This week on God52, the challenge is to offer to pray for someone who isn’t a Christian. In today’s guest blog, youth worker Russ Wood wonders about the ethics involved…
When I first read this week’s challenge, my thoughts were immediately directed towards the young people I work with. To explain my context, I’m a Christian youth worker who works for a Christian organisation. However, we don’t preach at our young people. We work to serve them with whatever their needs are, with an aim to make them more employable. Despite our lack of organised preaching, we find ourselves talking to them about Jesus a lot of the time. They’d never go near a church; but they’re really interested in this ‘Jesus guy’. I hope I don’t sound proud when I say that it’s a privilege to be a part of it.
So when thinking about praying for people who aren’t Christians, I think of them. And with me being a relatively-inexperienced youth worker, I struggle with this question: Is it right for a youth worker to pray for young people who wouldn’t expect, never mind ask for, prayer?
The Christian in me says, Why is that even a real question? It’s a no-brainer! Everyone needs prayer! Go for it! Pray for EVERYONE: men, women, teenagers, children, dogs, cats, hamsters, cactus plants! If it’s got a pulse, it needs prayer! OK, I took that a bit far, but you get my point!
On the other hand, the youth worker in me asks: is it appropriate to pray for young people in your care? Does it blur or even violate boundaries? Am I risking my relationship with this young person by initiating my own agenda when they haven’t asked to be prayed for?
The Christian youth worker in me takes these two, mushes them together and creates a pulp that says, why does the prayer have to be such a big deal that it’s seen as risky? Prayer doesn’t have to be filled with long words and tiring clichés. Why can’t the prayer just be really simple?
The answer is of course that it can. I’m a big believer in simple prayer being as powerful as complicated prayer. If it wasn’t, then the prayers of children, young people, new believers, and the majority of Jesus’ ministry were barely effective at all – and I’m not convinced this is true.
If you’re anxious about praying for the person God gives you an opportunity with, then try this: Dear God. Thank you that you are in charge. Please help ____ with [insert situation]. Amen.
Nothing weird, nothing scary, but just as powerful. If the situation works out well, then they might see the link and attribute it to God’s intervention. It might even change their life forever. Now that’s worth a little step of faith to ask, Can I pray for you?
Russ Wood is a youth worker at Perth YMCA and also studies Youth & Community Work with Applied Theology at the International Christian College in Glasgow. He blogs at russellwood265.wordpress.com, tweets @MrRussWood, and puts photographs onto russview.wordpress.com.