In the picture to the right, this lady with the child was visiting the church for the first time.
When the service was over she came up to the pastor and I (I was the guest preacher, and pastor is to my right).
She began to talk with us.
She had been walking by the church and heard the noise and wandered in.
During the conversation, she expressed her concern about the health of the child in her arms. Being of little means, she could not easily go to a doctor’s office, nor buy expensive medicine.
We offered to pray with her, that God would bring healing to her child, and asked her permission to pray with her right there.
She gave us permission and we had the opportunity to pray with her.
As I’ve not been back to that church, I do not know what came of that, nor do I know how God worked in that situation.
Listen for the Opportunity
Praying with your first time church visitors can give you opportunity to have follow up conversations about God’s work.
In my training for church greeters, we kick around the topic of training church greeters to look for appropriate moments to pray WITH and FOR church visitors.
If we attentively listen to the church visitor in our conversations, we might often hear them express something that is worrying them.
That can become a point of prayer with the church visitor before their departure.
That is the first step: Listen for the need in conversation.
Example of Praying with a Church Visitor
We had a church visitor who was an immigrant in our country on a Student Visa. She was not yet a Christian, and had been invited to our international church.
As is my custom, I take the initiative to engage people in conversation. As we talked, this church visitor expressed a concern over the status of her visa. It was a big worry.
I offered to pray with her about this situation and the desired outcome.
“I know that God cares about your need. Can we seek God together in prayer for His will to be done in this situation?”
I asked permission of her to pray with her at that moment.
“Would you be comfortable if I prayed with you right now for this situation?”
She allowed me to pray with her before she left.
The following week, she returned to our church. God had answered her prayer.
Now she was more spiritually open to learning about following Jesus. God gave her grace of a favorable answer as part of His work in drawing this student to Himself.
How not to be rude in Praying with a Church Visitor . . .
You can’t assume the stranger will be comfortable with you praying for them in public.
You can’t assume that the church visitor would even want you to pray for them.
Simply launching out with “Let’s pray about it right now” and proceeding to do so can be rude and embarrassing to your church visitor.
The key is asking permission to pray for them and with them.
In the example above, I asked permission of the church visitor in a two step process.
- Can we pray about this?
- Can we pray about this now?
I phrased it a little differently, but it is asking permission and giving room for people to say no.
One time, I asked permission and the person said no. I respected that boundary (read Take a Risk, Offer to Pray).
Another time, we were in the cafeteria and I asked permission to pray. The response was no. Rather, the person wanted to pray alone that night over the situation we talked about. He wasn’t comfortable with an public prayer in an open space.
You’ve got to be sensitive to the comfort level and boundaries of the person.
Permission is the foundational key to not being rude.
7 Tips to Praying for a Church Visitor
The following is taken Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally (p. 114).
If you ask for permission to pray with an unbelieving family member or friend and they say yes, pause right then to offer up a simple prayer. Here are seven simple suggestions:
- Keep your prayer brief. In most cases less than a minute is wise.
- Use common language. Don’t make your prayer flowery and don’t use the King’s English. Let your words of prayer be conversational and natural.
- Extend a hand if it is appropriate. If you feel it would be taken the right way, take the person’s hand or place your hand on their shoulder. There is power in touch.
- Pray for the person’s specific need or joy. Focus your prayer on what they shared with you and don’t wander to other topics. Keep it simple; don’t turn your prayer into a chance to preach a sermon.
- Pray in the name of Jesus. There is power in Jesus’ name. God already knows and cares about the person you are praying for. Make sure they know to whom you are praying and who to thank if the prayer is answered.
- Check in to see how things are going. After a week or two, check in and see if the need has been met or if the joy is continuing to flow. If so, give God the glory. If the need persists, keep praying.
- Be sensitive to location and volume. If you are in a public place, step out of the flow of traffic. You may be comfortable with prayer, but it might be new territory for the person receiving it. Seek a little privacy if possible. Also, pray quietly. Remember, the only people who need to hear are you, the person you are praying for, and God.
Order Organic Outreach for Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally from Amazon (affiliate link).
Let me ask you this?
Have you seen how God answers such prayers and how that has helped you have further conversations with your visitors?
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