THE DIVINE ART OF SOUL-WINNING
by J. Oswald Sanders, third file]
THE PLACE OF PRAYER IN SOUL-WINNING
HE IS COUNTING ON YOU
He is counting on you!
On a love that will share
In His burden of prayer,
For the souls He has bought
With His life-blood, and sought
Through His sorrow and pain
To win “home” yet again.
He is counting on you!
If you fail Him–
The worker whose supreme desire and passion is to be used
in co-operation with the Holy Spirit in the winning of men
to Christ, must master in some degree the holy art of
intercession. If the Master wept and prayed over lost
souls, then His servant must do the same. Prayer must ever
occupy a pre-eminent place in the soul-winner’s program,
for the salvation of the soul is not a human, but a divine
work. Only through prayer can the power of God be
If prayer, then, occupies so important a place, it
follows that whatever hinders us in its exercise must be
sacrificed. Any price is worth paying which will make us
more powerful in prayer. If God is to answer our prayers,
WE MUST BE SURE THAT WE ARE STANDING ON PRAYING GROUND.
The psalmist warns: “If I regard [cling to] iniquity in my
heart, the Lord WILL NOT HEAR ME” (Ps. 66:18), let alone
answer me. Before we are on true praying ground, we must
have renounced every sin about which the Holy Spirit has
convicted us. Have you done this, or is there a
controversy between your soul and God? You will know when
the last thing has been dealt with.
Then it is necessary that we have a HEART AT LEISURE
FROM ITSELF and its own concerns, a heart that is able to
bear the burden of souls and to travail for them in birth
until the new life is implanted. Listen to the apostle
Paul as he prays, and note how his prayers are all for
others. “I could wish that I myself were accursed from
Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”
(Rom. 9:3). Mark Epaphras, “always laboring fervently…
in prayers” (Col.4:12). Hear Count Zinzendorf as he prays
for a few girls ranging in age from ten to thirteen whose
spiritual education has become his care. “He observed that
though their demeanor was blameless, and their intellectual
grasp of the truth was satisfactory, yet no evidence of a
heart knowledge of God appeared among them. This weighed
on his soul and led him to earnest intercession for them.
Cultured, wealthy young nobleman that he was, he was not
above taking thought for the spiritual welfare of a few
girls. More intense grew his concern, culminating at last
in a season of such truly energized prayer as produced a
most extraordinary effect.” The blessing he desired for
his class came, and much more too, for this was the
beginning of the mighty work among the Moravians, which
bore fruit in their marvelous missionary enterprise.
The soul-winner’s prayer will be first for himself,
and then for the soul to be won. For himself he will need
to pray a threefold prayer.
First: for MORAL COURAGE TO SPEAK FOR CHRIST when
opportunity offers. In the world which crucified Christ,
it will never be easy to speak for Him. To some, the fear
of man is an almost insuperable barrier. Is it boldness
you need? Then do as the disciples did–pray! “Grant unto
thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy
word… And they spake the word with boldness” (Acts
4:29-31). “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ which
strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). You will be able, after
prayer, to do what you never could have done without it.
Second, for GUIDANCE AS TO WHOM TO APPROACH. To speak
to men indiscriminately and without inspiration and
guidance is often hurtful both to the worker and to those
whom he addresses. It goes without saying that God does
not expect us to speak to everyone we meet, although He
does expect us to be willing so to do. Dr. F. B. Meyer
used to feel constantly burdened in regard to speaking to
everyone he met, until he made it a matter of prayer that
God would show him the ones to whom to speak. The case of
Philip the evangelist is an outstanding example of this.
(See Acts 8:26.) There are many souls with whom we can
come into contact, for whom God has no message at that
moment. If we cultivate the habit of constantly looking to
the Lord for instructions, He will guide us with His eye as
to when to speak and when to keep silent.
Dr. Torrey made a practice of sitting in a double
railway seat, and then prayed that God would bring to his
seat the person whom he could help.
Third, for GUIDANCE AS TO WHAT TO SAY. Let the reader
remember that every soul-winner was once as inexperienced
as he is. If God is calling you to speak to someone, then
surely you can trust Him for the message. He knows what
each case needs, and has given the Holy Spirit for the very
purpose of bringing the right Scriptures to your
remembrance. Trust Him to do it. “He shall bring all
things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto
you” (John 14:26).
