Paying attention to the needs around us can lead to opportunities that begin with prayer.
Sherwin begins his day in prayer. Every day, for over 50 years, this man of faith folds his hands, bows his head and prays for extended periods of time. There are people on his prayer list that he has prayed for daily for decades.
His daughter observed his prayer life for all of her childhood and teenage years. She also saw the power of prayer as many of her father’s prayers were answered. Through the example and teaching of her father, Sherry learned to seek the face of Jesus in humble prayer.
Sherwin is my father-in-law, and Sherry is my wife. I have learned to pray through the example and lessons of these two mighty prayer warriors. My wife went on to write Praying With Eyes Wide Open, about praying at all times, with passion and Spirit-led engagement. In her book, Sherry teaches people to watch, notice, pray and see the power of God unleashed as they walk through a normal day.
As we have led Organic Outreach International, it has become clear to us that prayer is a central, essential and often-missed part of evangelism. Here are two simple but useful ideas that have helped us infuse prayer into the process of natural faith sharing.
BE AWARE OF THE NEEDS AROUND YOU
If we are going to be effective in sharing the good news of Jesus, we must pray through our days with our eyes wide open. When we see pain and brokenness, prayer should be on our hearts and lips. This prayer often will lead us to action, care and sharing the hope that is found in Jesus. When we pay attention and we walk prayerfully through a day, we will see injustices, unfairness and exclusions. As we do, the Spirit of God will move us to speak the truth, step in and bring the grace and justice of our Savior.
Imagine countless followers of Jesus walking, driving, jogging, flying and moving throughout our world and praying through their day—praising God, lifting up the broken, confessing personal weaknesses, praying for revival, asking God for opportunities to share the love and message of Jesus, and seeing the fruit of these prayers. What might happen in homes, workplaces, school campuses and communities if we lived this way? Imagine the power of prayer being unleashed as we disconnect from distracting devices and tune in to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit as we move through each day.
PRAY WITH PEOPLE WHO DO NOT KNOW JESUS
When we train leaders in Organic Outreach, we always teach them about the importance and effectiveness of praying with those who do not yet embrace the grace and message of Jesus. It is amazing how many nonbelievers are very open to prayer. We teach leaders and church members that every time a person shares a deep pain or profound joy with them, they can ask, “Would you mind if I took a moment and prayed for you?” The vast majority of people are very open and receptive to these offers. Though some will say, “No, thank you,” or “That’s not really my thing,” most are quick to say something like, “Would you really do that for me?”
So, we equip believers with the simple practice of lifting up a brief prayer, in common language, in the beautiful name of Jesus. Most people get the idea very quickly, and if they are living and praying with eyes wide open, they have an opportunity to try this very quickly. When they accept the prompting of the Spirit, most have a warm and affirming response from a nonbeliever and feel the Lord come near as they lift up a prayer with this person. Of course, they do the praying and the nonbeliever participates by quietly listening.
We had the joy of leading a two-day Organic Outreach Intensive training event in Melbourne, Australia, this past year. A woman named Susie came to us with a wonderful report. The same day she had heard Sherry give a challenge to pray with eyes wide open and also pray with nonbelievers, Susie felt a leading of the Holy Spirit.
She was walking down a city street with her husband looking for a café to get a cup of coffee. As she passed a large building she saw a young woman sitting on the stairs, crying. This woman was clearly distraught. Susie whispered to her husband, “I think I should stop.” She went over and asked, “Are you all right?”
The woman said she was fine, but Susie felt led to ask again. This time the woman opened up. “I am supposed to be at work, but I am having a panic attack.”
After Susie asked if she could pray for her, the young woman said she would like that. As Susie prayed for peace and strength in the name of Jesus, she could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. The young woman thanked Susie with deep sincerity.
Susie then let her know that sometimes she felt anxious and worried, and when this happened to her, she would always pray to Jesus. She let the woman know that God loved her and was near, and that she could pray to God in the name of Jesus too.
As Susie shared this story, she had a profound sense that God sent her to share with that young woman. She also was confident that God was teaching her and ministering to her through that connection and the opportunity to pray with a person in need who was very open to a touch of a caring person and the Spirit of God.
TWO SIMPLE STEPS FORWARD
What is so wonderful about Susie’s story is that we can see how quickly a person can learn to pray with their eyes wide open, even when walking down a busy street. And it is also simple to ask a person, “May I pray for you?” When we do this, and a person says yes, we can watch as the Holy Spirit of the living God shows up and moves in powerful ways.
Will you hear the invitation to pray often through your day, as you walk and drive around? Notice, respond to God’s leading and take action that shines the light and love of Jesus. When you have the opportunity, ask a nonbeliever, “Would it be OK if I lifted up a prayer of thanks for your good news, or a prayer of comfort and strength in your time of need?” And, will you teach others to do the same?