As we enter the solemn season of Lent, marked by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we turn our hearts and minds toward deeper spiritual reflection and renewal. For those of us doing the work of evangelization, discipleship, and accompaniment in our lives and ministries, Lent offers a unique opportunity to prune the efforts and areas of our hearts that are not bearing fruit so that we can ultimately be even more fruitful (John 15:1-8).
All Fruitful Evangelization Flows From Prayer
Effective evangelization flows from a deep relationship with God. Prayer helps open our hearts and minds to receive the love of God and allows us to be filled with the grace that God abundantly pours out upon us.
The kingdom will grow insofar as every person learns to turn to God in the intimacy of prayer as to a Father and strives to do his will.
(Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 13)
When missionary disciples pair evangelization efforts with a deep and meaningful prayer life, God's love and grace fill us - and then it is His grace that overflows onto those around us. (Psalm 23:5-6). Regular prayer cultivates the communion and depth of relationship that allows evangelizers to speak from a place of authenticity and personal experience when we proclaim the Gospel with others.
A regular prayer routine also helps us hear the Holy Spirit more clearly, especially as He prompts us in each encounter with others.
We exhort all evangelizers, whoever they may be, to pray without ceasing to the Holy Spirit with faith and fervor and to let themselves prudently be guided by Him as the decisive inspirer of their plans, their initiatives and their evangelizing activity.
Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiani, 75
Only through prayer can we identify and recognize the discrete action of the Spirit both in our lives and the lives of those we are accompanying on the journey of faith. Prayer allows me to ensure that my accompaniment efforts are driven and directed by the Holy Spirit, not my will, my timeline, or my desires.
How to Pray as An Evangelizer
- Dedicate specific times each day for prayer, including morning and evening prayers and moments of reflection throughout the day.
- Add a prayer for evangelizers to your daily prayer routine.
- Incorporate intercessory prayers for the conversion and spiritual growth of those you are evangelizing, discipling, and accompanying.
- Spend time in silent prayer, listening for God's guidance on how best to reach out to others with the message of the Gospel.
- "Pray without ceasing to the Holy Spirit" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75)
- Before you begin a task, activity, or moment of accompaniment, consciously invite the Holy Spirit to be present and guide you. Ask for the Spirit's wisdom, strength, and guidance in everything you do.
- Offer short "breath prayers" to the Holy Spirit throughout your day. These can be simple phrases or expressions of praise, thanks, or petitions directed to the Holy Spirit like "Come, Holy Spirit," "Spirit of peace, dwell in me," or "Breathe on me, Spirit of God."
- Pope Paul VI says that "it would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought:"
- Men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God's mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called "blushing for the Gospel"- or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80)
Evangelizing Prayer For Lent
Specifically, during the penitential season of Lent, our call to prayer focuses on our need for God's forgiveness. Lenten prayer is about repenting, turning away from our sins, and receiving God's mercy and love.
Spend some time this Lent repenting of the attitudes, actions, frustrations, and sins that have been obstacles to your evangelization fruits. Ask forgiveness for the ways you have intentionally or unintentionally limited or ignored the movement of the Holy Spirit in your heart, your relationships, or your ministry to others.
Pray through Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of The Gospel) by Pope Francis as an examination of conscience for those of us involved in the promotion, work, and support of evangelization.
The Daily Examen is a method of prayerful reflection on the events of your day to discern God's presence, identify moments of grace, and acknowledge areas where we may have falleen short or sinned. It can be a great way to pray through the ways the Holy Spirit prompted you to evangelize, disciple, or accompany others each day.
- Pray Lectio Divina with passages from Scripture related to evangelization, such as:
- Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)
- The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
- The Promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:6-12)
- Signs & Wonders (Acts 5:12-16)
- Struggling for the Sake of the Gospel (1 Peter 3:13-22)
- Instructions to Evangelizers (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
- Consider praying an Act of Contrition this Lent through the lens of your evangelizing efforts. You can use this prayer (or one like it) daily, at Mass before receiving the Holy Eucharist, or even as you prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Heavenly Father, I humbly come before you to acknowledge my need for your forgiveness and mercy. Forgive me for the times I have lacked zeal or courage in sharing the Gospel with others. Forgive me for the times I have not faithfully represented your message or have been a stumbling block to others. Help me to overcome my fears and insecurities, and grant me the grace to proclaim your truth with love, humility, and compassion.
Grant me the grace of humility as I engage in evangelization and ministry to others. Help me to recognize my own need for ongoing conversion and to approach others with gentleness and empathy. May my words and actions reflect the love and mercy of Christ, inviting others to encounter you more deeply.
Grant me the grace of true contrition and the strength to amend my life according to your will. Amen.
Let Jesus Prune Your Heart This Lent
Lent is a perfect time for those of us engaged evangelization and making disciples to engage in specific penitential prayers to deepen our spiritual renewal and preparation for sharing the Gospel. This particular focus on prayers of repentance during Lent can help us allow Jesus to prune our shortcomings so that we can bear more fruit as his disciples.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful...This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
The pruning process, which involves cutting away dead or unproductive branches, is the necessary purification and growth that we all must undergo to become more fruitful disciples. Just as the gardener prunes the vine to remove what is dead or unnecessary, Lent offers us an opportunity to allow God to prune away anything that hinders our relationship with Him and impedes our ability to bear fruit and to "go and to make disciples."