The worker’s prayer for the soul to be won will also
First, that any INDIFFERENCE OR HOSTILITY MAY BE
BROKEN DOWN and an opening made for delivering the message
of salvation. Unless the Spirit of God precede the worker,
he will try in vain to storm the citadel of the soul.
Persistent, believing prayer has often broken down the most
Second, that THE SOIL OF THE HEART MAY BE PREPARED FOR
THE SOWING OF THE SEED. This again is the work of the
Spirit of God. “When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he
shall convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of
judgment” (John 16:8). He does His work of conviction in
answer to prayer.
Third, that THE SOUL MAY BE LIBERATED FROM THE POWER
OF SATAN. It is just here that the real battle is fought.
Prayer of this kind is a spiritual warfare. Satan, the
strong man armed of Matthew 12:29, has bound every son of
Adam, and contests their deliverance every inch of the way.
It is by believing prayer alone that the strong man can be
bound and souls delivered. “They overcame him by the blood
of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev.
12:11). The prayer warrior must learn how to plead the
victory of Calvary, for the blood of the Lamb has forever
broken the power of the Devil, and robbed him of his prey.
“Real prayer,” says Gordon Watt, “is opposing a great
spiritual force to the onslaught of evil, and asking God to
put into operation the work done by His Son on the cross,
which was not only the redemption of man, but the defeat of
the prince of this world.” Plead the blood of the Lamb for
the liberation of the soul for whom you pray.
Our praying is likely to be futile unless it is
DEFINITE IN ITS AIM. The marksman is aiming at one spot in
all the wide world. After he has shot, he knows whether or
not he has hit it. Our prayers should be of a similar
order. They should be so definite that we shall know
whether or not they have been answered. We must pray for
definite souls. But for which souls? Here again the Holy
Spirit comes to our aid. OUR PETITIONS SHOULD BE
SPIRIT-TAUGHT. As we wait before God, He will burden our
hearts for certain souls who are within the sphere of our
influence. In Dr. Torrey’s first pastorate, God laid on
his heart in this way two persons. He prayed for them
throughout his pastorate, but neither was converted. For
some years he kept on praying for them daily, and when
later conducting a mission in that city both accepted
Christ the same night. His was a Spirit-taught petition.
How appropriate are the words of Scripture: “We know not
what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit helpeth
our infirmities” (Rom. 8:26).
Then too our praying should be SYSTEMATIC. Too often
we pray haphazardly for whatever comes into the mind. “The
Lord is a God of system” (Isa. 30: 18, marg.). His
children should be like Him. System in praying will help
to beget that PERSEVERANCE which is so often conspicuous by
its absence from our prayers. We pray and run away.
“Foolish boys that knock at a door in wantonness,” said the
old Puritan, “will not stay till someone cometh to open to
them, but a man that hath business will knock and knock
again until his call is answered.” “Knock, and it shall be
opened unto you, for… to him that knocketh [knocks, and
keeps on knocking] IT SHALL BE OPENED” (Luke 11:9,10). Let
us not hang up the receiver before the answer comes over
the heavenly wires. “Men ought always to pray AND NOT TO
FAINT” (Luke 18:1).
But apart from a BELIEVING HEART all the foregoing
conditions may be complied with, and yet no answer be
received. “He that cometh to God MUST BELIEVE” (Heb.
11:6). “But let him ask in faith, NOTHING WAVERING, for he
that wavereth… let not that man think that he shall
receive ANYTHING of the Lord” (James 1:6,7). Count on
God’s good faith. Do not grieve and dishonor Him through
disbelieving Him. “He is faithful that promised.” Expect
Him to do the unexpected.
The writer knows of no method which is of greater help
in securing definiteness of aim, system, and perseverance
in prayer than the use of the “Throne of Grace Book,” of
the One by One Band. It consists almost entirely of blank
pages on which are entered the names of people for whom the
Spirit has impressed the worker to pray, space being left
for the insertion of the date of answer. Anyone can make
his own book of remembrance, and keep these souls
constantly before the Lord in prayer. Begin at once. You
will find that very soon your praying will prepare the way
for witnessing, and you will have the surpassing joy of
entering the date of answer opposite some of the names.
