This is a really strange time for ministry generally and evangelism specifically. Last week, I began to develop a series of short posts designed to aid us in evangelism during this unprecedented time (See Step One). Here is a second installment.
Step 2: Tell the Lost You’re Praying for Them
I’m typically not a fan of Christian clichés. You know, sayings like “When God closes a door, he opens a window” or “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” Not only are they misleading, but they also drip with sentimentality. That being said, here’s one I actually like and have drawn comfort from recently: “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know the One who holds tomorrow.”
This is an expression of biblical truth. The Bible says that we don’t know the circumstances of tomorrow. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We are limited and frail.
At the same time, we have a relationship with the true and living God through Christ! God planned each day that we will live (Ps 139:16). He even prepared good works that we will accomplish (Eph 2:10). He promises us eternal good (Ps 23:6; Rom 8:28). He guarantees that nothing will separate us from his love (Rom 8:35–39). He even assures us that he will use the worst circumstances of our lives for a good and glorious purpose (Gen 50:20)! Christian, you may not know what tomorrow holds, but you know the One who holds tomorrow.
Now consider the plight of the lost. They don’t know what tomorrow holds, and they don’t know the One who holds tomorrow. Honestly, I can’t think of a more hopeless and helpless situation. Imagine the uncertainty and anxiety they currently experience. The rug is being pulled out from under them; the things that they live for are crumbling before their eyes (health, bank account, career success, etc.). They have no certainty, assurance, or hope in this life or the next.
Here’s pandemic evangelism Step 2: tell the lost you’re praying for them. Let them know that you’re bringing their needs before the true and living God who alone can hear and help. I think this step accomplishes two things. First, it is a good work which causes your gospel light to shine (Matt 5:16). Second, it naturally leads to opportunities to talk about your relationship with God. I even suggest not only telling them you’re praying for them but also asking if you can pray for them on the spot. Say over the phone or from 6 feet across the sidewalk, “Can I take a moment to pray for you?” Based on my experience, many people will welcome the opportunity. Generally speaking, people are anxious, uncertain, and scared. Assuming that you’ve been letting your light shine in your interactions with unbelievers, they sense that you know God. They discern that there is something genuinely different about your life. They won’t be surprised when you ask to pray for them. What’s more; I think they’ll be grateful.
When you pray, speak about Christ. Rehearse the truths of the gospel. Confess to the Father that it is only on the basis of Christ, his righteous life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, that you can approach him in prayer. Thank God for the hope of eternal life in Christ. Pray directly for the spiritual needs of those who don’t know Christ. Remember from the first step: we prioritize eternal needs over temporal needs. Pray that through this time of uncertainty people would come to know God through Christ, that people would receive the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. Also, genuinely pray for the temporal needs of the lost. Pray for protection from the virus. Pray that God would provide for their financial needs. Pray that God would give them wisdom to make difficult choices during this complex time.
By telling the lost you’re praying for them and even praying in their hearing, you will sow seeds of gospel truth, and you will open up future opportunities for spiritual conversations. You will also demonstrate that you genuinely care for them, which normally wins a hearing for the gospel. So look through your phone contacts and see if there’s a redemptive relationship you can build by calling that person. Keep an eye out for the neighbors on your street and strike up a conversation with them from an appropriate distance. Tell them you’re praying for them and even ask if you can take a moment to pray for them then and there.