A few years ago we were buying a ‘new’ car from a car dealership. My wife asked if we could have a couple of minutes to pray about the decision, so ‘John’, the salesman, left us alone to pray.
I was curious to know what he thought about us praying, so before we left I mentioned that I was wondering what he thought about us praying, and where he might be on his spiritual journey. John explained that he went to church sometimes, but didn’t really understand much about it. He said he was interested in learning more, and so I suggested that maybe we could meet again to talk further.
I’d realised that I had only been praying for my church friends, and not surprisingly wasn’t having any faith conversations.
We bought the car, but as the paintwork was slightly damaged, John agreed to get some paint from the workshop.
A few weeks later I picked up the paint, and while we were having coffee in one of the sales booths, (it doesn’t take long to pick up a pot of paint, and a coffee is always welcome!) I picked up the conversation about our spiritual journeys, and soon John was saying a prayer, asking Jesus to help him grow spiritually.
It was just a normal Friday morning, and the second time we’d met, but I’ve found that having a prayer pathway enables me to see where God might take a conversation and hence create such opportunities.
Stage One: Pray for your friends yourself
A few years ago I started to pray for friends who didn’t know the Lord or come to church, but also for opportunities to pray with them. This is the first step. I’d realised that I had only been praying for my church friends, and not surprisingly wasn’t having any faith conversations. God was answering my other prayers, so why not ask him for opportunities to pray with friends who didn’t know Him?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seek finds; and to the one who knows, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:8
Stage Two: Tell your friends you’re praying for them
Some of my friends are very sensitive to discussions about religion or faith, so when they share a challenge they’re facing or a good thing that they’re looking forward to, I sometimes mention in passing, “I’ll try to remember to pray for you.” This is the second stage. I’m not trying to start a conversation or to provoke their thinking, but rather to be transparent about my heart for them, and that I pray for those I care about.
I’m not trying to provoke their thinking, but rather to be transparent about my heart for them, and that I pray for those I care about.
Stage Three: Offer to pray with your friend
The next stage is to offer to pray with them, there and then. For example, if a friend tells me about a problem they’re facing, I may say something like, “I’m sorry you’re going through that; would it be ok if I prayed for you now?” I always ask permission, and only offer if the setting is appropriate, e.g. they’re not busy. I sometimes clarify what they’d like prayer for – it sounds a strange thing to do, but I’ve often found they mention a perspective I didn’t appreciate.
Stage Four: See if they’d like to pray themselves
If they’re comfortable for me to pray, I may try the last stage, which is when they pray. I might suggest that it would be better if they said a prayer as they’re using their own words, or otherwise if I prayed, and they said what I prayed after me. They are often reluctant initially, but with a bit of encouragement or coaching, some, like John, have prayed with me or by themselves.
I always pray to Jesus by name in these situations since I come from a Hindu background and “God” could mean a variety of deities.
I always pray to Jesus by name in these situations since I come from a Hindu background and “God” could mean a variety of deities. I include phrases like: “we come without any conditions”, and “if we’ve done wrong, please forgive us,” as they were important elements of the prayer I used when I came to Jesus for the first time. I don’t explain their significance beforehand; they’re just part of the prayer.
I don’t know the impact on a person when they pray with me, but at least they’ll have more confidence to pray should they want to speak to God on their own.
So why not try the first step, praying for your friends and opportunities to pray with them, and then as you meet them, see which stage would be appropriate for them and the conversation?