Prayer is God’s mightiest instrument in the salvation
of souls, and it is to be doubted if any soul is saved
apart from the believing prayer of some saint. Writing of
his own conversion, Dr. J. Hudson Taylor said: “Little did
I know at that time what was going on in the heart of my
dear mother, 70 or 80 miles away. She rose from the
dinnertable that afternoon with an intense yearning for her
boy’s conversion, and feeling that a special opportunity
was afforded her of pleading with God on my behalf, she
went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved
not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.
Hour after hour that dear mother pleaded for me, until at
length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to
praise God for that which His Spirit had taught her was
already accomplished–the conversion of her only son.
“When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I
was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I
had such glad news to give. I can almost feel that dear
mother’s arms around my neck as she pressed me to her bosom
and said: ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a
fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me.’
“‘Why,’ I asked in surprise, ‘has Amelia broken her
promise? She said she would tell no one.’
“My dear mother assured me that it was not from any
human source that she had learned the tidings, and went on
to tell the little incident above. You will agree with me
that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in
the power of prayer.”
LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY
DO’S AND DON’TS FOR THE SOUL-WINNER
The aim of these studies is eminently practical. They
shall have failed of their purpose if many readers are not
stirred to engage in this most fascinating and fruitful
form of Christian service. The need of a genuine concern
for souls and the necessary qualifications of a
soul-winner, have been passed under review. The next step
is to be found in 2 Samuel 3:18: “Now then, do it.” The
art can be learned in no other way.
“Soul-saving is a divine art,” says Dr. T. C. Horton.
“Men are not born soul-savers, but are made. There is a
widespread misapprehension in the minds of most Christians
concerning responsibility for this work. Christians seem
to think that SOME people are called to this work, but that
the obligation is not universal; that it is work which one
MAY DO or not do, as they choose. This is false,
unscriptural, and illogical. Soul-saving is the greatest
work in the world, and is committed to every believer. All
may have the joy of doing it who GIVE THEMSELVES to it, and
all who fail to do it are recreant to a holy trust, and
will be the poorer throughout eternity.” If this be true,
now then, do it.
1. DO BELIEVE GOD’S PROMISE OF WISDOM (James 1:5).
Many hold back from this work because they feel so
ill-equipped to engage in it, and are sure that they will
never succeed. But has the faithful God not said: “If any
of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all
men liberally… and it shall be given him”? Can you not
trust Him to keep His word? Often stammering words,
prompted by a genuine concern, achieve more than an
eloquent discourse. Even if we seem to fail, God can bless
our blunders as the following story shows.
Dr. L. G. Broughton once said to an ignorant member of
his congregation: “Why don’t you speak to someone about
“I will,” he said. He walked down the aisle and sat
beside a brilliant young lawyer. “Do you want to go to
Heaven when you die?” he commenced.
“I don’t know whether I do or not,” answered the man.
“All right, then, go to Hell.” He rose and left him.
Needless to say, the lawyer was piqued, but the shaft
went home. When visiting Dr. Broughton a few days later he
confessed: “I hate to acknowledge it, but that remark of
that blundering fool of yours kept ringing in my ears, and
I could not get rid of it. At last I got down on my knees,
and said: ‘Lord, give me the faith of that blundering fool
who made me so mad,’ and JESUS SAVED ME.”
They went together to the home of the “blundering
fool,” and, with tears streaming down his face, the lawyer
wrung his hand, saying: “You are the man who led me to
I am not COMMENDING his method of approach, but I do
contend that the result certainly atoned for his faulty
method. Are you willing to be a blundering fool for
2. DO CLAIM DELIVERANCE FROM THE FEAR OF MAN. It is
essential that the soul-winner should lose the fear of man.
A former employer of the writer, a Christian lawyer, was a
fearless personal worker. One day, feeling my bondage to
the fear of man, I ventured to ask him if he had always
been bold in this work. He replied that he had been as
timid as anyone, until one day he could stand it no longer.
He fell on his knees with his Bible open at Psalm 34:4: “I
sought the Lord, and he heard me and DELIVERED ME FROM ALL
MY FEARS.” “Lord, you did this for David,” he prayed; “do
it for me now.” From that moment his timidity was replaced
by a holy boldness. So long as we are in bondage to the
opinions of the world, our work will be circumscribed and
hampered. There are many who fail to engage in aggressive
soul-winning through fear of being thought peculiar. Do
claim deliverance from this satanic fear. God will give a
full deliverance to the most timid and fearful soul who
dares to claim it.
