I guess most people still think of prayer as a relatively passive event which happens behind closed doors. Heads bowed, eyes closed sort of idea. It is certainly not always the case the the church isn’t praying for the world, for its communities or people involved. We even pray for missional outreach – which is great too.
Prayer in itself, however, can be mission in a very effective way. I just thought I’d jot down things I’ve been involved in and things I’ve heard of or seen about busting prayer out of the church and out of our closets and onto the front line. Let’s be honest, all of this takes some ‘guts’, but more than that it is a matter of faith that God wants us to engage with people out in the community.
1. Healing on the Streets I haven’t been involved in this, but have supported members of previous congregations who have been an active part of being out simply offering prayer for healing on the streets. It is not like we have no example to follow in this – Jesus did it all the time! Funny how we edit out some of what Jesus did, isn’t it?
2. Prayer Tree In Newcastle we had an annual summer BBQ giving free burgers to passers by. As part of that there was often a prayer outreach. One year we used a tree inour grounds to enable people to write up their own prayer requests on the tree. We promised to pray for those things afterwards, but we also offered prayer in the moment to those who wanted. It was the thing that verbalised our Christian witness in the context of the burger freebies.
3. ‘I will listen’ Chris Duffett, former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and Baptist evangelist, is a great inspiration for evangelism ‘out there’. He often paints pictures for people, does free hugs and various other creative stuff….but on of the things he does which I love is he gets a big sofa out into the city square with a big sign saying ‘I will listen’ and people are invited to come and have a chat. Genius. Look here at more of Chris’ stuff: Chris Duffett I just love the creativity!
4. Prayer as Protest I’ve joined a fair few protest prayer meetings over the years in various places…outside parliament, companies, etc seeking to pray for justice, peace, righteousness. Being peacemakers is not about being passive but taking our case to the highest Courts of the Kingdom
5. Prayer Marches and Open Air Worship Maybe not a surprise to you that I’ve spend many hours worshipping, praying and marching outdoors, especially around residential communities. I believe the proclamation of Christ changes things and areas spiritually. We recognised back in Bristol that the Sally Army open air maybe wasn’t going to get anyone ‘saved at the drum altar’, although not ruling anything out, but that there was a spiritual dynamic to being a public witness. This included taking part in gala parades and the like. Great fun, positive witness, and great opportunities for mission! Some of my most precious memories were street services on the soup run…singing, sharing, and some of the most raw and heart-rending prayer requests you’ve ever heard.
6. Prayer Tent As simple as it sounds…getting a tent or gazebo out at fairs, events, in the town centre and simply offering prayer, either directly or in the form of setting up some ‘prayer stations’ where people can write, paint, draw or do something else to symbolise their prayer or need. You know what? People really get this…there seems to be a residual ‘go to church and light a candle’ type thing in the English mindset. With all that is an opportunity to connect people with the Lord. There are less atheists out there than we actually think, but many tap into a sort of ‘folk religion’ with an Unknown God who needs to be named in our towns and cities.
7. Prayer Walking An old favourite. Simply getting out and praying in situ. Over the years so many opportunities have come out of simply getting out and getting praying. We had a team at Trinity in Newcastle who loved to head out and anoint stuff with oil tosymbolically set it apart for God’s blessing. I loved their faith, their heart and intention and I’m sure God honoured their faithful prayers for their neighbourhood.
8. Blessing I’ve blessed many a house – important spaces for people. All sorts of stuff goes on there for good or ill and much of me wonders if the church is missing a missional trick in this regard. I think the same is true about blessing people and children. I’ve often asked parents if I can pray a blessing on their children…sometimes they say no, sometimes they say yes. All that changes is whether I pray there and then aloud or quietly in my heart! I often offer a verbal ‘bless you’ – people sort of expect it, especiallywhen I wore clothes that sorta singled me out, whether thats a uniform or a collar. But in any case, its not what people understand when you say it, its a verbal prayer over a life in situ…not to be reserved for sneezing, although thats a great opportunity too!
The thing I love about prayer as mission is that there is absolutely no hidden agenda. It’s bold enough to say ‘we believe God can do something in your life’ and to dare to offer the direct link to our Father who loves to hear from us.
What ideas have you been involved in getting prayer on the streets? Would love to hear them!!