face.
This could not be orchestrated. This was the handiwork of a sovereign God in answer to specific prayer. Prayer is indeed the secret to an open door.