When Our Works Aren’t Enough: What’s Underneath Our Evangelism?

By Ron Hutchcraft

When we think of battle, where is the first place we start? Likely, it may not be prayer, but in the battle to win souls to Jesus, prayer is the best weapon we have.

One man who has believed this with all his heart is Billy Graham.

One of the great privileges of my life was to serve as chairman of his Meadowlands Crusade in northern New Jersey. I learned a lot from seeing this great move of God from the inside.

From the start, our Crusade director told us, “Dr. Graham says there are three keys to a great harvest. Number one, pray. Number two, pray. Number three, pray!” Our director said that whenever Dr. Graham called for a report, his first question would always be, “Are they praying?”

I needed to hear that. Like many of us called to evangelism, I tend to be a ‘make it happen’ person. I confess that, for years, ‘pray’ seemed like a passive verb in the Christian vocabulary. It seemed to be opposite of ‘power’ or ‘mobilize’.

I suspect I’m not alone. Our Christian culture often mirrors the hard-driving business and star-focused culture around us. So, in the work of reaching people for Christ, we tend to depend uon what I’ve come to call the “Five Powerless Ps”:

  • Programs
  • Promotion
  • Personalities
  • Planning
  • Persuasion

All of these are spiritually powerless. In King David’s day, it was horses and chariots. But he got it right: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm” (Ps. 20:7-8).

If those powerless Ps are to have any divine power and blessing, it will be because of fervent prayer. So I’ve tried to find a way to measure how much I’m truly (not just theologically) trusting God rather than human effort. My answer has been prayer. How frequently do I pray during the day? How fervently do I pray?

Prayer is the language of God-dependency.

And prayer is the single most powerful weapon we have for changing hearts and lives. Prayer alone has “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Prayer is how we access “grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Prayer alone triggers “great and mighty things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

So prayer is not a P. S. to our methods. It must be our primary method of getting things done!

From heroes like Billy Graham, I have learned some important lessons about prayer.

1. Prayer is the great heart-opener. I’ve learned from the Apostle Paul how to pray what I call the 3-open prayer. Paul said, “Pray for us…that God may open a door for our message…pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should” (Col. 4:3-4).

The 3-open prayer asks, “Lord, open a door.” That’s a God-initiated, natural opportunity to bring up your relationship with Jesus and the difference He makes.

It asks, “Lord, open their hearts.” That’s asking God to get them ready to hear what God will lead you to share.

Finally, it asks, “Lord, open my mouth!” You ask God for the courage, approach, tone, and words to best represent Jesus.

And you don’t have to pray, “If it be Your will.”  It is!

2. Every gospel-carrier needs a prayer team. That’s one reason Paul continually asks in his letters for folks to “pray for us.” If you are a messenger of Jesus’ good news, you are a target. In a passage to spiritual leaders, God warns, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (2 Pet. 5:8).

Wherever Paul had believers who cared about him, he enlisted them as prayer warriors.

No warrior for God should go to the front lines without first recruiting a support team who will be faithful prayer warriors. There is no greater gift a friend can give you than to pray for you every day.

We need to intercede for:

    • A God-authored message
    • Prepared hearts
    • A paralyzed enemy
    • A Holy Spirit takeover of the messenger and every person in the room
    • Lasting fruit

3. Every spiritual victory is pre-won on our knees. D. Gordon said, “Prayer strikes the winning blow. Service is simply picking up the results.” It may appear that the victories are won in a conversation or an outreach event, but the reality is that we are simply harvesting the victory that was pre-won in prayer.

Centuries ago, General Joshua led his army in a fierce battle against the Amalekites. Moses was on a hill, interceding for them. Exodus tells us that when he was praying, “the Israelites were winning.” When Moses stopped praying, “the Amalekites were winning” (Exod. 17:8, 15).

The outcome of the battle wasn’t determined by the front line warriors on the field, but by the prayer warrior on the hill.

Just like the battle for every human soul.

Ron Hutchcraft (@ronhutchcraft) is an international speaker, radio host, and bestselling author. As president of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Ron and his team specialize in developing, authentic, relevant, and creative tools to reach people with the message of Jesus. Ron’s closest partner in life and work is his wife, Karen. They are the parents of three grown children and have nine grandchildren