At a church I once belonged to in Southern California a committee designed an action plan in case there was an earthquake during worship. A card was created to sit in every pew rack with instructions on what to do if natural disaster struck. I chuckled every time I saw the card because the number one instruction was "Pray!"
It seems obvious, but I guess we all forget from time to time that the number one thing to do is to "Pray!" Prayer is the foundation of all work of the church. Prayer, is critical before, during, and after we engage in any work of the Church, including evangelism.
In Reimagining Evangelism, author Rick Richardson lays out his case of how we collaborate with God in prayer for the purpose of evangelism. In Chapter 2 of his book he reminds us of what he calls is the "startling promise" in John 14: 10-14:
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."
Richardson comments: "Notice, the secret of the miracles and the power of the prayers was once again this dynamic of collaboration. Jesus did what he did because he and the Father were one. The Father was living in him and doing the works. In our case, the Father and the Son have made their home in us by the Spirit (John 14:23). Witness and prayer are not first of all our work; they are God's work in us and through us. In witness and prayer, Another lives in us, and we are the junior partners."
We have to take the time, however, to be receptive to God's desire to collaborate with us, which means, we have to take time to pray. Furthermore, during that prayer time we not only speak, we listen. Richardson says he gets "quiet and receptive for a moment" and then he asks God the following questions:
"Jesus, where are you already at work? Lord, lead me to people who are receptive."
"Is there someone you want me to talk to, care for or pray with?" Is there someone here who is hurting?"
He then waits for the "nudge" that tells him to speak to particular people, or take specific actions.
In Presbyterian pastor Glenn McDonald's book, The Disciple Making Church; from Dry Bones to Spiritual Vitality, he speaks of the "Six Marks of a Disciple." One of the marks is "A Voice to Speak the Good News." The mark immediately before that one? "Knees for Prayer." McDonald recommends people develop a list of about 10-12 individuals or concerns, and then spend 15 minutes each day prayer and journaling about who or what is on the list.
At the end of the book, McDonald lays out "The Habits of a Disciple-Making Church." Number one, "Stay Centered through Prayer and Discernment." He says, "Prayer must not be a perfunctory seeking of God's blessing on our work. Our work itself is prayer - sustained waiting, listening, and calling on the name of the Lord."
These blog posts about evangelism always have "Go Fish!" in the title. I like the idea of "going" out into the world, and I'm playing on Jesus' promise of making the disciples "fishers of people." Unspoken in that title however is this command: "(Pray! Then) Go Fish!".