Praying for strangers: good news people in one-off encounters

Praying for Strangers: good news people in one-off encounters

Have you ever felt the nudge to share Jesus with someone you’ve never met before? Phil Knox tells his stories of a year of praying for strangers on the streets.
Phil Knox. June 16, 2021. Praying for strangers: good news people in one-off encountersThe Evangelical Alliance. Retrieved from https://www.eauk.org/.

It all started with a dream. A friend texted to tell me he had a dream in which I was sharing faith with strangers. Up to that point, these encounters had been few, but this encouragement felt like God nudging me to step out in a new way.

I regularly run and walk around my community, and one morning a few days after the dream, as I ran, I saw a guy on crutches. The woEvangelical rds tripped awkwardly out of my mouth as I mumbled something about being a Christian and wondering if I could pray for him. Despite my fears and inadequacies, Stevie was blown away that I would stop and take the time to talk to him.

Since that first stumbling start, I’ve now lost count of the number of people I’ve prayed with on the streets where I live. I’ve prayed and shared a burger with Kyle, just out of prison and making a fresh start. Harrison and I stood together and gave thanks for his new-born son. I prayed for James’ mum and asked for strength to escape his addiction to illegal substances. I blessed a whole family with prayer on the way to their first day back at school.

In over a year of offering prayer, only one person has ever said no.

And as the encounters keep coming, I’m learning a few things…

  1. People are far more open than you would think. The gratitude of the prayed-for has far exceeded the faith of the prayer-bringer. One of my favourite moments came as I prayed for Max and Rhea. It was 7:30am and Max was already swigging a can of lager, but he was so thankful for my prayer that he prayed one in return. I’m not sure he’d ever prayed before and what came out of his mouth was hardly from the Book of Common Prayer, but it was beautiful in the Lord’s ears and a privilege to hear.
  2. Some people I will never see again, some have become friends. I was out running with a mate of mine when we met Mick. He was bent over in agony with a bad back and over 2 miles from his flat. We prayed for him and then helped him back home. Since then, we have helped him with some jobs, got to know him and see him regularly. We often talk about Jesus together.
  3. The more you do it, the more confident you get. To begin with it was terrifying, and even now it’s only moderately scary. As Robin Gamble observes, ​Despite what everyone seems to think, evangelists are not the ones who find it easy, they do not have an endless supply of inner boldness; they are simply the ones that do it, and the more they do it, the better at it they become.” This has certainly been true of my experience.

So if you feel God nudging you to give this a go as well then here are some practical tips…

  • Be ready with what you are going to say to make others feel at ease – and you feel confident – as you approach them. My line is, ​I’m sorry to bother you. I’m a Christian, and as I run/​walk I pray for people and I felt God wanted me to pray for you today. Is there you’d like prayer for?”
  • Be aware of your surroundings and your safety, as well as the comfort of those you approach. I have not offered to pray with a woman on her own and I have not approached anyone at night. Also in our current times, stay socially distanced.

Every day, people in our communities are crying out for connection and longing for hope. My experience in the last year has been that, in a small way, God has allowed me to play my part in the stories of those who need it. God has also been using these – often uncomfortable – moments to do a work in me. And if you ever wonder what the real value of stepping out in faith might be, Stevie and Kyle are going to start coming to church!

Phil Knox is the head of mission to young adults at the Evangelical Alliance. He lives to see people come to know Jesus and Christians inspired and equipped to share their faith. He has a passion for his generation, the local church, loves learning, and has degrees in law, and mission and evangelism. Phil is married to Dani and they have two sons, Caleb and Jos. He is an avid runner and footballer, a proud Aston Villa supporter, and battles a mild coffee addiction. He is the author of Story Bearer: How to share your faith with your friends. Find out more at www.storybearer.com