We see God doing much through apologetics in these days. And while I thank God for professional apologists, in fact, all of us are called in one way or another to give an answer to those we interact with. 1 Peter 3:15 reads,
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you
to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
However, since the issue is spiritual battle, more than intellectual evidence is necessary. As with all evangelism many things must accompany our presentation of the truth. How does your life radiate the hope that you have? How does what you have to say touch the deepest recesses of people's hearts?
Prayer is the power that removes objections and embeds the gospel into the lives of people. And whether you are the apologist or you are merely observing the debate, you need to be praying for the opponent and for those who listen. Let me suggest some essential elements of apologetic prayer.
1. Humility before God, who must work in your life and attitudes as well as those of others, is essential. This is the beginning of prayer. And it is the beginning of obediently and effectively bearing witness for Christ.
2. You also need faith in God who works in the hearts of those who hear the gospel. I often bolster my faith with the words of Matthew 28:18. Before He commissioned us to take the gospel to all nations Jesus affirmed, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to me." Even when listening to a bitter opponent, remember that God, who loves that person and his audience, is working in their lives. Paul was on his way to arrest Christians and drag them bound back to Jerusalem when Jesus appeared to him and spoke his name. "Saul, Saul!"
3. Love is possibly the most powerful weapon in your apologetic arsenal. In A Wrinkle In Time Madeleine L'Engle portrayed the prodigious Charles Wallace under the control of IT, a disembodied brain in the dark world. His older sister, Meg, bravely approaches the evil brain. At first she does not know what to do. In desperation she begins to pour out all the love of her soul on her little brother. I know something of the power of the love of my older sister. It seemed natural to me that the monster was not able to keep its grip on the mind of Charles Wallace. The brain's power was broken by her love, and the two escaped. She was not able to manage it, but if she could have turned her love toward the hapless brain, it would surely have melted into a puddle of liquid protein.
When evangelist David Stockwell was a student at Rice University, the famous atheist, Madeline Murray O'Hare made an appearance on campus. As a well known Christian, David was chosen to debate her in an evening program before the student body. He was of course terrified.
But his roommate called him into their room. "I've got it figured out. Wherever she goes she insults whomever she debates. They get their feelings hurt and insult her in return. She is better at hating than any Christian she goes up against. So before long her opponent is ready to give up and flee. All you have to do is try to show her God's love."
Still nervous, David took the platform and told the world's most famous atheist that God loved her, and he was praying for her. She unleashed her fiercest invective at David. But whatever she screamed at him, he answered, "I love you."
David said that night a string of students came crowding into their dorm room saying, "I was an atheist," or "I was an agnostic, but I don't want to be whatever she is."
Prayer is the primary means of loving people you have no direct contact with. But the love of Jesus gives you a hunger to meet the practical, personal, and possibly painful needs of people you come in contact with even if they refuse to listen to anything you have to say. And such practical love will flow from your consistent prayers for people around you.