Only the work accomplished with much prayer, will avail in the end."—The Desire of Ages, p. 362. In no other work is this more true than in winning men and women to Jesus Christ. It is only through divine grace that the miracle of new birth can take place. No worker for souls can expect lasting results unless, through prayer, he lays hold on divine power. Even Christ of His own self could do nothing.
"The most important human factor in effective evangelism is PRAYER.... There have been great awakenings without much preaching, and there have been great awakenings with absolutely no organization, but there has never been a true awakening without much prayer," says R. A. Torrey in "The Place of Prayer in Evangelism."—Fundamentals, vol. 12, p. 97.
It was much prayer that led to three thousand decisions on the day of Pentecost. Prayer accounted for Paul's success as a soul winner. He said: "I make mention of you always in my prayers" (Rom. 1:9).
The great awakening under Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century began with his "Call to Prayer." It was those haystack prayer meetings that sent Adoniram Judson as a flaming torch to Burma. In his New York revivals, where 100,000, were reported to have united ivith the church, Charles Finney himself attributed his success to his prayer partners and to the spirit of prayer that accompanied his meetings. More recently Billy Graham credited the success of the entire New York effort to prayer. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [still] availeth much" in today's soul-winning work where the strength of man availeth so little.
If in the sanctuary services the priests moved about their solemn duties amid a cloud of incense, how much more important it is for the minister to do his work for God in an atmosphere of prayer. However, many keep so busy with church activities and other good works that there is danger of their prayer life being neglected and their soul lost.
Biblical References to Prayer
The Scriptures are replete with examples of prayer and its effectiveness in soul winning. Here is a short list of such experiences:
Gen. 18:23-33 Abraham prayed for the saving of Lot in Sodom.
Ex. 32:31-33 Moses prayed for the salvation of the people after the golden calf experience.
Job 42:10 Job prayed for his friends:
1 Kings 18 Elijah prayed for restoration of worship of the true God.
2 Chron. 7:14 God promised to forgive sin and heal the land in answer to prayer.
Luke 3:21, 22 Jesus prayed at His baptism and the Holy Spirit anointed Him.
Luke 6:12. 13 Jesus prayed before choosing His disciples.
Matt. 14:23 Jesus prayed for His congregation.
Luke 5:15. 16 Jesus withdrew from the multitudes for prayer.
Luke 22:31, 32 Christ prayed for Peter that his faith fail not.
John 14:16 Jesus prayed for another Comforter to help His followers.
John 17 Jesus prayed for His followers to the end of time.
Matt. 26:36 Jesus prayed for Himself in Gethsemane before He made His sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
Luke 23:42 The simple prayer of the thief on the cross resulted in his salvation.
Acts 1:14 The disciples continued steadfastly in prayer before they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:42 The early church had daily prayer bands in the homes.
Acts 3:1-8 Peter and John went to the Temple at the hour of prayer and the lame man was healed.
Acts 9:11-18 Paul prayed and his sight was restored.
Acts 12:5 The church prayed for its strongest preacher.
Acts 16:25-33 Paul and Silas prayed in prison and the jailer was converted.
1 Tim. 2:1 Paul said we ought to pray for all men.
Three valuable steps any preacher can take to guarantee the power of God's Spirit upon a service are suggested by F. D. White-sell in the following passage:
First, he can get up early enough on Sunday to pray at least an hour over his messages and the work of the day. He can pray for divine power and for the anointing of the Spirit as he preaches, for the melting of people's hearts and will, for the defeat of Satan, and for the salvation of souls and the edification of the saints. Second, he can meet with his deacons or Prayer Circle for fifteen or more minutes of prayer together before the service begins. Third, he can teach all his people to pray for him