“How to Engage and Win Your City through Prayer”, by John Smed, founder of Prayer Current (Evangelism, Missions, Prayer, Called by God)

“How to Engage and Win Your City Through Prayer” by John Smed

In order to engage the lost with the saving grace and gospel of Jesus, we must engage with evangelism. But what must this look like if we hope to be effective in our cities and communities? What do we need to know before we begin? 

First, evangelism is a matter of chemistry between the workings of the Holy Spirit and prayer. It is a natural and impassioned response when Christ’s promise to be with us (Matthew 28:16-20) is united with the prayers of his saints. Prayer ignites the good news of Christ’s victory over death, and through it, we experience the full ascension reality of Christ in our hearts. “You have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 1:10).

I would like to encourage you in the calling to reach our cities and provide a framework of practical ways to help you pray for the community where you live.

WHO WE REACH

“Every creature under heaven”

While Paul went to the leading cities of the Roman Empire, preaching in private homes, on the streets, and in the public square, his ultimate goal was to preach the gospel to the entirety of an unsaved world—to “every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). The coming of the kingdom through Christ had been hidden from the world for ages and needed to be revealed, not just to some, but to everyone.

The implication for us today is that evangelism is never a private matter. Announcing the good news is public. Cosmic, even. Whether we share the gospel at a coffee shop, proclaim Christ at a wedding or funeral, or head out to the highways and byways to share the good news, we play an essential role in fulfilling Christ’s grand plan for all to hear the story and glory of his conquering sin, death, and the devil.

“The whole city”

We see from Paul the importance of reaching cities with the gospel in the way he describes the response of the people there. Bold, public evangelism brought many to the Lord in powerful and emotional ways: 

  • Samaria: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said…So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:6, 8)
  • Pisidian Antioch: “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” (Acts 13:44)
  • Iconium: “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1-2)
  • Lystra and Iconium: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” (Acts 16:5)
  • Ephesus: “[Paul] took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:9-10)

In many other examples, the response of the religious and city officials is not as positive but is usually just as passionate. One thing is clear, because of the great impact we see in these chapters and through the example of the saints before us, we need to have a city-wide strategy for evangelism.[1]

HOW WE REACH THEM

Prayer as Global Mission

Knowing and engaging our cities is primarily and continually a matter of intercessory prayer. When we pray, we do not just prepare for mission; prayer is mission.

When you pray for your city, you have already begun to reach it. Furthermore, prayer is not “individual” in the way we might think. Every true prayer (prayer offered by faith, in the name and mediation of Christ, in the intercession of the Holy Spirit, in concert and compliance with the will of the Father and for his glory) allows us to participate in the work of Christ and bless the entire body of believers. We see this clearly in the recorded prayers in Acts. Throughout the narrative, the whole church unites in prayer, each contributing to the defense of the church and the advance of the gospel.

Prayer as Intercession

We may wonder why there is so much corruption, violence, and desolation in our cities today, but we need look no further than here: the church is failing to guard and keep watch over the city through intercessory prayer. The enemy has steadily crept in, and now occupies the seats of power and propaganda. Every believer today is called and privileged to intercede for the city they live in. In every period of history, God has appointed prayer warriors to guard the city. They man the ramparts. They walk the walls. They are ever-vigilant and intent on a single purpose: to pray without ceasing for God to guard the city from enemies without and enemies within.

EVERY BELIEVER TODAY IS CALLED AND PRIVILEGED TO INTERCEDE FOR THE CITY THEY LIVE IN.

Even during their heartbreaking time of exile in Babylon, God gave Israel a prayer directive. He called his people to pray for the city of their captors: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

We too are exiles in the world (1 Peter 1:1). Apart from prayer, we may even grow weary or fearful of the surrounding culture, spending our prayers and energies on self-preservation. The words of Jeremiah, however, direct us to a higher calling to bless our fellow citizens and seek their well being, not only because God requires it, but also because serving and praying for a healthy city serves the good of God’s people and the advancement of the gospel. 

PRACTICAL WAYS TO PRAY FOR YOUR CITY

Below are various practical and strategic ways to pray for your city—to get to know its character and personality, as well to discern what God is doing there.

Prayer Walking

One way to “embody prayer” is by prayer walking. Walk the streets of your neighborhood or city; learn its personality and character. Stop to pray before the law courts, universities and colleges, boards of education, halls of government, centers of art and culture, places of worship and gathering, media outlets, public market places, pedestrian and traffic intersections. Learn the needs and opportunities of the community. This allows you to see, hear, smell, and feel your city—you may even begin to see her and her inhabitants from Jesus’ perspective. Time and again, I have heard individuals who have gotten to know their city in this way say, “I never saw my city, or really cared for it, until I began to walk the streets in prayer.”

