This semester I’ve been writing about how prayer and mission are inseparable. Sometimes the prayer people can look at mission people and think, “You’re all about planning and strategizing, but you need to pray so you’re not operating in a worldly way.” Sometimes the mission people can look at the prayer people and think, “You’re all about praying, but you should get out of the prayer room and do something.” I believe both prayer people and mission people are right because prayer and mission go hand in hand, and there are many scriptures to prove it.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle — I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I Timothy 2:18
Prayer Comes First
Paul is writing Timothy, the pastor of the largest church at that time (the church in Ephesus) and his first command in the book is to pray for everyone. With all of Paul’s experience and wisdom one would think he may have a better strategy for his young mentee. Nope. It’s simple. Start by praying for everyone.
I have a confession to make. In these posts I’ve been saying that prayer and evangelism go hand in hand (that one is no more important than the other), but I actually believe that prayer is more important. I believe this because if we’re praying the right way it will always lead to evangelism. All movements of evangelism and mission begin in prayer and die when prayer ceases.
We need to talk to God about our friends before we talk to our friends about God.
Prayer for Everyone
Paul says it is good to pray for everyone and it pleases God because He loves everyone. God longs for everyone on earth to be saved by believing the truth about Jesus being our only mediator. Because He loves everyone, we should love everyone too. We show our love by praying for them.
Five times Paul speaks of “everyone,” “all peoples,” “mankind,” and “Gentiles.” Jesus is the mediator and ransom for everyone. Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. God’s heart is for everyone, and as we begin to pray for everyone our heart for our friends and the nations grows too.
Here is where Paul cannot separate prayer from evangelism. We pray because we, like God, want the best for our friends.
So here is the question: How do you pray for everyone? There are 50,000 students and 20,000 faculty and staff on my campus. How could we possibly pray for everyone? Of course you could find a student and faculty registry and pray for all 70,000 people by name, but I think Paul has something more in mind here.
He says, “I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” The key to praying for everyone is to have united prayer everywhere.
What would it look like if believers united in prayer in every dorm, every department, every Greek house, every sports team, every ethnic student association, every spirit group, etc.? If we had prayer everywhere we could be praying for everyone, and our prayers could be specific because we actually know and love the people we’re praying for.
This is a simple but profound strategy to reach our campuses. We can pray for everyone if we’re praying everywhere. To do so we need a networked Body of Christ wiling to connect its students based upon their common people groups (where the live, what they study, organizations they are a part of, etc.).
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.