“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.
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.
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.”
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).
An End for which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards (Introduction)
To avoid all confusion in our inquiries concerning the end for which God created the world, a distinction should be observed between the chief end for which an agent performs any work, and the ultimate end. These two phrases are not always precisely of the same signification: and though the chief end be always an ultimate end, yet every ultimate end is not always a chief end. A chief end is opposite to an inferior end: an ultimate end is opposite to a subordinate end.
A subordinate end is what an agent aims at, not at all upon its own account, but wholly on the a account of a further end, of which it is considered as a means. Thus when a man goes a journey
to obtain a medicine to restore his health, the obtaining of that medicine is his subordinate end; because it is not an end that he values at all upon its own account, but wholly as a means of a further end, viz. his health. Separate the medicine from that further end, and it is not at all desired.
An ultimate end is that which the agent seeks, in what he does, for its own sake; what he loves,values, and takes pleasure in on its own account, and not merely as a means of a further end.
As when a man loves the taste of some particular sort of fruit, and is at pains and cost to obtain it, for the sake of the pleasure of that taste which he values upon its own account, as he loves his own pleasure; and not merely for the sake of any other good, which he supposes his enjoying that pleasure will be the means of. Some ends are subordinate, not only as they are subordinated to an ultimate end; but also to another end that is itself but subordinate.
Yea, there may be a succession or chain of many subordinate ends, one dependent on another, one sought for another; before you come to anything that the agent aims at, and seeks for its own sake. As when a man sells a garment to get money — to buy tools — to till his land — to obtain a crop — to supply him with food — to gratify the appetite. And he seeks to gratify his appetite, on its own account, as what is grateful in itself. Here the end of his selling his garment to get money, is only a subordinate end; and it is not only subordinate to the ultimate end — gratifying his appetite — but to a nearer end — buying husbandry tools; and his obtaining these is only a subordinate end, being only for the sake of tilling land. And the tillage of land is an end not sought on its own account, but for the sake of the crop to be produced; and the crop produced is an end sought only for the sake of making bread; and bread is sought for the sake of gratifying the appetite.
Here gratifying the appetite is called the ultimate end; because it is the last in the chain where a man’s aim rests, obtaining in that the thing finally aimed at. So whenever a man comes to that in which his desire terminates and rests, it being something valued on its own account, then he comes to an ultimate end, let the chain be longer or shorter; yea, if there be but one link or one step that he takes before he comes to this end. As when a man that loves honey puts it into his mouth, for the sake of the pleasure of the taste, without aiming at anything further. So that an end which an agent has in view, may be both his immediate and his ultimate end; his next and his last end.
That end which is sought for the sake of itself, and not for the sake of a further end, is an ultimate end; there the aim of the agent stops and rests. A thing sought may have the nature of an ultimate, and also of a subordinate end; as it may be sought partly on its own account, and partly for the sake of a further end.
Thus a man, in what he does, may seek the love and respect of a particular person, partly on its own account, because it is in itself agreeable to men to be the objects of others’ esteem and love; and partly, because he hopes, through the friendship of that person, to have his assistance in other affairs; and so to be put under advantage for obtaining further ends.
A chief end, which is opposite to an inferior end, is something diverse from an ultimate end; it is most valued, and therefore most sought after by the agent in what he does. It is evident, that to be an end more valued than another end, is not exactly the same thing as to be an end valued ultimately, or for its own sake.
This will appear, if it be considered,
1. That two different ends may be both ultimate, and yet not be chief ends. They may be both valued for their own sake, and both sought in the same work or acts; and yet one valued more highly, and sought more than another. Thus a many may go a journey to obtain two different benefits or enjoyments, both which may be agreeable to him in themselves considered; and yet one may be much more agreeable than the other; and so be what he sets his heart chiefly upon. Thus a man may go a journey, partly to obtain the possession and enjoyment of a bride that is very dear to him; and partly to gratify his curiosity in looking in a telescope, or some newly invented and extraordinary optic glass; and the one not properly subordinate to the other; and therefore both may be ultimate ends. But yet obtaining his beloved bride may be his chief end; and the benefit of the optic glass his inferior end.
