The Point of Prayer

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Point of Prayer’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/3/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

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Week Four: Getting to the Point of Prayer

We’ve covered good ground so far. In Week One,[1] we digested our responsibility to share the Gospel with other people. In Week Two,[2] we saw that God will give us a specific group of people with whom He wants us to share the Gospel. In Week Three,[3] we discussed one of the most important principles of evangelism: Talk to People! Now, in Week Four, I want to give you another key to effective evangelism: getting to the Point of Prayer (PoP).

Pray It, Don’t Say It

My wife and I founded the Healing Rooms at CityLight Church in 2012. Twice per month, we open our sanctuary on a Saturday and invite people who need physical healing to come in for prayer. We have teams of volunteers who are trained to pray for physical healing who stand on the word of God, and believe that whomever they pray for will be healed in the name of Jesus.

After we opened, our motto in the Healing Rooms quickly became, “Pray it, don’t say it.” We realized right away that telling someone what the word of God said is mildly effective; but praying the word of God over someone causes genuine breakthrough to take place. Talking about God’s will to heal might result in an occasional healing, but praying God’s will to heal over a broken body quickly causes healing to happen!

Whenever you set out to tell someone about Jesus, the end goal of your interaction should be prayer. Get to a “Point of Prayer,” and invite the power of God into the room. Ask God to move on the person’s heart, and to show him or her how much He loves them.

Our Flawed Model

How do you typically approach evangelism? If you’re like me, you were taught that evangelism is all about telling. You have to tell people about Jesus! You have to tell someone through a well-thought-out conversation (an intellectual “argument” or presentation) why they need Jesus. You want them to realize their need for a Savior, and make a decision invite Jesus into their life.

But here is the problem with that approach: it assumes your primary responsibility is to convince someone to believe in Jesus. I want to show you that the purpose of evangelism is not to convince someone they need Jesus. In fact, contrary to the model we typically employ, the purpose of evangelism is not to convince anyone of anything!

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest evangelists to ever walk the earth. He wrote 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament, so he certainly knows what he’s talking about. We typically attribute his evangelistic effectiveness to his education and argumentative skills: Acts 22:3 tells us Paul was, “…indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of [Jewish law].” Paul was the best student of one of the most respected teachers of Jewish law in all of Israel! He knew Scripture like the back of his hand.[4] Surely his intellectual ability was what made him more effective at sharing the Gospel, right?

Wrong. Notice how Paul describes his evangelism process:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul’s goal was not to convince people to believe in Jesus with “excellence of speech” or “wisdom.” As smart as he was, he didn’t rely on an intellectual proof to lead people to Christ! He knew that “persuasive words of human wisdom” wouldn’t get the job done. Instead, he relied on, “…demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Paul was on to something. He knew words would get him only so far. At some point, if he wanted to be effective at introducing people to God, he had to do something more.

Jesus knew the same thing. Yes, He was an anointed Teacher. We see Him teaching in the synagogues everywhere He went. But we also know there was something different about the way He taught:

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. – Matt 7:28-29

Jesus didn’t teach with words only; He taught with authority. “Authority” is the Greek exousia,[5] which means the power required to establish rule and reign. Jesus knew what we should know: “No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent [Jesus] draws him” (Jn 6:44). Jesus’ goal was not to convince anyone to believe in Him with words; it was to allow them to experience the presence of God and His authority here on earth.

So here is my question for you: If Paul was one of the best in history at theological debates, yet even he didn’t try to convince people to believe in Jesus, then why do we? If Jesus was the Son of God, yet even He didn’t teach “as the scribes” (i.e. with fancy words and well-thought-out arguments), then why do we? Do we think we’re smarter than Paul? More effective than Jesus? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, and convince people to believe in Jesus?

We’re not that smart. That’s not meant to be insulting; it’s meant to be empowering. Thank God He doesn’t rely on our intellectual abilities to win people to Jesus. Thank God we don’t have to convince people to believe something they don’t want to believe! That takes all the pressure off us, and puts it back on Jesus.

The Point of Prayer

I’m inviting you to change your paradigm for effective evangelism. Your job is not to win anyone with words; it is to pray and watch God move.

Here’s how it works. You start by talking to people (TTP![6]). Ask people about their lives. Meet them where they are! Instead of telling them what you want them to hear; ask them how they want to pray. As they’re telling you about their life, pick a real prayer need, and start to pray. Invite the presence of God’s Holy Spirit into your prayer. Pray it, don’t say it! By the end of your prayer, your goal is to ask God to fundamentally change that person’s life by His miracle-working power. Your goal is to allow that person to experience His presence. Your goal is to have them so changed by prayer that you won’t have to “give them” Jesus; they will be chomping at the bit to receive Him.

Do you see the difference? It’s not about you; and it’s all about Him! God doesn’t need your well-thought-out arguments or your clever introductions. He just needs you to reach a Point of Prayer, so He can make people hungry for Jesus through you!

You might ask, well when do I tell people about Jesus? My response: pray it, don’t say it! If you get to a genuine point of prayer, God is going to show up.

Last Monday, my prayer on the subway during my morning commute to work was, “Lord, give me one person I can share the Gospel with today.” I came off the train excited! Nothing gets your pulse going like being ready to tell people about Jesus!

I squeezed off the train and headed up the stairs from the subway platform to the street. I walked through a tiny park with some picnic tables where people had stopped to suck down a morning coffee. On the other side of the park, a woman who looked to be in her mid-30’s was swaying back and forth, asking for help. “Do you have anything to eat?” she asked. I didn’t have anything to eat; but I knew I had something better.

