Everyone wants prayer, even if they aren’t aware of it. My church has held a free prayer booth at the fair the last several years as a local mission trip. This year our booth was relocated from the entrance to the center of the park. While before we thought of ourselves as the welcome committee, now we had to be much more direct. Several of us stood out front with offers of “Free Prayer.”
While some people walked by, it astounded me how many responded to our call. From the woman asking prayer for her daughter to remain sober, to the man who casually asked us to pray for his wife as he continued past the booth, to the people who barely spoke English, but wanted prayer, we prayed with them all.
We all have things that trouble our hearts and pain that seems inescapable. Deep down we know that since we can’t fix it ourselves, there has to be someone who can heal us. The answer to our longing is Christ. He is the Great Physician, able to mend all our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual brokenness.
Weeks later, I still remember one woman in particular. She’d given me a sideways glare when I’d asked if she wanted prayer and kept walking. We’d had worse responses, so I wasn’t fazed. A man returned with his friend who knew someone struggling with sickness. She began asking me to pray for her friend’s health and for personal peace about her friend’s situation. Then the lady who’d stared at me reappeared.
“I’m an atheist, and I need to hug you,” she said. She proceeded to embrace as if I was her long-lost friend. I hugged her and prayed as she lingered. When she pulled back, she said, “You and I are different. We come from opposite sides, but I needed to hug you.” I stared into her eyes and saw turmoil storming inside. No one wakes up one morning and decides to become an atheist. Often times they’ve been hurt by someone in the church or had a time when life’s circumstances were so crushing that they couldn’t conceive of God’s existence.
My heart went out to this woman. I figured I was a stand in for someone she wanted to hug. I remembered John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I felt like the body of Christ, holding someone to display His love for her. She began to leave. After a short internal struggle, I shouted “God bless you.” I decided that even if she didn’t believe in God, He knew her and wanted to bless her. I prayed that strongholds would break inside her and that the Lord would begin to heal her hurts and reintroduce Himself as the lover of her soul.
I turned back to the other lady whose prayer had been interrupted and prayed for her friend’s illness and for her to be supportive. Prayer flowed through me for the rest of the day. My two-hour shift extended to five and a half hours as I couldn’t tear myself away.
God showed me before I left that I could pray both for those who asked for prayer and for those who didn’t. They needed prayer just as much and maybe more. I prayed for Holy Spirit eyes to see people the way He did and reach through their hurt with the hope of Christ. God would point out someone with colored hair or a bright shirt to catch my eye, and I’d pray for that person. God knew their needs, even if I didn’t.
The next week, I realized I needed to make every day a local mission trip instead of just a Saturday at the fair. People needed prayer daily. I can prayer walk at the grocery store or in my workplace. God knows how to apply my prayers. This is what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV). Prayer needs to become my lifestyle. When I am in tune with the Holy Spirit, He can accomplish great things through my prayers. I have to focus on the eternal instead of the hectic craze of my day. This transforms the mundane into the extraordinary as God provides divine appointments where He lets us be His hands and feet. I pray God syncs my heart with the Spirit so I extend the gift of free prayer everywhere I go.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.