Practice Runs

May 2, 2015

by Maria Fontaine

We know why prayer is important and how God uses it in our lives. We don’t understand everything about it and we don’t often know why some prayers are answered and others don’t appear to be, but we’ve prayed enough in our lives to see God’s intervention, His protection and supply, and His care for us in many little and big things. Communicating the importance of prayer and its many benefits can be an integral part of our witness. Recently, one of the ways I've focused on my witness is by practicing various ways to explain prayer to someone.

One popular technique that speakers use to help them practice what they want to say is to imagine the scenario and to do what might be called a dry run or a dress rehearsal. It’s an effective tool that you might want to try in order to help you feel more confident in your witnessing. These speakers deliver their message standing in front of a mirror, or possibly videoing it or simply making an audio recording of it. Sometimes they do it without any props, just rehearsing it in their minds.

When I want to communicate with someone who I’m going to offer to pray for, I may need to explain about prayer in a concise way. Since it would be part of a conversation, I have to imagine what the person is going to say and what will be my response. It’s a bit like “studying to show yourself approved” and “being ready to always give an answer to everyone who asks you.”1

The point isn’t to mechanically memorize specific lines. It’s to get a feel for how you might express things in different ways, depending on the situation and the person you’re speaking with. This “dress rehearsal” helps to formulate the overall concept in a clear way and in general terms that will communicate a lot more smoothly and spontaneously.

Here’s an example: I decided to try the approach of rehearsing it in my mind without any props. I pictured a scenario involving someone I have known for a fairly short time. This man seems to be somewhat alternative or new age in his thinking. From some things he’s said, he appears to embrace some Eastern ideologies.

I have only short periods of time when I have a chance to say anything to him, but during that time I want to do my best to lift his spirit, as well as get a small witness in. One area that people are often interested in is the topic of prayer.

Sometimes, in our desire to not come across too strongly, we don’t say enough. However, in many cases people want to hear more than you might expect. You want to be as positive and well accepted as possible, but you can’t be so concerned about that, that you don’t follow the Lord’s Spirit and give the message that He intends for you to give.

In this scenario that I was rehearsing in my mind, I wanted to work on my tendency to proceed a little too cautiously. I needed to be a little more direct and clear and take the initiative to open doors, rather than waiting for others to indicate that they have questions.

For example, when all you tell someone is, “I’ll pray for you,” without any further explanation, they may be left hanging, wishing you would complete the thought and answer their unasked questions. What unasked questions are they likely to have?

“Who do you pray to?” or, “How does prayer make a difference?” or, “What is your prayer going to do for me?”

If I can communicate answers to these questions in a brief way, this may help them to recognize the Lord’s hand in their life and to be more open to His truth and Spirit. At the least it will give them good food for thought.

I want to be sure that what I’m saying is simple and clear so they will interpret it as I mean it.

I might begin it something like this:

“I’d like to pray for you because the One I communicate with through prayer—Jesus—has unlimited power and unconditional love for you. I believe He will answer in a way that will speak to you personally. I know Him and love Him and have a personal relationship with Him. He hears my prayers and helps me. I know that He loves you and wants to help you, too!”

It’s important to be open to the Lord’s Spirit and be sensing whether they want to ask you further questions, which they will often do if you show that you’re willing and able to offer answers.

In my scenario they would ask questions like, “How does this prayer thing work?” or, “Do I have to believe in the one you pray to before your prayer has any effect on me?”

My response would be:

“Since I’m the one offering to pray for you, Jesus will answer my prayer. He wants you to realize that He’s real, and that He can be there to hear and respond to your prayers too.

“Sometimes the answers to prayer are immediate and visible, but sometimes the changes that take place are behind the scenes and only become evident after some time. Regardless of when they appear, they may not come in the way we expect. He may not fix a problem, but may instill a greater peace and inner strength in you that brings you through the difficulty wiser or stronger.

“Or He might dispel the fear and worry so that you can turn the trouble into something positive that can help you and others. I can’t predict exactly how He’ll answer, but I know He will. Neither do I expect just a one-time answer, but I anticipate that He will continue to work on your behalf—all the way to heaven and beyond.

“Jesus likes it when we honor Him by asking Him in prayer for help. Our humility in seeking His help draws Him to our aid.”

I can imagine them responding with:

“But why would Jesus want to answer prayers for me? I don’t even know Him. I haven’t done anything for Him.”

I’d probably answer:

“Anyone can come to Jesus who needs His help. He wants to show His compassion to anyone who puts himself in a position to humbly receive from Him. He promises that whoever comes to Him, He will not cast out.2 When you pray to Jesus, it opens up a channel for Him to work more directly on your behalf. Just tell Him that you don’t understand why He would bother to help you when you haven’t been His follower, but you’ve been told that He will and you really need His help.

“It’s always worthwhile to open yourself up to God’s love through the act of prayer, which is simple and uncomplicated. Just speak to Him as you would with your closest friend and confidant. He understands you better than anyone else and loves you as you are. You can always be sure He’ll pay close attention to whatever you say, and will lovingly guide you and lead you to the best solutions.”

I’ve found that practicing with this simple technique helps me feel more confident and allows me to focus on the person’s need instead of being concerned about formulating my thoughts. Like the singer, Jenny Lind, whose singing instructor told her to do her practicing from her head at home, but when she got on stage, to sing from her heart. May we “sing” His praises and truth to others from a full and trusting heart in just the way He wants us to.

1 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Peter 3:15.

2 John 6:37.