The apostle Paul seems like someone who took the initiative. If we could imagine Paul we would think of a guy who would parachute into a town and talk to everyone about Jesus before lunch. He was a guy who fearlessly and faithfully got it done.
We might be tempted to think that this was just how Paul was wired. After all, he was the guy who reminded Timothy not to fear men but to be bold with the truth.
But what if Paul wasn’t naturally bold? What if he was supernaturally bold? What if he knew that he was weak and as a result prayed for God’s help? What if Paul was just like us? Then we would be encouraged and instructed by his praying.
Listen to what he writes to his friends in Colossians:
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4)
What is Paul praying for? He wants God to open a door for the Word. It is like he is standing outside of a fortress without a way to enter.
In The Hobbit, Bilbo and the Dwarves tried unsuccessfully to get into The Lonely Mountain. They ran at it, pushed upon it, and finally they were ready to give up. Soon after, the “last light of Durin’s day” shined upon the keyhole. Bilbo opens the door and they enter the mountain. What had seemed an impossibility a moment before had become easy.
Similarly, in evangelism, we stand locked outside of the human heart. It is a formidable mountain, unable to be opened by any amount of human exertion. What is left to do?
We must pray that God would open a door for the word. Pray that God would grant us opportunities with the gospel where he opens hearts to hear the word of God.
Let me give you a personal example. About a year ago my family moved into a new neighborhood, and right away our burden was to reach our neighbors with the gospel. So we began to ask Christians to be praying for us, for opportunities. We had members of our church praying and others outside of our church. And over the last year we’ve had some fruit and some opportunity. But there have been many instances, which can only be described as answers to prayer—where God has evidently answered the prayer of his people. Even right now as we’re filming this, my wife is at home meeting with four of our neighbors from our neighborhood going through a Bible study, because they requested more information about the gospel. These types of things only happen when God’s people pray.
Let me give you another example. Let’s say you are in the market for a new vehicle. You decide that you want a white van. Do you know what you will see when you are traveling around? White vans. Because white vans are on your mind you suddenly notice them everywhere. If evangelistic opportunities are on your mind—because you are praying for them—then you will see them pop up everywhere.
I know one man who prays: “Lord give me an opportunity to tell some else about the gospel today—and please don’t be subtle!”
This is an extract from Gospel Shaped Outreach – part of the Gospel Coalition’s Gospel Shaped Church curriculum. To find out more about the series and to watch trailers, look here.