Tips for starting Free Prayer

A sign saying "FREE PRAYER" and "'Pray, and let God worry - Martin Luther'" on a table in a coffee shop

Photo courtesy of Thomas Rusert

A pastor who started a Free Prayer ministry in local coffee shops offers advice about beginning one in your community.

Interested in beginning your own Free Prayer ministry? Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Appearance matters. The first time I offered free prayer I was wearing a shirt and tie, sitting in a lonely booth in Panera. Nobody stopped. I realized that I probably looked a little questionable. I wouldn’t send my daughter to approach just any white-bearded man with her Christmas list; he’s got to have the red suit. Clothes matter. This is where the white collar and black shirt that my tradition never ditched really comes in handy. Every time since then, I have worn my clergy collar, and every time since then, someone has stopped to talk or to ask for prayer. Consider whether your appearance is sending a clear, inviting message.

2. Create the right sign. My sign is made up of two words that can be seen from across a coffee shop: “Free Prayer.” Underneath, in smaller print, is the Luther quote, which adds some commentary to what kind of prayer I might be offering: Not the proselytizing kind. Not the judging kind. Not the charismatic kind. The comforting and inviting kind -- “Pray, and let God worry.”

3. Make use of social media. Every time I set up for free prayer, I take a picture and post it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #freeprayer. Digital prayer requests often pour in. Friends and parishioners share or like the posts. And some folks will ask when I’ll be out next, because they would like to meet.

4. The first time is the hardest. I recall how nervous and awkward I felt when I first set up my sign. Let’s face it: it’s kind of weird. But it is worth it. People will look at you and smile. People will tell you that they are Christian, too, and have said their prayers already that morning. People will say it’s a great idea. And someone will stop and ask for prayer, making it instantly worth those fleeting moments of awkwardness. And no, I have never been yelled at or asked to leave. Both a store owner and a store manager have come and asked for prayer themselves.

5. Let me know if you’d like a sign! As coffee shops pop up and churches close down around the country, I think much could be changed if spiritual leaders could be found in every town offering free prayer. I can only imagine what God could do with hundreds or thousands of these signs. To that end, the stellar crafter at my church who made the sign for me has offered to make more. We’re hoping the idea (and therefore the prayer) will spread. We’d love to send you a sign, get connected with you and support one another in offering free prayer. Contact me at trusert@doylestownlutheran.org.