2. An ultimate end is not always the chief end, because some subordinate ends may be more valued and sought after than some ultimate ends. Thus, for instance, a man may aim at two things in his journey; one, to visit his friends, and another, to receive a large sum of money. The latter may be but a subordinate end; he may not value the silver and gold on their own account, but only for pleasure, gratification, and honor; the money is valued only as a means of the other. But yet, obtaining the money may be more valued, and so is a higher end of his journey than the pleasure of seeing his friends; though the latter is valued on its own account, and so is an ultimate end.
But here several things may be noted:
—First, when it is said, that some subordinate ends may be more valued than some ultimate ends, it is not supposed that ever a subordinate end is more valued than that to which it is subordinate.
For that reason it is called a subordinate end, because it is valued and sought not for its own sake, but only in subordination to a further end. But yet a subordinate end may be valued more than some other ultimate end that it is not subordinate to.
Thus, for instance, a man goes a journey to receive a sum of money, only for the value of the pleasure and honor that the money may be a means of. In this case it is impossible that the subordinate end, viz. his having the money, should be more valued by him than the pleasure and honor for which he values it. It would be absurd to suppose that he values the means more than the end, when he has no value for the means, but for the sake of the end of which it is the means. But yet he may value the money, though but a subordinate end, more than some other ultimate end to which it is not subordinate, and with which it has no connection. For instance, more than the comfort of a friendly visit, which was one ultimate end of his journey.
—Second, the ultimate end is always superior to its subordinate end, and more valued by the agent, unless it be when the ultimate end entirely depends on the subordinate.
If he has no other means by which to obtain his last end, then the subordinate may be as much valued as the last end; because the last end, in such a case, altogether depends upon, and is wholly and certainly conveyed by it.
As for instance, if a pregnant woman has a peculiar appetite to a certain rare fruit that is to be found only in the garden of a particular friend of hers, at a distance — and she goes a journey to her friend’s house or garden, to obtain that fruit — the ultimate end of her journey is to gratify that strong appetite; the obtaining that fruit, is the subordinate end of it. If she looks upon it, that the appetite can be gratified by no other means than the obtaining of that fruit; and that it will certainly be gratified if she obtain it, then she will value the fruit as much as she values the gratification of her appetite.
But otherwise, it will not be so. If she be doubtful whether that fruit will satisfy her craving, then she will not value it equally with the gratification of her appetite itself. Or if there be some other fruit that she knows of, that will gratify her desire, at least in part, which she can obtain without such trouble as shall countervail the gratification — or if her appetite cannot be gratified without this fruit, nor yet with it alone, without something else to be compounded with it — then her value for her last end will be divided between these several ingredients, as so many subordinate ends, and no one alone will be equally valued with the last end.
Hence it rarely happens, that a subordinate end is equally valued with its last end; because the obtaining of a last end rarely depends on one single, uncompounded means, and infallibly connected with it. Therefore, men’s last ends are commonly their highest ends.
–Third, if any being has but one ultimate end, in all that he does, and there be a great variety of operations, his last end may justly be looked upon as his supreme end.
For in such a case, every other end but that one, is in order to that end; and therefore no other can be superior to it. Because, as was observed before, a subordinate end is never more valued than the end to which it is subordinate. Moreover, the subordinate effects, or events, brought to pass, as means of this end, all uniting to contribute their share towards obtaining the one last end, are very various; and therefore, by what has been now observed, the ultimate end of all must be valued more than any one of the particular means. This seems to be the case with the works of God, as may more fully appear in the sequel.
—Fourth, whatsoever any agent has in view in anything he does, which is agreeable to him in itself, and not merely for the sake of something else, is regarded by that agent as his last end.
The same may be said of avoiding that which is in itself painful or disagreeable;for the avoiding of what is disagreeable is agreeable.This will be evident to any bearing in mind the meaning of the terms. By last end being meant, that which is regarded and sought by an agent, as agreeable or desirable for its own sake; a subordinate, that which is ought only for the sake of something else.
—Fifth, from hence it will follow, that, if an agent has in view more things than one that will be brought to pass by what he does, which he loves and delights in on their own account, then he must have more things than one that he regards as his last ends in what he does.
But if there be but one thing that an agent seeks, on its own account, then there can bebut one last endwhich he has in all his actions and operations. But only here a distinction must be observed of things which may be said to be agreeable to an agent, in themselves considered:
(1.) What is in itself grateful to an agent, and valued on its own account, simply and absolutely considered; antecedent to, and independent of all conditions, or any supposition of particular cases and circumstances. And
(2.) What may be said to be in itself agreeable to an agent, hypothetically and consequentially; or, on supposition of such and such circumstances, or on the happening of such a particular case.