I walked up to her and dropped my bags and held out my hand. “My name’s Mike.” She took my hand and gave me a limp, dispirited handshake. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Kelly.” “How long have you been living on the street?” I continued. Since she was eighteen. Kelly was 35 now. “So you’ve been living on the street for seventeen years?” I asked? Kelly nodded.

I told Kelly about the Bowery Mission: a great organization that cares for people experiencing homeless in New York City. Kelly replied that, after seventeen years, she knows how to find food and shelter on the streets. She wasn’t interested in housing or clinical care. I knew my role wasn’t to convince her otherwise; it was to empower her by listening to her desires and respecting her decisions as an adult.

Kelly went on to tell me her story. She has a son who is two years old. She couldn’t care for him on the street, so he was taken into foster care. She misses him every day. She longs for the day when she will have her own home and be able to care for him the way she wants. I saw the entry point I had been waiting for: “Kelly, can we pray together?”

I prayed for reconciliation in Kelly’s family. I prayed God would give her a permanent roof over her head so she could raise her son in their own home. I prayed Kelly would be reconciled with her parents and God would bring healing into her family. I prayed God would make His power real to her. I prayed He would make His presence known to her. I prayed everything in the name of Jesus.

Tears started to stream down Kelly’s face as we prayed. Her body was responding to God’s presence. I could feel His presence too! I thanked her for spending a few moments of her day with me. I gave her an evangelism card from our church, with a Gospel message printed on the front, and a directory of NYC homeless resources on the back. I gave her money for breakfast, and invited her to reach out to me any time. If she wanted to hear more about Jesus, I wanted to tell her. She looked into my eyes and said, “God bless you.” That is a look I will never forget.

Could I have had an effective encounter with Kelly if I had stopped and told her about Jesus? Probably! God will use whatever we give Him. But I believe I had an even more effective encounter with Kelly because we were able to pray. She left our conversation not only knowing about God, but also having experienced His presence. I didn’t tell her something I thought she needed to hear; I met her at her point of need and brought her to a Point of Prayer.

Peter and John

Peter and John knew that praying with people was the most effective form of evangelism available:

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. – Acts 3:1-5

Peter and John encountered a man in need. He was in need of money (“asked for alms”). He was in need of healing (“lame from his mother’s womb”). But more than anything, he needed Jesus!

Peter and John didn’t stop and ask Him if he wanted to hear about Jesus. They didn’t try to convince him of his need for a Savior through an intellectual debate! They got him to a Point of Prayer.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. Acts 3:6-7

Peter issued a powerful, decisive, commanding prayer. Notice he told the man about Jesus in that prayer. How do I know this? Look at the man’s response:

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. – Acts 3:8

The man came into the temple to praise God. He knew Who was responsible for this miracle! He wasn’t getting dragged into the temple by Peter and John, not sure if he was going to like church service! He was “walking” and “leaping:” excited to praise the God who had just met his most urgent need!

The effect was contagious:

And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:9-10

What if every single one of our church services was filled with people, “…walking, leaping, and praising God?” What if we didn’t have to settle for convincing friends and family members to reluctantly accept an invitation to church? What if their lives were so transformed at a Point of Prayer that they wanted to come and praise God for all He had done?

Your Family

Do you know how you’re going to win your family to Jesus? It won’t be through an intellectual debate. It will be by getting everyone in your family to a Point of Prayer.

For years, I tried to tell my parents about Jesus. My parents have always gone to church; but for years I wondered if they had ever really received Jesus. They go to a church based on Christian tradition, but void of any discussion of what it really means to know God.

My Dad was always the toughest nut to crack. Growing up, my Dad was my biggest mentor. He coached every sports team I was ever on. He taught me how to ski and ride a bike. So it was a bit awkward for both of us when I turned around – forty years his junior – and started asking him if he had a relationship with Jesus. Did he know for sure he was going to heaven? Who was I – just a kid – to question his beliefs? He had a whole lifetime of experience that I didn’t have!

Finally, after years of conversations that felt more like arguments, I just gave up. Instead of trying to convince him of his need for Jesus, I just decided to pray. I would take the next opportunity he gave me, and make it my goal to pray with him. I wanted him to experience the power of God. I wanted him to feel God’s presence!

The next time my wife and I visited home, I was sitting and talking with my Dad. He told me his back was hurting. I jumped up. “Can I pray for your back?” My Dad looked a little startled; but he said yes. I prayed, and I released the power of God over his body. I prayed that Jesus would invade his life like never before. By the end of the prayer, my whole body was tingling. I asked my Dad how he felt: “Better,” he smiled.

Did I lead my Dad into a radical moment where he dropped everything he was doing and said, “What must I do to be saved?” Nope. Did I so wow him with my extensive knowledge of Scripture that he was convinced of his need to know God? I don’t think so! But I did jump at the opportunity to get him to a Point of Prayer.

Several weeks later, my Mom gave me some news. My Dad now reads his Bible every day. Every day! And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in his life next. God is moving; and it all started with a Point of Prayer.

Get to the Point of Prayer; and watch God do the rest.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://bit.ly/2CTq6ya

[2] http://bit.ly/2ScO15q

[3] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk

[4] Pharisees were required to memorize large sections of Jewish Law.

[5] Strong’s G1489; https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/exousia.html

[6] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk