Virtually everywhere we turn we hear church leaders mention the need to keep prayer at the forefront of all the church. Most anyone connected to a local church feels prayer is essential. In fact, Jesus insisted that His house (the Church) be known as a “house of prayer” (Mk. 11:11-17).
A good bit of prayer offered in Sunday School groups relates to prayer for personal needs and personal comfort. Praying for one another expresses genuine concern for other brothers and sisters in Christ in a way those outside the church may rarely, if ever, experience. We should thank God for a way to commune with Him on behalf of others who need a God-given touch.
But, it is also important for Sunday School groups to consider how they become advocates for the salvation of the unsaved. One means of advocacy is to engage in prayer for their salvation. Such prayer is often termed “evangelistic prayer.” Evangelistic prayer focuses on asking God to empower the Christian for witness and to enable the heart of the nonbeliever for receptivity to the gospel. Evangelistic prayer creates a deeper compassion for the lost and greater sensitivity toward opportunities for witness.
The Sunday School group has a wonderful opportunity to experience the power of God transforming lives through its prayers. Offering prayer on behalf of unsaved family, friends, and neighbors draws the Sunday School unit into a frontline position on the spiritual battlefield. The apostle Paul wrote, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:10-12).
He concludes this section with, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions. . . be alert and always keep on praying. . . Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:18-19). As prayer was one of his primary weapons used in the battle against Satan so, too, it should be for us. J. Oswald Sanders said, “The very nature of our missionary work makes prayer essential.
Our representatives in the front lines are not primarily overcoming cultural prejudices and superstitions, but are engaged in hand-to-hand conflict with the prince of this world and his followers. It requires spiritual weapons to overcome an invisible spiritual foe, and prayer is the weapon God has provided.”[i]
The International Mission Board has repeatedly discovered the power of God through prayer. Minette Drumwright writes of this:
One of the clearest facts before us was that, as things then stood, our traditional strategies had no way of touching those masses of peoples closed off from the gospel. Missionaries, Bibles, Christian radio broadcasts, the Jesus film – none were allowed. God dealt with us at a level that burdened and moved us at the core of our beings. We went to our knees, struggling with the role of prayer in the midst of crisp, new information that sharpened our vision and enlarged our burden.
Already we knew and experienced prayer as an absolute necessity in missions. Now God was revealing to us that in this radical mission’s world of unreached peoples, prayer is a strategy to be employed in opening closed doors and closed hearts.”[ii]
Your Sunday School unit can effectively join in this spiritual battle through prayer. Here’s how:
- Maintain a prayer list of the unsaved and regularly give updates on sharing the gospel with them.
- Incorporate prayer for the unsaved in your class time.
- Become neighborhood missionaries. Hold class fellowships in member’s homes to include a time of prayer for unsaved neighbors and include a neighborhood prayer walk.
- Start Prayer Triplets (3 members pray for three unsaved friends on a regular basis).
- Each week, mobilize at least one class member to Prayerwalk before and during the S.S. hour and worship, specifically praying for salvation.
- Encourage one another to become neighborhood “Lighthouses of Prayer” that care, pray, and seek to share Jesus with neighbors. Look for opportunities to pray in person with them.
- Adopt and pray for an Unreached People Group (contact the IMB for information).
- Regularly pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest field and ask that it begin with your class.
Join with others to see the transforming power of God in and through your praying for the salvation of others. You’ll be amazed at what God does!
[i] J. Oswald Sanders, Prayer Power Unlimited, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), p. 151.
[ii] Minette Drumwright, The Life that Prays: Reflections on Prayer as Strategy, (Birmingham: Women’s Missionary Union, 2001), p. 39.