Saturday, March 5, 2016

Really Practical Ministry Tips (#1): Listen and Pray

There is a way to minister people which is actually easy.  Some types of ministry require special skills and experience, like writing a theology book or leading a praise team.  But the type of ministry I describe here only requires loving God, loving people, a little bit of courage, and doing two things which all Christians should do: listening and praying.

This ministry strategy can help reach people who don’t believe in Jesus.  It can help encourage Christians who have drifted away from the church.  It can lift up faithful Christians who are facing a difficult challenge.

This is how it works:
1.  You listen to them share any type of challenge, trial, need, or difficulty.
2.  You offer to pray for them and then you pray for them out loud, right there, right then.

It works.  It is powerful.  Here are two real life stories.

Yesterday while waiting for my car to be inspected

I was in the waiting room and it was unusually full.  I had brought my computer and was working on my sermon.  I overheard one lady talking with another lady about helping her daughter figure out how to pay for college.  Because our family is dealing with the same issue, it was very easy for me to join in the conversation.

After talking for a little while, and listening to her specific story, I asked if it would be alright for me to lead a short prayer for her daughter.  She gladly agreed.  Several other customers all lowered their heads and we prayed right there in the waiting room.  One lady offered an enthusiastic “Amen!” at the end of the prayer.

And so a time of waiting with strangers turned into an opportunity to minister to a neighbor and to join together for prayer in Jesus’ Name.

In this case, it was so easy to pray with these people.  Some of them seemed to be committed Christians, and not one was hostile to Christianity.  But can this work in more difficult cases?

When I got sick on a trip

I was living in a Muslim nation.

We had travelled five hours past rice fields and over lush green tropical mountains to reach a town where I wanted to carry out some language research. The people who lived in the town were almost 100% Muslim.

My Indonesian coworker (a young, Christian man) and I were staying in a hotel that was way below “5 star”. I got very sick on my stomach.  I had to stay in and rest. My coworker was sitting with me in the public common area of the small hotel while I tried to eat some crackers and a banana.

A lady who worked at the hotel was cleaning.  We started to talk with her.  She began to share some sad events from her past.  What bothered her the most was that her mother had died three years ago.  She still felt a deep sadness.  She said that every night for the last month she dreamed of her mom being with her and then woke up cried and cried until she had no more tears and could not sleep.
We asked if we could pray for her in Jesus’ Name.  She agreed that we could.  Right there and then in the hotel lobby, we prayed out loud for her.

The next morning this lady appeared happy and light hearted.  She shared that she had not felt the same overwhelming sadness and had slept peacefully without that same dream.

Like many of our Muslim neighbors, this lady literally did not even want to touch a Bible.  Where do you start with someone who is so against Christianity?  You listen to their story and offer to pray for them.  I did this many times (probably hundreds) with our Muslim neighbors, and it was very rare for anyone to not gladly allow me to pray for them.  This happened on public transportation, in shopping malls, around our neighborhood, and where I attended a university.

I’ve experienced the same positive response here in the US.

A Few Practical Pointers

*  If you want to try this (and why wouldn’t you?), pray and ask God to give you opportunities and courage.

*  If you’re an adventurous extrovert, start anywhere, don’t hold back. Jesus wants to use your adventurous side for something that really matters.

*  If doing this in a public setting like a waiting room makes you uncomfortable, start by trying it with a close friend or family member.  This is not just a way to reach unbelievers (it is a great first step for that), but it is also a powerful way to encourage other Christians.

*  This is important:  before you pray, really listen to them.  Ask questions and listen.  Try to understand their story, their fear, and their pain.

*  What if you desire to pray with someone, but they’re not sharing any needs?  Just try asking, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”  You’ll be surprised how the Spirit works!

*  Whether you’re praying with a devoted brother in Christ, or a hard core atheist, always pray in Jesus’ Name.  That way He gets the glory when God answers your prayers.

*  Believe that God answers prayer.  If you need a faith boost in this area, review some promises found in the Bible (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 21:22, John 14:13, John 15:7, and John 15:16).

* In a way, this type of ministry is so easy.  But, all ministry involves an element of spiritual warfare, so pray for protection and keep your guard up.

Remember, everyone has a story.  Some stories call for a prayer of thanksgiving.  Other times we will be moved to cry out to God for mercy and help.  I’ll close by recommending you watch this three minute video.  It was made by Chic-fil-A, and it illustrates why this ministry method is so needed by your neighbors and our world:

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

1 comment:

  1. This will remind me to look at people in a different way while out and about. Everyone does have a story. Praying that He will help me to keep my eyes open and my heart willing to make a difference. <><