I remember the first experience in my life where I felt God was inviting me to pray with a specific person.
I had a very clear dream the night before of being at Kroger. I was praying with a beautiful African American woman with glasses and curly hair. At the end we wrapped each other in a big hug.
I was trying to practice more living into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and so the next morning nervously went to Kroger. I distinctly remember pushing my cart around and asking the Lord each time I passed a woman I thought it might be, “Is this her, Lord? Is that the woman you want me to pray with?”
Eventually, I found her. In the produce section right by the strawberries. I still remember the noise of grocery cart wheels trying to move around us as I called down Heaven over this woman, her life, and a particular situation.
While several years have passed since that Sunday morning at Kroger, I have learned through practice and many mistakes, how to pray with people. I can think of few things more powerful than having a trusted friend or mentor in my life pray over or with me. Sometimes when we don’t have the words to approach God, allowing a safe person to pray with you can speak truth, hope, and encouragement in ways we may not assume.
In Guidepost 6 of Unleash the Gospel–Person-to-Person Engagement—Archbishop Vigneron reminds us, “The Gospel is most effectively shared in person-to-person encounters. Being a disciple means constantly being ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.”
Praying with another person is a beautiful opportunity for person-to-person engagement, even if you’re in the produce aisle at Kroger. This requires both faith and holy boldness. And while those two elements are necessary, it is helpful to remember some basic do’s and don’ts when it comes to engaging with others through prayer.
Do ask the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire you. It sounds basic enough, but before you even begin to pray with another person, take a moment or two to pause, listen, and respond to the Spirit of God. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, guidance, and the words of loving care that this individual needs to hear.
Do ask if they are comfortable with placing a hand on their shoulder. Never assume you can freely touch another person without his or her permission. Gently ask the person if they are comfortable with a hand on their shoulder as a comforting presence through the time of prayer.
Do ask, “How may I pray for you? Is there anything specific you need prayer for in your life?” I have found questions like these are especially helpful for praying with a stranger or someone you are not very familiar with. If praying with a close friend or family member, there is already a level of trust and depth established and so you might not be so formal with them.
Invite the person you are praying with to share where and how they need prayer and more of God’s love. Do not be afraid to let the Holy Spirit guide you.
Do not do all the talking. Make room for sacred silence and do not feel the need to fill up the time with constant talking. Silence in prayer is just as sacred and meaningful as the words we speak. It is not our job to fill all the space with talk and words of prayer. Our job in praying with someone else is for them to feel loved, seen, and cared for.
Do not make presumptuous statements. One time at a conference, I had a woman pray with me who made a very firm statement that she felt the Lord telling her to tell me I would become a nun and that was the desire of God. Guess who has discerned the call to religious life is not for her? Me.
Do not lead with “God wants this for you…” or “God told me to tell you this…” While I firmly believe in and respect God’s voice to clearly speak to people, we have to be careful how we translate that to others and are not coming off as our words are 100% speaking for the divine will of God.
At the end of a person being prayed with or over, the hope is that he or she leaves feeling accepted, understood, and loved both by you and Jesus.
Always ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, pray from your heart, and leave room for God to move and speak. You just show up and be a faithful disciple.