Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find’. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding ball was filled with guests (Matthew 22:8-10).
A handful of yellow-shirted Bethlehem Bible Church folks scatter weekly along Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, between 5th and 6th Streets asking lunch-hour passers-by, ‘Can we pray for you?’
As people hear this question some reply with a smile and a polite, ‘No thanks’. Others, tight-lipped, keep walking. Some turn and sneer. A few, however, stop and ask, ‘Did you say pray?’
Our ‘Prayer Place’ volunteers recognise that the Lord may use this simple question to initiate Christ-centred conversations as they seek to bring the good news of God’s all-satisfying supremacy to the lost.
They pray that God, in his mercy and by his grace, would reveal his glory by meeting the expressed needs of the people on our streets — and ultimately meet their eternal need for salvation.
Take Mike, as an example. He was dressed in black from head to toe, with shoulder length hair. When asked if we could pray for him, his response was a terse, ‘Pray for my soul’. As the Bethlehem team member began to pray, there and then, Mike’s hardened exterior softened and he walked away paging through a Bible-saturated tract.
Or Susan, a thin redhead of 40-something who, when approached, allowed a faithful Prayer Place team member to pray. Her eyes quickly filled with tears. She was open to hearing more of Christ and was eager to take some of the material we give away.
What else have we learned on the street this summer? Firstly, that God hears and answers the prayer of faith when we pray in Jesus’ name: ‘whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it’ (John 14:12-14). We prayed with a mother and son, asking God to supply a job for the boy. Within a week we received a phone call from the mother saying, ‘My son got a job!’
Secondly, we learned that people are desperate apart from Christ — and many know it. ‘Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord’ (Psalm 32:10). Drug abusers, alcoholics and the homeless know their soul-deep desperation and are receptive to prayer and gospel hope.
Thirdly, when we pray with people in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is manifestly present. ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8).
A young, post-modern couple who knew nothing of Jesus paused for prayer. As the volunteer focused prayer on their expressed needs, the Lord began to move in their hearts. Tears began to flow and their faces lit up. They were open to further conversation about the gospel.
Fourthly, persecution is to be expected. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:6). Sneers, cursing and open hostility from some made us realise that whitened harvest fields are also spiritual battlegrounds.
Fifthly, in his kindness, God’s salvation is free to all who repent and believe, but the impenitent are storing up wrath. ‘Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed’ (Romans 2:4-5).
Our response to Christ’s Great Commission is to go and declare the good news that salvation is ‘without money and without price’ to all who will repent and believe. Would you consider doing the same?
No training is necessary — just an authentic love for Christ and a willingness to step out in faith. Pray that the wedding hall of heaven will be filled with many guests — from Hennepin Avenue or anywhere else.