I wrote this article several weeks ago for Take the City, an outreach ministry I have had the privilege of being a part of from its inception. It was birthed, in part, from the house of prayer, and continues to grow through its commitment to prayer and evangelism.
Reinhard Bonnke, the well known German-born evangelist once said, “…evangelism without prayer is like an explosive without a detonator, and prayer without evangelism is like a detonator without an explosive. We need both.” Indeed, this goes along with what Jesus taught His disciples.
The ninth chapter of Matthew was likely a typical day in the life of Jesus. He healed a paralyzed man, confronted some religious leaders, raised a young girl from the dead, healed a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and two blind men, and delivered a demonized man who was mute. Matthew said in verse 35, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Then in verses 36-38, he records, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 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.’”
Jesus could only help so many people, being that He was just one person during His earthly life. The works He did revealed to His disciples the Father’s heart. They, too, saw the needy crowds and probably felt overwhelmed by it all. At just the precise moment, He let them in on a secret that would make it possible for more to be ministered to. I can almost imagine what they were thinking – “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” Seriously, though, it is clear from this story that prayer and evangelism must go together. He then sent them out, making them the answer to that prayer. (see Matt. 10)
When we spend time in prayer, especially extended times of prayer, we will feel what the Father feels for those who do not know Him, and His longing to have them as His own. We will encounter those who are lost, weary, wounded, broken, and outcast, and we will feel His compassion towards them. You cannot spend time in extended prayer and not feel compelled to reach out to these ones. Jesus felt it in the above passage, and if He lives in us, we will too. Prayer, therefore, fuels missions. It is the catalyst that will cause us to leave our prayer closets in search of the lost sheep.
As we reach out to these needy ones, it will quickly become apparent that apart from His help and power, we can do nothing. We can easily become overwhelmed when faced with multitudes of seemingly insurmountable problems. It can take a toll on us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually if we do not have consistent times of prayer to be refilled. If Jesus took time away from the crowds to be with His Father, how much more should we? Dealing with people in desperate situations like drug abuse, prostitution, poverty, sickness, and demonic bondage is heartbreaking. Times like these will drive us to our knees in prayer.
Attempting to evangelize the lost without the compassion of Jesus is simply a religious exercise. For too long, the Church has emphasized evangelism, but lacked teaching on the necessity of intimacy with God. The second Great Commandment – “Love your neighbor as yourself,” has been placed before the first one, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Putting them in the proper order joins prayer and evangelism. Prayer produces intimacy, which produces love for God and compassion. Love for God engenders love for people and empowers us to go out, be His witnesses, and make more disciples. The more we pray, the more we will want to reach out, and the more we reach out, the more we will pray for God’s power and provision in sending more laborers. We cannot afford to separate the two if we truly want to expand His kingdom.