What happens when we pray with people in third spaces?
Over the past four weeks we have shared with you some of the ‘why’ we do what we do at Third Space Ministries. Words and phrases like, ‘being intentionally present‘, or ‘chaplaincy‘ or ‘praying with people‘, slip out easily as we share our stories. We hope that it has been helpful for us to share the heart behind these phrases.
In third spaces, our aim is to be available to listen, love and care for the person in front of us, trusting God that He has caused our paths to cross. As we show up week after week, friendships develop and conversations deepen. With time we often sense the opportunity to ask, “Would you like me to pray for you?”
Increasingly, we live in a culture where prayer is viewed as a private spiritual practice and it can feel awkward and unfamiliar to bring it up in a busy social setting like a gym or club. If we are unsure about a person’s beliefs or world view we can be nervous about offending them. We can worry about saying the right words, or what we will do if God doesn’t answer as requested.
Over the years, we have prayed with thousands of people in all types of third spaces – and very few of those people would consider themselves to be Christians. We find that when you ask this question gently, and from a place of genuine care, the answer is nearly always an enthusiastic “Yes!”
So what happens when we pray with people?
We invite God’s love into the situation.
God is always there. He is in and through everything. It is we who tend to forget it. When we pray we remind people that God is close and that He cares for them and about the details of their lives. Often the atmosphere around us changes us and people say that they can feel His peace, presence and His love. We believe that each person we meet is a delight to God’s heart and as we share a few moments in prayer we see people begin to catch a revelation of that.
The Lord your God has arrived! He’s inside of you even now! What wealth and mighty power He brings you— giving you victory and saving you. He will take such delight in you that it will make Him leap for joy, twirl and spin, even shout with great gladness! You will be His feast of joyful pleasure! Yes, He will renew you with His love.
Zephaniah 3:17 The Passion Translation
It reminds us to be humble
There is great power in our listening, loving and serving. There are so many ways that our actions can be a comfort, help and signpost to people on their spiritual journey. But it is God’s unconditional love and immeasurable power that we want people to encounter. Jesus is the real centrepiece. When we pray, we remind ourselves that we are simply partners in a journey that God is steering in people lives.
It invites the miraculous to happen
But what if God doesn’t answer the prayer? Praying with people can feel like putting our faith on the line. It can feel daunting and risky. But God is not waiting for the perfect words or unshakeable faith. When we trust that he is moved by our prayers and expectant hearts, we open the door for Him to answer in miraculous ways. And then when He does, we can celebrate together. We have seen that God loves to demonstrate His nearness, His goodness and His readiness to show up even when we are worried that He won’t!
Carolyn tells the story of a person she prayed with at a gym. He had an injury and accepted the offer of prayer for healing gladly. At the end of the prayer his injury wasn’t any better! But he said that he felt such a wonderful sense of peace. Since that day, whenever he sees Carolyn, he jumps at the opportunity to receive prayer, closing his eyes and stretching out his hands without inhibition! He does not consider himself a religious person, but Carolyn offering prayer has opened up deeper conversations about faith and each time they pray, for God to reveal Himself through His presence.
We want to do it again! And again…
It really is such a joy to watch God show himself to people through answered prayer. To see Him show up in their circumstances and turn them around. To stand with people as they take steps towards Him and fall into His loving embrace. And as we watch we are encouraged and our faith is strengthened too. And so we want to do it again. And again!
Praying with people, even in the most unlikely of places, can become a wonderfully normal part of life. We hope you will try it too.
Written by Helen Da Costa