We try to understand it. Control it. "Do it right."
We analyze it. Read books about it. But still feel inadequate in it.
We hear other people's stories. We read God's promises. In fact, we could teach a Bible class on it.
We pray regularly in church and in our private devotions.
But ask most of us to pray out loud for someone and we still feel like rookies... searching for the right words, afraid we will sound dumb... thankful when we get to "Amen."
So it is likely that even the idea of "ministering through prayer" would strike some fear in you.
When I ask groups I am training how many of them look for opportunities to pray with people during the course of their days, the number is often zero.
I get pointed looks from the group that when translated into the vernacular mean, "Are you crazy??"
But there are two things that can make the practice of praying with people not only normal for you but a way by which the Kingdom of God is routinely brought into play in the lives of the people you are with. (And not because you suddenly become an extroverted religious zealot.)
1) The first thing is to actually listen to what Jesus tells us about praying for people.
Turns out Jesus says less about "how to get it right" than He does about "just doing it."
Prayer is not to be controlled or "gotten right". Prayer is to be unleashed. It is not our words or our eloquence (or lack thereof) that gets put into play when we pray. It is the Kingdom of God. It is not our prayers that are powerful and effective but our King. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), He didn't go into all kinds of theology. He said that in order to learn how to pray start to pray. Keep it simple. Focus on the Father. Ask for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done right here where we are standing as it is done in Heaven. Just straight-out ask Him. He also says the more we ask, seek and knock the more we will receive, find and have the door opened (Matthew 7:7). "Freely you have received [of the Kingdom] freely give [of the Kingdom]," Matthew 10:8.
I personally see more remarkable answers to my prayers not because I pray so well but because I pray so often. I don't pray for people on rare occasions, I pray as soon as they ask me to (more on that next). Because I pray for more people I see the Kingdom more often. Just like Jesus said I would.
2) Listen for when people actually ask you to pray for them.
That sounds preposterous, doesn't it? Do people ever ask you to pray for them (besides church people or your family)?
People are asking you to pray for them all the time. They just don't know it and neither do you.
However, as we begin to more routinely put the 5 Practices into play in our daily lives, we will find ourselves having deeper conversations with people. That's what happens when you start noticing people and having time for them. They talk with you about what's weighing on their lives. They need someone to talk to. The Lord brought them you.
When they have shared something real, something heavy going on in their lives, that is when they are essentially asking, "Will you pray for me?" They certainly aren't using those exact words. They have no idea that's even a possibility it is so out of the ordinary. But the fact is, when they share what's going on in their lives, they are wishing there could be some hope. They are wishing there could be some good news. They just don't know where to go. They have no idea you are a person of God and a person of prayer standing right in front of them.
But God does and so do you.
So, the next time that happens, and you have just listened to someone tell you something real and heavy, instead of saying something like, "Wow. Good luck with that," try saying, "Wow... that's a lot to carry. Would you mind if I prayed with you?"
I know you are looking at me with that, "Are you crazy??" look. But that's only because you haven't tried it yet.
Wait for their invitation: their invitation for hope; their invitation for good news. Wait for that moment when you either say, "Good luck," or, "Would you like me to pray with you about that?"
And choose prayer.
It's not about getting your words right, it's about inviting your King in.