Thus, for instance, a man may originally love society.An inclination to society may be implanted in his very nature; and society may be agreeable to him antecedent to all pre-supposed cases and circumstances; and this may cause him to seek a family.
And the comfort of society may be originally his last end, in seeking a family. But after he has a family, peace, good order, and mutual justice and friendship in his family, may be agreeable to him, and what he delights in for their own sake; and therefore these things may be his last end in many things he does in the government and regulation of his family. But they were not his original end with respect to his family. The justice and the peace of a family was not properly his last end before he had a family, that induced him to seek a family, but consequentially. And the case being put of his having a family, then these things wherein the good order and beauty of a family consist, become his last end in many things he does in such circumstances.
In like manner we must suppose that God, before he created the world, had some good in view, as a consequence of the world’s existence, that was originally agreeable to him in itself considered, that inclined him to bring the universe into existence, in such a manner as he created it.
But after the world was created, and such and such intelligent creatures actually had existence, in such and such circumstances, then a wise, just regulation of them was agreeable to God, in itself considered.
And God’s love of justice, and hatred of injustice, would be sufficient in such a case to induce God to deal justly with his creatures, and to prevent all injustice in him towards them. But yet there is no necessity of supposing, that God’s love of doing justly to intelligent beings, and hatred of the contrary, was what originally induced God to create the world, and make intelligent beings; and so to order the occasion of doing either justly or unjustly.
The justice of God’s nature makes a just regulation agreeable, and the contrary disagreeable, as there is occasion; the subject being supposed, and the occasion given. But we must suppose something else that should incline him to create the subjects, or order the occasion.
So that perfection of God which we call his faithfulness, or his inclination to fulfill his promises to his creatures, could not properly be what moved him to create the world; nor could such a fulfillment of his promises to his creatures be his last end in giving the creatures being.
But yet after the world is created, after intelligent creatures are made, and God has bound himself by promise to them, then that disposition, which is called his faithfulness, may move him in his providential disposals towards them; and this may be the end of many of God’s works of providence, even the exercise of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, and may be in the lower sense his last end; because faithfulness and truth must be supposed to be what is in itself amiable to God, and what he delights in for its own sake.
Thus God may have ends of particular works of providence, which are ultimate ends in a lower sense, which were not ultimate ends of the creation.
So that here we have two sorts of ultimate ends; one of which may be called, original and independent, the other, consequential and dependent; for it is evident, the latter sort are truly of the nature of ultimate ends; because though their being agreeable to the agent, be consequential on the existence, yet the subject and occasion being supposed, they are agreeable and amiable in themselves.
We may suppose, that, to a righteous Being, doing justice between two parties, with whom he is concerned, is agreeable in itself, and not merely for the sake of some other end: And yet we may suppose, that a desire of doing justice between two parties, may be consequential on the being of those parties, and the occasion given.
It may be observed, that when I speak of God’s ultimate end in the creation of the world, in the following discourse, I commonly mean in that highest sense, viz. the original ultimate end.
—Sixth, it may be further observed, that the original ultimate end or ends of the creation of the world is alone that which induces God to give the occasion for consequential ends, by the first creation of the world, and the original disposal of it. And the more original the end is, the more extensive and universal it is.
That which God had primarily in view in creating, and the original ordination of the world, must be constantly kept in view, and have a governing influence in all God’s works, or with respect to every thing he does towards his creatures. And therefore,
—Seventh, if we use the phrase ultimate end in this highest sense, then the same that is God’s ultimate end in creating the world, if we suppose but one such end, must be what he makes his ultimate aim in all his works, in every thing he does either in creation or providence.
But we must suppose, that, in the use to which God puts his creatures, he must evermore have a regard to the end for which he has made them. But if we take ultimate end in the other lower sense, God may sometimes have regard to those things as ultimate ends, in particular works of providence, which could not in any proper sense be his last end in creating the world.
—Eighth, on the other hand, whatever appears to be God’s ultimate end, in any sense, of his works of providence in general; that must be the ultimate end of the work of creation itself.
