09 May 2016
Thy kingdom come: Jason Gardner on the importance of prayer in evangelism
The Evangelical Alliance's evangelistic resources coordinator Richard Powney talks to Jason Gardner, associate pastor at St Peter's Harrow, about how prayer should be a major part in our evangelisation planning.
Why is prayer so important when we talk about evangelism?
I think that prayer is important as it's about preparation. First you are preparing the ground that you’re going on to – wherever your mission field is. But also you are preparing your heart as well. For me the work of evangelism is joining in with God’s mission and so the first thing we need to do is to recognise that it’s God’s mission and not ours. That is why prayer is so significant - prayer says I’m dependent on God for what happens.
But it’s also seeing that as well as being dependent on God, you are also working alongside God. We aren't in this alone. We do it with the anointing of God’s spirit. Prayer helps you to recognise that God is working in your life and the life of the people you are seeking to reach as well.
How have you seen prayer impact your evangelism?
I've definitely noticed a difference between times when I’ve prayed before going out to do street teams and times when I haven’t. Preparing beforehand with prayer and worship or prayer walking makes all the difference. It’s about getting my head into the right space. Also personally it gives me the sense of what I do, I do in God’s strength and not my own. So with the teams we go out with, when we have been praying and prayerfully walking the area, we find we have really engaging conversations. It definitely feels like God goes ahead of us and opens doors.
Let me give you an example: last week we were handing out flyers for an event we’re starting in a local pub. The event is about helping people take very early steps in opening up about things to do with faith. Before we went into the pub we prayer walked around the pub – asking God to go before us in the conversations we’d have. The first conversation we had in the pub was with a lady who at first seemed quite defensive, but the chat ended out being a great conversation about life and faith. It turned out that this lady had met my wife in a coffee shop and remembered her as someone who was really kind and generous! Also, this woman doesn’t normally come to this pub, but she just happened to be there on this evening. It felt like God was joining up the dots and had prepared the way for that conversation.
How can we build a rhythm of prayer and outreach?
I think building a rhythm is about doing both prayer and outreach consistently - so it needs to be marked up in your Church’s calendar! Make sure that you don’t neglect one or the other. I’ve been in churches where you do a whole lot of praying but then no outreach. Same time I’ve seen lots of outreach but not much prayer. You need to have both. Prayer is the launch platform that helps you build confidence for outreach. It reminds us we are doing this to honour God, knowing He goes with us and we are in His hands. Also a regular rhythm of prayer and outreach means that you increasingly take more risks as you recognise God’s favour in preparing the ground beforehand and increasingly seeing him work through you.
What are you doing at St Peter’s to get involved with the Thy Kingdom Come Initiative?
Monday to Friday we will be having an hour and a half prayer meeting every night. At the same time we are launching two evangelism initiatives in the same week. One is a pre-Alpha night at the local pub and the other a Friendship First course. We are seeking to bring together prayer and outreach – excited to see what God’s doing and how we can join in.
You can find Jason on Twitter @Gardnerblurb.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting churches to join a week of prayer this Pentecost (8-15 May), praying for every Christian to receive new confidence and joy in sharing this life-transforming faith. The Evangelical Alliance is backing this prayer initiative,Thy Kingdom Come, with daily features encouraging Christians to be praying for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done across the UK.