Opening the Line of Communication
We must never underestimate the importance of our prayers in reaching those far from God. One particular incident from Luke’s gospel makes this clear.
On the day Jesus sent out seventy-two of His followers to the towns He was about to visit, He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Then He said, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (luke 10:2–3, italics added).
Jesus’s instructions to ask God for help before they took one step on their journey show the strategic role prayer plays in sharing the Christian faith. That day Jesus sent His followers without money or a travel bag or even an extra pair of sandals (see luke 10:4), but He made certain they were praying. They were “lambs among wolves”—inexperienced, vulnerable, and in need of all the help they could get. Yet, as Jesus sent them, He didn’t equip them with materials or methods for reaching others. He only told them to pray.
It makes sense if you think about it. Jesus is sending His followers to share the news that the kingdom of God is coming, a kingdom inhabited by people who have a new relationship with God (see Jeremiah 31:33-34). This was the kind of relationship with the Father that Jesus demonstrated throughout His life. Here He is encouraging His followers to actively live in that relationship as they go out to tell others about it.
Jesus declared His dependence on God in everything He did. He told His disciples, “By myself I can do nothing” (john 5:30). Then He demonstrated that dependence in a practical way by keeping the lines of communication constantly open through prayer, confident that the Father “always” heard Him (john 11:42). The New Testament makes clear that “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (hebrews 5:7). Jesus prayed continually, submitting His life to the Father moment by moment and drawing every strength from Him.
Jesus also told His followers that we are to be continually dependent on Him. He told the disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” saying that if they “remain” in Him, they would “bear much fruit” (john 15:5). It is through prayer that we stay close to Jesus in the moment, and so God’s Word encourages us to “pray continually” (1 thessalonians 5:17). Through prayer we receive the direction and wisdom we need to do the work God has given us.
It has been said that “prayer is the talking part of a love relationship with God.”
Just like the first followers Jesus sent out, if we’re going to be effective in encouraging others to enter into a new relationship with God, we too need to begin with faithful and dependent prayer. Billy Graham, one of the most effective evangelists of the 20th century, affirmed this connection between dependent prayer and sharing the good news of Jesus: “There are three things necessary for a successful crusade. The first is prayer, the second is prayer, and the third is prayer.” Through humble, believing prayer we discover true power to reach others—God’s power to mercifully and faithfully move in response to our heartfelt pleas for those we love.