Prayer: the greatest evangelistic agency

People outside the church know God has visited His people when they see genuine repentance manifested by tears, restitution, reformation, and resultant joy.

George E. Knowles is director of the General Conference Lay Activities Department.

By now everyone knows that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has committed itself to 1,000 Days of Reaping. But everyone may not realize that 1,000 days of reaping demands a thousand days and nights of prayer on the part of each of us.

Prayer is the most effective evangelistic agency we have. Prayer changes people and circumstances. It changes not only the one prayed for but the one praying as well. And it opens the way for God Himself to do things He would not otherwise do. "It is a part of God's plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask."—The Great Controversy, p. 525.

Revival and prayer have always been inseparably linked together. A lack of prayer has always resulted in a lack of power. If spiritual activity is to be redemptive and produce lasting results to the glory of our Lord, it must be an outgrowth of prayer, not a competing activity that stifles prayer. "As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods. There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. . . . Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good."—The Desire of Ages, p. 362.

Prayer is our connection with God's omnipotent power. God has promised, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). The "land" is composed of nations, families, churches and individuals. Here, then, is a promise of healing for families who will pray and seek His will. How much the world and the church and each of us individually need the healing touch of God!

"Lord, teach us to pray," was the response of the first-century disciples when they witnessed the Saviour's prayer life. But it must also be a need that twentieth-century disciples feel keenly as well. The fact that those first disciples were not ashamed to ask for help in prayer makes it easier for us to ask.

During a recent visit to Australia I heard enthusiastic church members tell of help that had come to them through dedicating an hour a day to prayer. More than one testified that an hour of private or family prayer had become a delightful and rewarding reality in their lives as the result of devoting small segments of time, approximately five minutes, to such areas as praise, waiting, confession, Bible study, watching, intercession, petition, thanks giving, singing, meditation, and listening.

A devotional hour of prayer and Bible study could be the most glorious discovery in the life of many a believer. Even ten minutes a day dedicated to prayer would be a giant stride for many! If you could have seen the enthusiasm of our Australian believers who had discovered the joy of a satisfying prayer experience, you would be motivated to find what they had found. You cannot obtain this "secret" by writing to the General Conference or to MINISTRY for further details or information. It is a matter of "taste and see."

Besides personal, private prayer, the 1,000 Days of Reaping must be bathed in corporate prayer. In churches, brothers and sisters in Jesus need to pray together for themselves and for souls. In every institution where Adventists work together it would be good to meet together in groups of two or three each working day during the 1,000 Days of Reaping for ten minutes of intercessory prayer.

Both public and personal evangelism are strengthened by intercessory prayer. Prayer is the cutting edge of evangelism, its most valuable asset. While Spurgeon preached and invited men and women to accept the Saviour, a hundred of his members interceded in prayer with God in a room beneath the rostrum! "The hearts of our church members should be drawn out in prayer for those who are preaching the gospel."—E. G. White, Letter 49, 1903.

Souls are won one by one and likewise need to be prayed for one by one whether the message is being preached to one or to thousands. "In times past there were those who fastened their minds upon one soul after another, saying, 'Lord, help me to save this soul.' But now such instances are rare. How many act as if they realized the peril of sinners?— Gospel Workers, p. 65.

Do you realize the peril of sinners? Do you know what it means to fasten your mind on a soul? Never since the time our Lord challenged those first disciples to reach the world with the message of salvation has there been a greater need than today for intercession in prayer.

World population now exceeds four billion! Based on language, customs and cultural background, this total world population is compromised of some 26,000 people-groups speaking 6,000 languages. More than 16,000 of these people-groups still do not have access to a Christian church of any kind! For political or religious reasons several entire countries are closed to Christian missionaries. But prayer can reach anyone, anywhere. Its only limitation is the free moral choice of the individual.

What happens when we pray? Daniel, chapter 10, gives some insight. Daniel prayed earnestly for his people. As far as he could tell, three weeks passed, and there seemed to be no change in anything. But from the time he began to pray things had begun to happen behind the scenes, where human eyes could not penetrate. The angel Gabriel was dispatched to the court of the Persian king to impress him to make decisions necessary for Daniel's prayer to be answered. When the angel's influence was not enough, Michael [Christ] Himself visited the court of the king. And the king yielded to influences set in motion by intercessory prayer! Daniel's prayer was answered and God's people were delivered.

God is ready and willing, but what about you and me? "If my people.. . shall humble themselves, and pray . . . then will I hear . . . and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).

People outside the church know God has visited His people when they see genuine repentance manifested by tears, restitution, reformation, and resultant joy.

One Thousand Days of Reaping demands one thousand days of prayer, because prayer is the greatest agency of evangelism.

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George E. Knowles is director of the General Conference Lay Activities Department.

December 1982

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