By Bob Bryant
Years ago, if I had read the title, “The Lord’s Supper: A Biblical Foundation for Evangelism,” I would have been perplexed. In my mind, the traditional practice of the Lord’s Supper has little, if any, connection to evangelism.
The Bible tells us, however, that our church practices, including our practice of the Lord’s Supper, directly influence the integrity of the gospel and how it is spread. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:15, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (italics added). As a master architect, God designed the church to function as both a pillar that holds up a roof and a foundation that gives stability to a building. When a church conducts itself according to God’s design, it is better able to lift up and support the truth, and no truth is more important than the gospel. In his letter to Timothy, Paul specifically tells us how our conduct at the Lord’s Supper can be a foundation for evangelism.
Pray for Others at the Lord’s Supper
Paul urges churches to pray for others at the Lord’s Supper since he writes, “I desire that the men pray everywhere” (2:8, italics added), and then he directs the women to be silent (2:9-12). As we saw in the previous article, the meeting of the church, the Lord’s Supper, is the one occasion wherein these specific roles of men and women apply. While prayer is effective in any setting, we should expect it to be most effective in the Lord’s Supper setting prescribed in Scripture. Paul says that men should pray “everywhere,” (2:8) signifying that this priority of prayer is for every church. Paul gives specific instructions concerning prayer at the Lord’s Supper as he writes: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). Notice that he introduces the passage with the emphatic phrase “First of all,” which clarifies the importance he places on prayer for others. Paul urges us to pray for all men, believers and unbelievers—both inside and outside of our own church community and nation. God designed the Lord’s Supper to include many prayers, by many men, for many people, in every church…a meeting in which we, first of all, pray for others!
Pray for Governing Authorities
at the Lord’s Supper
Paul directs the church to pray “on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (2:2). One way to pray for all men is to pray for governing authorities, as all people are affected by the actions of rulers. Paul is not telling us to pray for those in authority so that we may enjoy our own personal peace and comfort, but to pray because “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2:3-4). Governing authorities can inhibit believers from professing their faith. We are to pray, therefore, that rulers will allow believers “a quiet and peaceable life” so that they can freely worship God and spread the gospel. When we pray for all men in this way at the Lord’s Supper, God is using us to be a “pillar and ground of the truth.”
Pray for Unsaved People at the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is the perfect place to pray for unsaved people because it’s here that we especially remember, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time” (2:5-6). At the Lord’s Supper, we should remember that He is the “ransom for all,” not just for us. We should remember that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also the whole world” (1 John 2:2). At the Lord’s Supper, our hearts are drawn toward Christ and toward those for whom He died. Prayer at the Lord’s Supper should be the heart and soul of our evangelistic efforts.
Pray for Missionaries at the Lord’s Supper
As Paul urges us to pray for the salvation of all men at the Lord’s Supper, he urges us to pray for missionaries. Using himself as an example, he states, “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I desire that the men pray everywhere” (2:7-8). Virtually every week at the Lord’s Supper, we pray by name for each of the missionaries our church supports. We want to be to them what Moses was to Joshua in the battle against the Amalekites in Exodus 17. When Moses’ hands were lifted up, Joshua prevailed. But when Moses’ hands fell down, the enemy prevailed. In the same way, as the church prays, missionaries in the field of battle tend to prevail. When the church fails to pray, the enemy tends to prevail, and souls are lost.
Pray with Unity at the Lord’s Supper
Prayer at the Lord’s Supper also builds unity in the church, which impacts the spread of the gospel. Paul says, “I desire that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” or “without anger and argument” (2:8). Praying together and arguing together don’t go together. As prayer at the Lord’s Supper increases, anger and arguments decrease, drawing the members of God’s family closer to each other and closer to Him. Peace within the church, in turn, has a profound impact on evangelism.
At the first Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35), and He prayed “that they all may be one…that the world may believe (John 17:20-21). When the church is fighting and divided, unbelievers are turned off to the message of the church. Church unity attracts unsaved people to the gospel. Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is a powerful motivation for believers to stay unified, which in turn impacts evangelism.
It Happened in Acts
The church in Acts 2 modeled what Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2. Luke reveals that the church made the Lord’s Supper its first priority (Acts 2:42, 46) and, as a result, they were “having favor with all the people and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (2:47). The church began with a dynamic and dramatic demonstration that the Lord’s Supper is a biblical foundation for evangelism. It happened in Acts; it can happen today.
The gospel is the most vital truth that God has given the church to proclaim. The Lord’s Supper, with its focus on prayer and unity, provides a powerful biblical foundation for doing just that.