The D in the ABCs of evangelism is for devote. We can never face the task at hand and access the inner resources we need to do it unless we come to it from a place of deep devotion to prayer. Evangelism is first about prayer because it begins in God’s own heart.
There are two kinds of prayer that we can apply to our family business of redeeming the world and spreading the blessings of the kingdom of God.
The metaphor for the deepest kind is “as old as the hills:”
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever. Psalm 125:1
Martin Laird teaches about this deep devotion in his book Into the Silent Land. It is “mountain prayer”:
“Allow to arise whatever arises, without determining what is allowed to arise in awareness and what is not. Meet everything with a steady, silent gaze. What notices the mind game is free of the mind game.
A mountain does not determine what sort of weather is happening but witnesses all the weather that comes and goes. The weather is our thoughts, changing moods, feelings, impressions, reactions, our character plotted out for us by the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. All of these have their place. But they are only patterns of weather. There is a deeper core that is utterly free and vast and silent, that no thought or feeling has ever entered, yet every thought and feeling appears and disappears in it.”
Evangelism brings up our deepest spiritual distress, probably because it is the most profound spiritual act in which we engage. I’ve been calling it the “E word” because many of us can’t even say it because it brings up so many distressing thoughts and feelings. These are the weather, but we are the mountain. For some of us, the thought of evangelism is spiritual stormy weather, but we are the mountain in Jesus, nonetheless.
Paul speaks very eloquently, I think, about “being the mountain” when he speaks about bringing the message of Jesus to people:
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-8
I think, for many followers of Jesus, they mostly pray out of their weather and not as the mountain. We might still be practicing the prayer we learned as a child. Personally, I think God is fine with that. I think he loves children – I’m one of His. Laird might call that level of devotion “surface,” in that it is more about our thoughts and feelings rather than about our deep spiritual awareness. He’s right, of course. But the more “surface” work of intercession, of pleading for people who need God is important work that everyone can do, even beginners in faith. I wouldn’t dismiss it as mere “weather.’
So to devote oneself to evangelism, try both weather prayer and mountain prayer.
Try to get through your own stormy weather.
Dare to talk to God about what troubles you about being part of his stubborn attempt to redeem creation. Let’s face it, a lot of us don’t like the assignment and don’t participate in it, even though we are very glad, ourselves, to have been welcomed into eternity. Some of us might not even like to pray because we might get a marching order and we don’t want to feel guilty for not obeying it.
If we can get through that cloudburst of resistance, we might want to concentrate on who it is we would like to see come to know Jesus. Make a list. Listing is a risky business, of course, because it implies that we will someday see someone crossed off the list — better to have not made a list at all than to bear the shame of not completing the task, right? But intercession is about what God is going to do, not us. The benefit to us is that interceding softens our heart and directs our attention to where we need to be devoted. Praying for others often opens up our heart and broadens our horizons so we become more loving and imaginative partners for God. Besides, God loves to give gifts to his children, why wouldn’t he answer us if he has decided to partner with us?
Better, I think to get to mountain prayer as soon as possible.
As the mountain we receive our rest and confidence in the silence. When our ambitions and fears do not control us with their incessant dialogue, we demonstrate the mystery Paul was talking about and our inner prayer becomes impact.
While contemplation is not, itself, purposeful, I think we carry people with us into our unshakeable Zion of the heart. The deepest intercession might be to let go of the many people we love and work for as we are being in Christ and see them held in the light of God’s love and truth.