Prayer Mapping

After prayer walking various locations in your city, draw a map of the neighbourhood or area of the city where you live (or where your church is located). Notice the ethnic makeup, economic divisions, unemployment sectors, school districts, and available amenities of the area—this will help you identify the socioeconomic heartbeat of where you live and identify specific prayer needs. Even a small section of a larger city can contain a microcosmic version of the larger whole.

Praying for Your City as a Person

If you find it difficult to know how to pray for the city, practice praying in the same way you would pray for a person. Ask yourself what you love about your community. What pervasive sins and idols do you lament as captors and influences in your city? Maybe it would be helpful to even write down these loves and laments to pray over them specifically. This can be done individually or as a group and can be applied to a neighborhood, a city, a people group, or a nation.

Remember as You Pray

Every believer and every church has the opportunity to be a part of making Christ’s name known across the globe. In the meantime, remember that God’s promises cannot fail. The cross of Christ has conquered, Jesus has ascended to the place of absolute authority and incontestable power, and heaven is still pouring out the power and presence of the Spirit of Christ for boldness and success. 


1 Note, the populations of these cities were much smaller than today. While Rome may have had up to a million people, Antioch perhaps 500,000, and Ephesus around 250,000, the other cities were perhaps 10,000-25,000. This helps explain, for example, how a whole city could gather to hear the gospel (Acts 13:44).


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About the Author John Smed is the Founding Director of Prayer Current, an organization that helps leaders multiply disciples through prayer and evangelism. Since 2000, John and his team have developed prayer training materials, conferences, and coaching for church leaders and networks worldwide. He is also the author of Prayer Revolutionand Journey in Prayer.With his wife Caron, John has planted two thriving urban churches in Canada, directed church planting for Mission to North America for seven years, and helped start Grace Network Canada.

“How God Will Use Time and Trials to Accomplish His Purpose for You”, by Ray Ortlund, introduction by Randy Alcon

By Ray Ortlund March 16, 2020

This article by Ray Ortlund is thought-provoking and on target. Though his advice focuses on young men in ministry, his message is applicable for every believer of every age and vocation.

Ray writes, “Only men with scars can preach a Savior with scars to sinners with scars. So, in addition to the many insights and skills God will impart to you, he also will wound you. …At some point in your life, God will injure you so extremely that the self-reliance you aren’t even aware of, the self-reliance you’ve been navigating so consistently by that it feels natural and innocent, will collapse under the loss and anguish. You will start realizing, ‘Oh, so this is what it means to trust the Lord.’”

After forty-five years in ministry, I completely agree. I’ve learned we can’t become humble and fully useful to God’s work without experiencing tears and trials. It just doesn’t happen. Notice Paul ties these together when he talks to church leaders: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials” (Acts 20:18-19).

As Nanci and I navigate life with her ongoing battle with cancer, we are not fighting God, but are trusting Him daily and seeing Him at work. Through this trial, as with others, over the course of time, God is accomplishing something very precious. He is making us into deeper and more Christlike people, marked forever by Jesus’ grace, so that He can use us in greater, unexpected ways to impact His kingdom. God tells us, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NLT). I hope you find this article as helpful and ultimately encouraging as I did. —Randy Alcorn

Your Ministry Will Take a Lifetime: My Counsel for Younger Men

By Ray Ortlund

Some of us can read a text like “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18) and wonder why our light still feels so dim.

The verse teaches that if you are walking with the Lord, your life is dawning more and more with “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The passing years of his care are making you more compelling, more relevant, more fruitful — not less. And someday soon your glory will blaze like the noonday sun, never to fade.

This article is for every young man who feels that his glory is taking too long to become obvious. This is for every young man in ministry who feels restless and eager and ambitious (with godly ambition) for more opportunities to make his mark for Christ. Yes, you have mixed motives. Who doesn’t? But your desire to cut a wide swath of gospel harvest is of God.

He did not create you to be a zero. He created you in his image, as royalty, to advance his purposes in this world (Genesis 1:26). You are a man of destiny, and you feel it. So let’s think about your life trajectory — what to expect, how to navigate it well. I offer my thoughts as an older man, who respects how you feel. Let me offer you three words of counsel, prompted by Scripture, for when your ministry seems to be growing too slowly.

Give Yourself Time

First, “Let them also be tested first” (1 Timothy 3:10). The apostle Paul required that of prospective deacons. But a young man being tested, giving him time to prove his readiness for leadership, is implicit in the requirements of an elder too. A future elder must be faithful in marriage, able to teach, manage his own household well, not a recent convert, and well thought of by outsiders (1 Timothy 3:1–7). No one gets there quickly or easily.

You might feel more ready than you really are. Maybe you’ve looked at an older Christian leader in action and thought, “I could do what he’s doing — and maybe better.” But what that man is doing is harder than it looks. When a senior leader is performing well and people are responding and the ministry is flourishing, the reality is this: Hidden deep within that man, nuanced understandings and finely-honed skills and mature disciplines are converging, moment by moment, to make him compelling.