For though God may act for an end that is ultimate in a lower sense, in some of his works of providence, which is not the ultimate end of the creation of the world, yet this does not take place with regard to the works of providence in general; for God’s works of providence in general, are the same with the general use to which he puts the world he has made.
And we may well argue from what we see of the general use which God makes of the world, to the general end for which he designed the world. Though there may be some ends of particular works of providence, that were not the last end of the creation, which are in themselves grateful to God in such particular emergent circumstances, and so are last ends in an inferior sense; yet this is only in certain cases, or particular occasions. But if they are last ends of God’s proceedings in the use of the world in general, this shows that his making them last ends does not depend on particular cases and circumstances, but the nature of things in general, and his general design in the being and constitution of the universe.
—Ninth, if there be but one thing that is originally, and independent on any future supposed cases, agreeable to God, to be obtained by the creation of the world, then there can be but one last end of God’s work, in this highest sense.
But if there are various things, properly diverse one from another, that are absolutely and independently agreeable to the Divine Being, which are actually obtained by the creation of the world, then there were several ultimate ends of the creation in that highest sense.
I heard the knock. Walking to the door, I was certain of who would be on the other side. This was the appointment that I spent days preparing my home for; fresh painting. Everything had been emptied and the furniture was moved to the center. I was living in temporary chaos, not so easy for this orderly heart.
Opening the door.
I thought it was the painters. The moment of transformation finally arrived! I opened the door. Instead of a crew with paint, I saw a friend; one of the managers of the building. Her name is Angel. Surprised but pleased I welcomed her in. She gently explained that there was a mistaken double booking for the painters today and asked if would I mind waiting until tomorrow morning. I watched her gaze at the almost vacant room, and peer into the next where everything was stacked temporarily.
“Yes,” I smiled, and said, “that is no problem at all- don’t worry. I can wait. I am getting used to this!” I knew her a bit like a friend and could feel that she did not want to disappoint me. Then I looked into her kind face and knew that there was more. (Angel, is it ok if I write about this? You are such a special woman.)
A room, ready to be transformed.
I asked. She did not seem alright to me. Then my friend shared what was really going on. I understand her gaze at the almost vacant room now for the first time. Angel told me that her dear grandfather who has been ill for several years has just been accepted into hospice care in his home. She and the rest of their deeply loving family are watching over him. He is a beloved man, a Godly man that inspired and gave spiritual hope, wisdom, and encouragement to many. He is a deacon of his church. We know that the Lord loves him; his life must have touched countless others. It can be so difficult to say goodbye, even if we know that our dear one is going to God.
It is a door that they go through before we do. We trust and we believe. Faith and prayers carry our own hearts to them and give the strength to walk near them. The Heavenlies are not far.
By God, for God, because of God.
The Kingdom of God is here, near. As we live for and with Jesus Christ, we connect to the love that beholds and protects all believers who exist in Eternity with Him.
John 10:9 –“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
The transformation that I was waiting for in my worldly home was intercepted by a knock that reminded me of an important truth. I thought that the chaos and the tearing down of things before me were enough. I threw out so much. I kept thinking, “simplify, simplify”.
When Angel entered, I was reminded that real transformation involved giving up my “plan” every hour, every day and becoming new with God. That means constantly dying to self and being reborn in Christ.
Maybe I thought that I did that yesterday (somewhat) but today was a new day. I was going to be challenged again. This is the real world and life is filled with the unexpected; always. I witnessed her courage in the face of a great trial and realized that we all need to remain close to God all the time.
Galatians 2:20 -“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Because He died for us, we die for Him; He lives in us by faith.
God sweeps through with His power and will. We stand back and aside. We allow Him to be the way, the way that we live and walk. We open the door to Him and say, “You are everything”. I do desire that my home receives ‘fresh paint’. It is really my heart and my life that needs to be swept by His Spirit. Every hour, every day- until I am with Him.
I am so grateful that my friend came to the door this morning. I believe that God sent her to give me news about staying close to Him; that we need to live “close to God, all the time”. We make plans, but He makes The Plan.
I am praying about her beloved grandfather, that she and her family are strengthened by their deep belief in Jesus Christ, comforted by Him as they courageously walk this. We all face mortality. I pray that we are with God, living in Eternity in His Kingdom together.
Romans 8:38-39 -“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”