Praying for Strangers

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.—James 5:16

If you don’t like awkward encounters, maybe you shouldn’t hang out with me because I’m the queen of awkward. And I hope that’s a good thing.

I’m that person who will ask a stranger how I can pray for her, and then, with her permission, I pray for her on the spot. It may be a person crying alone in public, that person everyone else is avoiding. Or it may be my server at a restaurant or my cashier or my bagger at the grocery store or another chance encounter.

I’ve been told I push people around me outside their comfort zones when we’re out in public together. Truth is, I push myself out of my comfort zone. But I do it because of an age-old truth: People don’t care what you know till they know that you care. And I want people to know Jesus.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I believe that is true. Every one of us is fighting wars within and without, many times without support. Such a reality is hard enough for the Christian. Imagine how it is for the unsaved, who represent the vast majority of people for whom I pray publicly.

They have no divine comforter, counselor, intercessor or friend. They have no true peace or wisdom, which comes from above. They are islands, now floating but in imminent danger of sinking from the weight of their worries.

So I show them the love of God, which reaches into the deepest pit to offer redemption and hope. And I do this in a deliberate effort to present the gospel through prayer.

First, I acknowledge God’s nature. It could go something like this: “Father, You are holy, awesome, loving and gracious. You are over all and in all. Nothing is impossible for You. We thank and praise You for who You are.”

I also acknowledge our need for a Savior: “Forgive us for spurning You and failing to trust You. Lord, You show Your love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. I thank You that you freely offer redemption from sins to all who receive You and believe on Your name.”

Then I present the need and ask the Lord to work in whatever situation my new acquaintance is facing. I ask for His wisdom to be given freely, His power to be released mightily and His grace to manifest itself generously. I also ask the Lord would help the person for whom I’m praying to understand the depth, breadth, height and width of God’s love—the love from which nothing can separate us. I close in the name of Jesus, our Savior.

Each time someone has given me permission to pray on the spot, the response has been emotional. And each time, seeds have been planted. In what kind of soil, only the Lord can say.

But if you follow my lead into awkward encounters, remember to incorporate as much Scripture as you can into your prayers, because God promises His word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Someone may soon come along and water those seeds so they eventually come to fruition. And God will give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6) and help that person to come to maturity in Him.

Make the most of every opportunity. Be unafraid to go outside your comfort zone and touch a life by praying for a stranger. In so doing, you may help someone to find eternal life.

I look forward to many more awkward encounters.