All those inner strengths and assets of his were hard won over many years — and through some failures too. When a pastor, for example, makes the ministry look easy, you can be sure of one thing: it isn’t. He was tested first. He is being tested now. Even in a man’s mature years, ministry is always extremely demanding. Joyful and satisfying, but demanding.

I am not exalting him or diminishing you. I am only saying that a man in his sixties, if he has walked humbly with God and striven to keep growing and growing, is a more profound man than he himself was in his thirties. How could it be otherwise? So, give yourself time. God is faithfully investing in you, more than you can see. He values you. He is preparing you for the final, climactic mission of your life and your death. Don’t resent his maturing process along the way.

His plan, his timing, his methods are well suited to get you ready for the greatest moments of your life still out ahead. But if your pride can’t stoop to being tested first, you are blocking the very future you long for. Humble yourself, be patient, go deep. And don’t forget to enjoy it along the way. The Lord is with you and for you. Obviously, he isn’t in any hurry. Why should you be?

Embrace His Power in Weakness

Second, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Here is why this familiar verse is in the Bible. In our foolishness, we all want to be formidable, impressive, noteworthy, with super-powers to “wow” the world. But how can men like that preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1–5)? Only men with scars can preach a Savior with scars to sinners with scars. So, in addition to the many insights and skills God will impart to you, he also will wound you. A.W. Tozer wisely said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

At some point in your life, God will injure you so extremely that the self-reliance you aren’t even aware of, the self-reliance you’ve been navigating so consistently by that it feels natural and innocent, will collapse under the loss and anguish. You will start realizing, “Oh, so this is what it means to trust the Lord. I need him now with an urgency, a desperation, a seriousness of purpose deeper than ever before.”

And then God will come through for you. And you will emerge from that suffering a deeper saint. You will be a better preacher and pastor and leader and counselor and teacher and friend, because you will be a better man — more like the wounded Christ himself.

But if you “succeed” early, and crowds of people are flocking to you, and the undiscerned cockiness you grew up with isn’t broken, you may be in danger. I have seen highly gifted young men crash and burn and lose years of fruitful ministry, or even leave the ministry altogether, because their platform exceeded their character.

Don’t envy that “rising star.” He might be more precarious than he appears. You just stay low before the Lord. Humbly receive the buffetings, disappointments, and insults coming your way. Receive them “for the sake of Christ” (2 Corinthians 12:10). They are how his power will come to rest upon you (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Don’t Grope at Your Destiny

Third, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” (Psalm 138:8). You never have to get pushy, because the Lord has a purpose for you, and that purpose belongs to him. John Burroughs, the poet, was not a Christian. But his poem “Waiting” says a very Christian thing:

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
     The friends I seek are seeking me,
No wind can drive my bark astray
     Nor change the tide of destiny.

Because the Lord is committed to his purpose for you, the friends and the opportunities you seek are seeking you. They are on their way toward you this very moment. Believe it, and rejoice as God tells the story you were born for. The best way to get ready for your future is to walk humbly, fruitfully, and cheerfully with Christ right where you are. Through the years, he will give you a front-row seat for watching him fulfill his purpose for you.

Seek the Lowest Place

Francis Schaeffer, in his prophetic sermon “No Little People, No Little Places,” warned us all,

Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us — pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and non-professional included — are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place, because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: We should consciously take the lowest place, unless the Lord himself extrudes us into a greater one.

Schaeffer went on to explain that, in a lower, less intense place of ministry, we face fewer distractions away from our own intimacy with God. And it is only in personal quietness before God that we can do anything that is truly spiritual in power. It is only as we remain quiet before him that we contribute to the real battle being fought in our generation.

Settle into the place where you are. Deeply accept your present moment. It is where Jesus is nearest to you. It is where his endless resources open up to you, moment by moment: “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you!” (Psalm 31:19).

This article originally appeared on Desiring God and is used with permission of the author.

Source: Eternal Perspective Ministries

“Glory, Amen”, a worship poem from L.Willows (Holy, Mercy, Hope, a New Creation)

God imparts holy river near, from above,
Abounding in Him we pray in love.
Splendored, the doors of Creation part,
we breathe, we receive His Merciful Heart.

There, in Love’s core we witness a birth,
something -a miracle, New in God’s Earth.
Hope rushes in, called to be Seen,
Grace floods to live in the deepest ravine.

Glory, Amen. A promise from then,
worlds delivered from within and Seen once again.
Rise Holy River and swell to His Name.
Holy, called Holy- God comes to reclaim.

© 2021 Linda Willows

2 Corinthians 1:20 —For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

2 Corinthians 5:15 —Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Ephesians 2:4-5 —But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.