Prayer Lesson 5: Praying Evangelistically

How should we pray evangelistically? Typically, believers develop prayer lists with the names of unsaved people. This practice is good, but is it enough? This lesson will focus on what the Bible says about praying for the lost. Is it enough to pray through a list of names? What about our responsibility to pray for the one giving the gospel? The Bible teaches that not only should we pray for the lost, the bulk of our praying should be for ourselves and others involved in gospel-bearing activity?

Praying for the lost

Reading through the NT, you may be surprised to find that there are no explicit commands to pray for the lost. That does not mean we are not to pray for the lost. It does suggest, however, that praying for the lost is not our primary objective.


While there are no explicit commands to pray for the lost, there are passages, which principally teach that we are to pray for the lost.

It was the Apostle Paul’s pattern to pray to God for the salvation of the Israelites

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. Romans 10:1

It was the Apostle Paul’s manner to labor in gospel-bearing activity while depending on God to save some

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance
(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. 1 Timothy 4:9-11

It was the Apostle Paul’s teaching to pray for all men because it pleases our saving Lord

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Though we find no explicit command to pray for those who are lost, it is clearly expected that we do so.

First, God desires the salvation of all mankind. God provided, through His Son, an atonement of infinite worth for all. He invites all to come and be saved. God considers all mankind as savable.[1]

Second, since God desires the salvation of all mankind, we should as well. We should pray for our friends, neighbors, and relatives. We should pray in at least the following ways:

  • Ask God to draw them to Himself.
  • Ask God to bring them repentance and faith
  • Ask God to work in their lives in such a way that when the gospel is presented they will be ready and willing to accept biblical truths.

Pray for the laborers

Pray that more laborers would give themselves to the task of gospel bearing

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9.37–38

As the Lord Jesus Christ prepared to send out the twelve disciples, he exhorted them to consider the multitudes of people in the region of Galilee. In those days, Galilee consisted of “some three million people … in some two hundred cities and villages.”[2] Compared to the twelve who were being commissioned, this would be no easy task. Therefore, Jesus exhorted them to pray. Notice the implications of his instructions:

  • Prayer is our primary duty. The first ministry the disciples were to devote themselves to was that of prayer.
  • Prayer is to be directed to the Lord. The owner of the harvest is the Lord. He chooses His workers. The workers must not conceitedly think that their activity is their own. It is the Lord’s. Their being sent is a result of the Lord’s work. Therefore, when we pray for the lost, pray that the Lord would work in the lives of believers to urge them to do the work of the evangelist.

Pray that laborers would have more opportunities

Colossians 4:3 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.

The Greeks spoke of “open doors” to refer to a person “being free to go anywhere.”[3] In the NT, this picture was often used to speak of being free to proclaim the gospel:

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 2 Corinthians 2:12

Paul spent a week in Troas. By God’s grace, the people were so hungry for the Apostle’s teaching that Paul kept talking all night. He spoke so long that a young man fell out of the window and died. The young man was miraculously raised from the dead and the believers continued all night until the morning.

On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

This is referring to the time when Paul was in Derbe and led many people to the Lord.

We tend to think that “open doors” is equal to “no opposition.” That is clearly not the case. Paul still considered those life-threatening situations to be “open door” opportunities:

because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:9

The point is that we ought to pray for more opportunities. We should pray asking the Lord to give us the tenacity, boldness, and energy to present the gospel in all situations.

Pray that laborers would remember the gospel message, have clarity of speech, and be bold

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19–20

Paul was about to face the Roman authorities, possibly the emperor himself. Paul’s request to the believers is twofold: he would open his mouth with words given to him and that his manner of speaking would be fearless.

The phrase “open the mouth” was a common phrase for making a public address or a long defense. When making that defense, Paul asks that he would have “words given to him.” This is not to suggest that words be given to him that he did not previously know (divine revelation), it simply means what we mean today that we would not stumble over our words in nervousness.[4]

Further, Paul asks the believers to pray that he would be fearless” in his manner. This is one of Paul’s favorite words. It means to speak with frankness and uninhibited openness of speech.”[5]

Other passages that speak of praying for the labors of the gospel

Romans 15:30-32: I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.

2 Corinthians 1:10-11: He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our a behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

1 Thessalonians 5:24-25: The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2: Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.



[1] Rolland McCune, “Prayer and the Sovereignty of God,” unpublished work.

[2] Hiebert, Working with God Through Intercessory Prayer, 26.

[3]Peter T. O’Brien, vol. 44, Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon, electronic ed., Logos Library System;Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998).

[4] O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, Pillar, 487.

[5] ExBC.

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