Quick! Get your Bible and find the list of prayer requests that your group had last week. Look that list over and put the requests into categories. It will look something like this: general prayers; personal requests; group requests; etc. After you have got them grouped, how many are in each category?
Look at the categories of requests again. Is there a category for people who are lost and bound for a Christ-less eternity?
It has been my experience that Bible study classes naturally turn their focus inward over time. The more stable the group grows, the more inward it becomes. This self-centeredness (yes, that's what it is) and self-reliance (it's that too) is reflected in the group's prayer life. Honestly, I don't want to beat people up here, but I very rarely find Bible study groups that strategically pray for the salvation of their lost friends and neighbors – by name! I even remember teaching a group of Sunday School teachers about evangelistic prayer one time, and one of them argued with me… and said that prayer for the lost is not biblical! He argued that Jesus did not pray for the lost, He prayed for laborers for the harvest.
Read John 17:20. "I pray not only for these (His disciples), but also for those who believe in Me through their message." Whoa, who would "those" people be? Yeah, Jesus is praying for people who have yet to believe, aka… lost people! Or how about Romans 10:1. "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God concerning them (unbelievers) is for their salvation!"
Something that can happen very easily to us as Bible study leaders is that it becomes very easy for us to operate in our own strength. Even many of our growth strategies can become mechanical in nature. We need to remember that rescuing lost souls from hell is a spiritual exercise and we need to employ spiritual tools. Along with a God's Word, prayer is a vital part of our spiritual work.
Let me challenge you. Go to your class and talk about the importance of praying evangelistically. Then follow up with this idea. Take a few minutes in class and develop a class "Evangelistic Prayer List". Write the names on a poster board. If it's a youth class, write the names on the wall! Then take time every Sunday to pray for the names on your list. These should be names that people in your class know personally. If it makes you uncomfortable, just in case someone should visit the class whose name is on the list… take "evangelistic" off and just call it your "Prayer List".
How important is it for us to pray for those who are apart from God? Well, for too many Bible study groups, it has been a long time, perhaps a very long time, since anyone came to Christ as a result of the group. James 4:2 states, "…you have not because you ask not." I sincerely believe that one of the reasons we do not see people coming to Christ through our "evangelistic" Sunday School classes is that we do not pray for it to happen. It is that important!
What are some things your class does to encourage your people to pray evangelistically?
Tomorrow, I am going to pursue this idea of evangelistic prayer one step farther, provide a prayer resource, and follow through with some encouragement too.
And also, comments are not just welcome… they are encouraged! I'll be the first to tell you that I don't have all the answers. Something your class is doing might be just what someone else needs to enlarge the Kingdom!