My Journey into Prayer Evangelism

My Journey into Prayer Evangelism

By Phil Miglioratti

I’m grateful I was introduced to prayer evangelism as a process, not a program; a strategy rather than a series of events. At some point in the 1990s, prayer and evangelism were reintroduced to one another and became the “prayer evangelism movement,” with notable messengers and a myriad of new ministries. God only knows every tributary that flowed together to form a great river of renewal and a return to “Book-of-Acts basics” by the end of the decade. But certainly the following must be included:

  • For decades, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Operation Andrew has used Look Around, Look Up, Look Out, Look Forward, Look After as a simple plan to encourage Christians to pray for, build bridges to, and invite lost persons to a citywide crusade and then disciple them.
  • John Stott introduced the vision of “The whole Church, taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” at the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974. It became a banner for integrating prayer with holistic ministry as essential components of evangelism.
  • Several denominational leaders helped lead the emerging prayer evangelism movement in the late 1980s and early ’90s, including Lon Allison and Dallas Anderson of the Evangelical Covenant Church and Alvin VanderGriend of the Christian Reformed Church.
  • In 1992 the Mission America Coalition (U.S. Lausanne Committee) devoted a year to seeking God’s vision to accelerate evangelism in the United States. Led by Paul Cedar, and drawing from a wide spectrum of denominations and ministry organizations, the coalition quickly identified God’s Spirit at work in an emerging prayer movement and in citywide collaborations of holistic evangelism.

As God was setting the stage of the prayer evangelism movement, He was rearranging my perspectives as well. Like so many pastors and Christian leaders, I was being schooled in what was becoming a new prayer-care-share lifestyle paradigm.

  • David Bryant’s concerts of prayer and Bill Bright’s prayer and fasting conferences encouraged the Body of Christ to pray for “John 17 unity” with Christians from other denominations.
  • International Renewal Ministries, led by Joe Aldrich, introduced a new style of corporate prayer to communities across the United States. Pastors and leaders spent three to four days in Spirit-led, Scripture-fed praying. This “no agenda, no preaching” approach resulted in cleansed hearts, relationships forged by the Spirit, and a vision for increased collaboration.
  • In God’s perfect timing, the technology explosion brought email and Internet ministries, making it possible for new ideas like the National Pastors’ Prayer Network to communicate instantaneously with pastors’ prayer groups across the country. New technology also gave birth to the Mapping Center for Evangelism, enabling outward focused, neighborhood-based prayer to flourish. Transformation videos produced by George Otis revealed God’s heart to transform communities.
  • March For Jesus brought millions of Christ-followers out of their seats and into the streets, demonstrating the power of combining people, prayer, and praise in presence-based proclamation.
  • Steve Hawthorne’s Seek God for the City prayer guide equipped Christians to pray for lost persons and nations with hope-filled, Scripture-based prayers.
  • Francis Frangipane crossed the country, challenging pastors to meet together to pray for their cities.
  • Evelyn Christenson asked “What Happens When Women Pray?” and encouraged the formation of prayer triplets to pray specifically for unbelievers.
  • Bill Bright called us to prayer and fasting.  The call to “pray for, care for, and share the gospel with every man, women, and child in our nation by year end 2000” swept many of us into the prayer evangelism movement.
  • Radio station KTIS in Minneapolis introduced many to this lifestyle via several radio marathons devoted to starting neighborhood lighthouses of prayer.
  • For more than a decade, in their monthly Lighthouse Report on radio stations across the country, Campus Crusade (now Cru) has been broadcasting stories of people living the prayer-care-share lifestyle.
  • H.O.P.E. ministries, led by Alvin VanderGriend, produced resources to serve lighthouses.
  • Ed Silvoso’s books, That None Should Perish (1998) and Prayer Evangelism (2000), along with Pray! magazine’s articles by various authors, gave credibility and definition to the prayer evangelism movement.
  • The first City Impact Roundtable in 1988, facilitated by Glenn Barth and Jarvis Ward of Mission America Coalition, convened 46 leaders from 28 cities, sharing best practices on prayer, community development, and outreach.

Phil Miglioratti is COO of Mission America Coalition.

WIth thanks to theChurch Prayer Leaders Network

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  • What an encouraging description of God’s Holy Spirit at work in America over recent times!

    But I’m in Australia - similar in culture yet different in so many ways.

    Prayer is the natural response to God as we hear Him speak through His Word. It is sharing our heart with the One who longs for our companionship and who cares about our concerns. Prayer not only trains our hearts and minds to know the power and glory of God, but also turns His ear towards action in our lives and of those for whom we pray. (John 15:7, Philippians 4:6-7)

    Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)

    Today, because there can be so much disagreement about where truth is found, Christians can easily focus on the importance of the Bible as the ultimate authority for knowing God and our true selves. While that is true, it is not enough. We must remember that Holy Scripture is not merely a rule book for us to follow in our own strength. It is also the source of the supernatural power we need for godly living, including evangelism and discipleship. The Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and minds through Scripture. Whether proclaimed through prayer, bible-reading, or the sacraments, the Spirit works through the Word to line up our thoughts and desires with God’s purpose and provision for our lives.

    So: when we pray individually, the Spirit works through the Word to line up our thoughts and desires with God’s purpose and provision for our personal lives; when we pray corporately, the Spirit works through the Word to line up our thoughts and desires with God’s purpose and provision for the body of believers.

    Each is critically important: each brings us closer to God, and each engages us in God’s plans, through His Holy Spirit, for His work in the world.  They are not unrelated, but two sides of the same coin as we work individually and collectively to make disciples for Christ.

    “Prayer is where the action is.” — John Wesley

    But back to geography and culture.

    The church in Australia is active in supporting missionary work around the world, yet God humbles us: whether it is we as individuals with our neighbours, our church outreach into our local community, or missionaries sent further afield, all too often our sinful natures set-out to do His work in our own strength, our own way, because we fail to adequately engage with Him in His work through prayer!

    “Father forgive us for our proud hearts!  How could we ever believe that we could do your work - your miraculous, supernatural work of bringing people to repentance and faith - without engaging with you in prayer in the planning and conduct of the mission; without your Holy Spirit engaging both them and us in your plan???”

    And so to some feedback from Australian Stephen Liggins on mission in Africa 2003 - 2014 with African Enterprise, who reported the following.

    “In my very humble opinion, we in Australia had something to contribute to the growth of the church in Africa in terms of theological training, organisation, finances and prayer. But I found that I learned so much from my African friends in the areas of evangelism, prayer, a concern for the spiritual and social needs of people, and hospitality.

    Many Africans I met felt at ease in sharing their faith evangelistically almost anywhere. A lot of African churches seemed to prioritise prayer and prayer meetings – often overnight. Christians were flat out evangelising and pastoring AND helping with development and aid work. And African hospitality was a pleasure to experience. In each of these areas I was greatly encouraged and inspired!”

    Read how today God’s Holy Spirit has set Africa on fire for Christ!  Read how missions are being planned and conducted across Africa and the huge numbers involved!  Read how Home Based Evangelism (HBE) came into being as a result of COVID-19, and join in praying for this work!

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