By Jerry Fite
The gospel is the message that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 4:25). This fact is the unique foundation for our salvation (Rom. 1:16). When received, the good news fosters a hope for heaven that is certain, which in turn spurs on a life of love (Col. 1:5). The gospel is the message that links the saving God with dying men.
Prayer is the means that links the heart of man with the attentive God. Through prayer, we can manifest our heart’s desires and anxieties to the God who is able to abundantly deliver and bless (Phil. 4:6-7; Eph. 3:20).
The gospel and prayer are two unique and powerful media. Paul presented the various characteristics and effects of the gospel truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, sword of the Spirit and the word of God under the imagery of a Roman soldier’s armor (Eph. 6:10-17). Yet this armor was to be coupled “with prayer” for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). It too is protective in that through steadfast prayer we are continually “watching thereunto” on behalf of our brethren. To be strong in the Lord we must be committed to the gospel of Christ and prayer.
While the gospel and prayer help the Christian, prayer also helps the gospel. Paul writes, “. . . that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel . . . that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19,20). In other words, prayer was solicited so that “God may open unto us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ,” and that “I (Paul) may make it manifest as I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3,4). Paul also requested that his brethren pray that the word might be allowed to “run” and “be glorified” in the new regions he was entering, as it had among the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 3:1).
Notice how prayer was connected with the spreading of the Gospel. Brethren prayed that the message of Christ might “run” or easily spread in new areas without being deterred by strong opposing influences (cf. 2 Thess. 3:2, Acts 17:8,13; 18:6). Brethren prayed that the message of Christ might be “glorified” or exalted in the lives of people in other areas. They prayed that God would “open the door to speak” or give his messengers of the good news an opportunity to speak. As Christians we are asked to pray that the evangelists might speak “boldly” or have the courage to speak and make plain what was needful in the face of opposition.
In the New Testament, prayer was offered on behalf of the gospel to make it more accessible, not more powerful. The opening of hearts came through what was spoken, not through speech mixed with a special prayer (Acts 16:5). After receiving the opportunity and the courage to present the gospel, evangelists just preached the gospel of Christ. No prayer was offered immediately preceding or following a gospel sermon to make it more affecting. Prayer was not some evangelistic device to unlease the enlightening power of God.
Paul prayed that his Jewish brethren may be saved even though he knew that some of them would be lost (Rom. 10:1; 2:3,5). We should pray that the gospel of Christ spread without opposition and be glorified in people’s lives, even though we know that some will oppose the truth and deter its progress (2 Thess. 3:1,2). We should pray for opportunities to preach the gospel. As the proclaimers of the gospel, when facing opposition, prayed for boldness to speak (Acts 4:29-3 1), we too should pray for the courage to point out what they boldly taught. However, we should be careful not to leave an impression that the gospel, when presented, will carry a more affecting punch if coupled with a prayer than the gospel that is just truly presented. For such a distinction is not revealed.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 15, p. 459
August 4, 1988