3. DO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR OPPORTUNITIES. I have
found myself surrounded with opportunities WHEN WILLING TO
SEIZE THEM, but when I was unwilling, no opportunities
seemed to present themselves. Doubtless, there were just
as many opportunities, but I was blind to them. We can be
so occupied with what we consider “bigger things” that we
neglect to speak to our milkman, baker, butcher, or maid.
The following confession by a missionary secretary
appeared some years ago in THE MISSIONARY REVIEW OF THE
WORLD: “I was helping to get up a big Convention, and was
full of enthusiasm over making the session a success. On
the opening day, my aged father, who came as a delegate to
the Convention, sat with me at luncheon at the hotel. He
listened sympathetically to my glowing accounts of the
great features that were to be. When I paused for breath,
he leaned toward me and said, while his eye followed the
stately movements of the head waiter: ‘Daughter, I think
that big head waiter over there is going to accept Jesus
Christ. I’ve been talking to him about his soul’ I almost
gasped. I had been too busy planning for a great
missionary convention. I had no time to think of the soul
of the head waiter.
When we went out to my apartment, a Negro man was
washing the apartment windows. Jim was honest and
trustworthy, and had been a most satisfactory helper in my
home. Only a few moments passed before I heard my father
talking earnestly with Jim about his personal salvation,
and a swift accusation went to my heart as I realized that
I had known Jim for years, and had never said a word to him
“A carpenter came in to repair a door. I awaited his
going with impatience to sign his work ticket, for my
ardent soul longed to be back at my missionary task. Even
as I waited I heard my father talking with the man about
the door he had just fixed, and then simply and naturally
leading the conversation to the only door into the Kingdom
“A Jew lives across the street. I had thought that
possibly I would call on the folks who lived in the
neighborhood–some time–but I had my hands so full of
missionary work the calls had never been made; but, as they
met on the street, my father talked with my neighbor of the
only Savior of the world.
“A friend took us out to ride. I waited for my father
to get into the car, but in a moment he was up beside the
chauffeur, and in a few minutes I heard him talking
earnestly with the man about the way of salvation. When we
reached home he said: ‘You know, I was afraid I might never
have another chance to speak to that man.’
“The wife of a prominent railway man took him out to
ride in her elegant limousine. ‘I am glad she asked me to
go,’ for it gave me an opportunity of talking with her
about her salvation. I think no one had ever talked with
“Yet these opportunities had come to me also, and had
passed by as ships in the night, while I strained my eyes
to catch sight of a larger sail on a more distant horizon.
I could but question my own heart whether my passion was
for souls, or for success in getting up conventions.”
Comment is needless. We are surrounded by
opportunities–in our homes, in the church, in the Sunday
school, among our friends, relatives, neighbors, employees,
fellow workmen, on trains or cars, in parks or on the
streets, if only we are willing to avail ourselves of them.
DO improve your opportunities.
4. DO PURPOSE TO WIN ONE SOUL. You might well shrink
from the task if you were asked to win twenty souls; but
could you not win one? Have you ever honestly tried this?
Don’t say, “I can’t!” for God never requires us to do
something we can’t do. Ask the Lord to lay one soul upon
your heart, and then lay yourself out to win that one.
Incalculable possibilities lie in this purpose.
Dwight L. Moody, who later became the great
evangelist, was reared in a Unitarian environment, went to
Boston at an early age, was induced to join a Sunday school
class, and was led to a definite acceptance of Christ
through the faithful personal persuasion of the teacher of
that class. When Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, he brought
through Peter 3,000 souls on the day of Pentecost; and when
Edward Kimball brought Moody to Jesus, he brought, through
Moody, a million souls to Christ, and by that much moved
the whole world Godward. One soul is worth it all, but
infinite possibilities are wrapped up in EVERY soul.
But consider the negative side. Joseph Smith, who
later became the leader of the Mormon Church, lived in a
neglected home in a certain country community. A farmer on
his way to church passed that home every Sunday, but he
never asked the poor lad to accompany him, or even to
attend Sunday school. The sad consequences of that failure
will never be blotted out. Unnumbered lives have been
blighted and homes ruined. Oh, the tragedy of failure!
