By Brandon Lemons
Each year in the six weeks leading up to Easter, Friedens has 40 Days of Prayer. This year’s 40 Days of Prayer begins this Sunday, February 14. During these six weeks, we commit to praying daily for at least five people around us, that they would become followers of Jesus.
When it comes to praying for others, I love Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2-6. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
In this passage, Paul connects prayer with evangelism. Note that Paul is specifically requesting prayer for an “open door” for the Gospel. Even though he was in prison when making this request (“I am in chains”), his request for an “open door” was not primarily for release from prison; in fact, Paul frequently experienced very fruitful ministry while imprisoned (see Acts 16:25-34 and Philippians 1:12-13). Instead, Paul sought prayer that God would provide opportunities for fruitful evangelism. Most importantly, he knew that if God didn’t open people’s hearts to the Gospel, there wouldn’t be any spiritual fruit. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:6 reflect this need for God to work: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”
This is why prayer is so important in reaching people with the Gospel. No matter how eloquent our Gospel presentation, no matter how dramatic our testimony of life change, no matter how passionate our plea for people to submit to Christ, no matter how kindly we treat those around us, our evangelism will be fruitless if God isn’t softening people’s hearts to the Gospel. Why? Because people are naturally “dead in [their] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people can do nothing to help themselves, and there’s no human way to bring a dead person back to life. But in prayer, we seek God’s power to bring them to new life in Christ.
After asking for prayer in verses 2-4, Paul shifts his focus and says the Colossian Christians should also be active in pointing people to Jesus, just as he is. He calls them to live with intentionality in their relationships with non-Christians, seeking to make the most of every opportunity to point them to Jesus. This is our calling, too. We have the incredible privilege and calling to invest in people’s lives, so that they will experience new life and growth through Jesus!
This year’s 40 Days of Prayer will be a bit different than usual, with an added focus on global missions and some tweaks to how we handle the cards that remind us to pray. I will explain more during Sunday’s worship services. But please be considering who you would like to add to your list of at least five people to pray for between now and Easter, that they would become followers of Jesus. I’m excited to see what God does through our prayers!