Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Power of Praying for Strangers

This past weekend was a busy and inspiring weekend at my church!

On Sunday we celebrated 13 baptisms, which is always exciting, and the testimonies of those baptized were interesting (one guy grew up Baha’i) and God-glorifying. After that, for the first time in the church’s life, we invited those who felt called to be baptized to come forward ‘spontaneously’ to make an obedient profession of their faith through baptism. And 30 people came forward! Including many young adults, two of whom I was particularly excited about and proud of.

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The other event took place the previous afternoon, when myself (the YA ministry lead) and 11 young adults went to Central Park in downtown Winnipeg to share the Gospel. There was excitement and trepidation, and even outright fear, but we prayed & planned beforehand, and we were willing to step out in the knowledge that God was with us, and that He would embolden us.

And that He did. We went in pairs, and each pair reported afterwards that their fear left quickly, and even amidst spiritual attack right as we got to the park, and rejection during our time there, we were able to engage in conversations and, even better, prayers for people that pointed them to Jesus. We also handed out the Gospel of John to all those who would accept, and a group of girls at the park (who happened to be students of one of the YA), were so excited to take all our leftover books and hand them out to people as we were leaving.

We returned to the church excited, emboldened, and with the prayer on our lips that this wouldn’t be a one-time event, but a lifestyle for our YA community. We finished the afternoon by singing some worship songs and thanking God for His goodness, and by praying again for those we encountered, even those who rejected us.

My Experience:

My partner and I went to the water park area. We would introduce ourselves by saying our names, that we are followers of Jesus, and asking how we could pray for them – to bless them, or for healing, or anything else. Strangely, every single encounter we had were with Catholics, except one couple, but it was evident from speaking to them that most of them were not practicing. We were fortunate to not be rejected at all; everyone we asked, albeit uncomfortably, allowed us to pray for them, and afterwards seemed glad that we had. My partner was amazing, and she would even hold the hands of the women we prayed with.

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One couple we met were aboriginal, and while they let us know that they worshiped differently than us (the Great Spirit, by burning sweet grass/sage, etc.), they were quite open with their family struggles and allowed us to pray. It was such an honour, and as we prayed the woman began to weep, and I felt love well up in my heart for them. If you know me, then you’d know that I don’t feel love easily. I believe this was the love of God pouring through us as we actively loved them through prayer.

How easy it was to pray for people, and to show them concretely the hope we have in Jesus, and the hope that He would move in their circumstances. The prayers weren’t eloquent (at least mine weren’t), but we all testified afterwards to experiencing the Spirit of God in us as we prayed. Frankly, I feel chagrined that I don’t this more often, just throughout the course of my daily life, even. And I wonder that the Church doesn’t seem to teach or practice this either (although if it doesn’t practice evangelism much, I guess it wouldn’t practice praying for people either).

My hope is through us the people we encountered that day were reminded of, or able to see for the first time, the beauty of Christ, and want to know Him more. No one gave their lives to Him that afternoon, but we know that He works beyond our brief encounters, and was working before we even got there. And, my prayer is that each of the young adults who went would hunger to see more of Jesus like this in their lives.

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Feeling Compassion With Jesus

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:35-36).

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them.

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The compassion of Jesus’s is mentioned over and over throughout the Gospels, and exhibited most famously in His lament for Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city where God’s Temple was: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).

How many times have we responded to people with revulsion, or disgust, or indifference, or anger, or fear? The homeless person sitting on the streetcorner. The LGBQT person flaunting their sexuality in the parade. The atheist proudly proclaiming there is no God. The driver stuck on the road blocking traffic with their hood open. The people who don’t believe what we believe and behave the way we behave.

How many times did Jesus respond in those ways? Have this attitude in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

Rooted in self-centeredness, our lack of compassion for those different than us has caused us to neglect both acts of mercy and evangelism – two things explicitly commanded in scripture.

Feeling and Acting

And having compassion is not just something we feel, it’s also something we choose do to; Paul tells us to “put on a heart of compassion” in Col. 3:12. This is exactly what we see Jesus doing in Matthew 9 – both feeling compassion but also acting in compassion too:

9:36: Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Doesn’t that describe our society today – distressed and dispirited? Or harassed and helpless, as in another translation?)

9:37-38: Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Beseech = pray earnestly, beg)

10:1: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. (He empowered the rest of us too with the sending of the Spirit)

10:5: These twelve Jesus sent out… (and so He sends us out too.)

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There’s a theme here that keeps popping up as I study and pray: Jesus calls us, empowers us, sends us, and is with us (especially as it relates to being His witnesses – see Matt. 28:18-20). And it’s equally true with having compassion too, since sharing the Gospel with someone is a greatly compassionate act in itself. But sharing the Gospel doesn’t excuse us from acting in more “mundanely” compassionate ways too, like giving food to the poor, visiting those in prison, and standing up against injustice.

May we repent of our hard-heartedness toward those Jesus feels compassion for, and may we “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).

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Christian Reader!

“Christian Reader! That the holy Gospel is subjected, in our age,
to a great and shameful abuse, is fully proved by the ungodly
and impenitent life of those who loudly boast of Christ and of
his word, while their unchristian life resembles that of persons
who dwell in a land of heathens and not of Christians.”

–Johann Arndt, True Christianity (1555-1621)

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