I joined a group of students who were doing outreach at the U of M and found myself manning a booth with a red banner over top that read, prayer booth. It was a fascinating experience. I just stood there and smiled at people as they walked by. Some were a little nervous as they passed; others all-out tried to avoid me, walking on the far side of the walkway. Still others gave me a religious “amen”, while a small number were willing to engage in conversation.
One person, a tough looking guy about my age, looked up at the banner and let out a huff of disappointment in himself. “Could’ve used prayer for that mid-term I just took,” he said while walking by.
“Mid-term, huh?” I thought. From that point on, I stood at the booth asking passers by, “Prayer for the mid-term?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah! Totally!” And so I would pray with them, telling them a little bit about Jesus every time. Not everyone wanted prayer, but those who said it was okay, I prayed with them.
I walked away from that experience with the gears of my mind turning as to how we are supposed to evangelize. Three words came to mind, words that may be loathed by some: time, consistency, and politeness. None of these promise anything flashy or immediate; instead they invoke the image of long, tedious laboring, but perhaps that is what it takes. None of us who witness to our neighbors want a flash-in-the-pan response. Why then would we take a flash-in-the-pan approach? It’s going to have to take time in order for them to see that you are indeed the real deal and that your walk with God is genuine and real.
This makes me think, “If I were to set up the prayer booth every day for an entire year, how many people who initially avoided eye contact would come and ask for prayer upon finding themselves in the belly of despair?”
“Jarred, help.” one may say after passing by x amount of times. “My girlfriend and I just got into a fight,” another may tell me wearily. “I’m trying to decide my major.”, “I’m not feeling too well.”, “I need a good grade in this class.”, “My dad just died…”
At first they may pass by with a scoff. They may pass by your little ministry a hundred times before they finally come up asking, “You offer prayer, right? Okay, this is what’s going on…”
I vouch that a Christian witness is much like a stream of water: applying it with gentle consistency will smooth out the most jagged of stones, but surging it all at once, no matter how big the wave, will only wash the stone away.
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