In EVERY community there are potential Moodys,
potential Spurgeons, and also, alas, POTENTIAL JOSEPH
SMITHS! There may be one or the other IN YOUR OWN HOME, or
in your neighbor’s home. Do seek to win at least one soul
for your Lord.
In order to crystallize this purpose for you, will
you, or will you not, here and now append your name to the
following suggested pledge?
WIN ONE SOUL
I will seek, with God’s help, to win one
soul each year, and endeavor to get them
to do the same.
1. DON’T LET IT BE APPARENT THAT YOU ARE A PERSONAL
WORKER. Conceal your hook. If you are using tracts, hide
2. DON’T ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH MORE THAN ONE SOUL AT A
TIME. Get your “prospect” alone, or he will never open his
heart to you and disclose his real difficulty.
3. DON’T BE DRAWN INTO AN ARGUMENT. you will most
likely be side-tracked from your main objective if you do.
Few have been argued into salvation. Duncan Mathieson
tells how, in his unregenerate days, an earnest Christian
used to speak to him about his soul. This friend was very
staunch concerning his denominational tenets, and, in order
to avoid a pointed talk about salvation, Mathieson used to
attack his views on these matters, and the old man at once
brought forth arguments to prove his views were right, and
doubtless succeeded in defeating his opponent’s arguments;
but this was much to Mathieson’s liking. He had escaped
the personal talk about the condition of his soul. Keep
your man pinned to his personal responsibility to Christ.
4. DON’T ATTRACT ATTENTION TO YOURSELF or your
experience. Seek to attract souls to your Lord.
5. DON’T MONOPOLIZE THE CONVERSATION. If your man has
a lot to say, give him a patient hearing. You will be
better able to deal with him if you know his viewpoint. He
will come to an end of his talking sooner or later, and
then your chance will come.
6. DON’T AS A RULE DEAL WITH PERSONS OF THE OPPOSITE
SEX. If possible pass them over to some worker of the same
sex. It is not becoming for a young man or a young woman
to be always looking for a person of the opposite sex to
7. DON’T AS A RULE CHOOSE A PERSON MUCH YOUR SENIOR TO
DEAL WITH. Of course, there are exceptions to both this
and the previous “don’t”.
8. DON’T RELY ON YOUR OWN ABILITY, powers of
persuasion, or knowledge of the Scriptures. Maintain an
attitude of constant dependence on the Holy Spirit to wield
9. DON’T MULTIPLY TEXTS AND ILLUSTRATIONS. Have THREE
or FOUR texts which reveal the need and the remedy, with
one or two pertinent illustrations. Answer difficulties
from the Word rather than from your own experience.
10. DON’T BE UNDULY FAMILIAR with your inquirer.
Avoid putting hand on shoulder or arm around him, as it
sometimes arouses resentment.
11. DON’T BECOME IMPATIENT, even if cause has been
given. Return good for evil.
12. DON’T BREAK IN WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS DEALING WITH A
SOUL. Never interrupt at such a moment of crisis. You may
feel you could do far better, and perhaps that is so, but
this is not the time for you to do it. Do not even stand
by. Similarly, do not allow others to interrupt you.
13. DON’T HURRY OR DO SHODDY WORK. “He that believeth
shall not make haste.” (Isa. 28:16).
14. DON’T BE DISCOURAGED by apparent failure. Pray
and think over every case in which you fail, asking the
Lord to show you how to deal with a similar case next time.
Thus your failures may become stepping-stones. In any
case, the Word of God never fails.
15. DON’T FORGET that your only weapons are “the Sword
of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17); and the weapon of “all prayer”
(Eph. 6:18). Make full use of both.
The value of one soul, O Lord,
Teach me to see; and as Thy Word
Assures me of the awful fate
Which doth the Christless soul await,
Oh, may I wrestle and prevail
With God and men, like Israel.
Give me Thy tenderness and tact,
Guide every thought and word and act,
And cause me so to do my part
To reach the hard or longing heart,
That men to Thee, O Christ, may turn,
More of Thy tenderness to learn.
[end of the third file]