“Free Prayer”

Faith and Leadership has a new post by Lutheran Pastor Thomas Rusert recounting his experience of offering ‘Free Prayer” at local coffee shops.

That’s when I began wearing my clergy collar each Thursday and setting up at any one of my church’s dozen or so “satellite campuses” (i.e., the coffee shops where I typically run into several parishioners I’ve missed the previous Sunday morning). I bring with me a sign that says “Free Prayer,” with a quote at the bottom from Martin Luther: “Pray, and let God worry.”

And people stop to pray with me every time.

Like Ashes to Go, Rusert recounts encounters that can only be described as of the Spirit.

Death had hollowed out Amari’s spirit, and he had spoken about it to no one. “Then I read those words, ‘Free Prayer,’” he said, “and I couldn’t keep it in anymore.” It seemed that God had enacted a little apocalypse, an awakening, in Amari’s soul. And all I’d had to do at first was sit there.

Rusert admits that his Thursday prayer offerings in the community haven’t yet translated into new people on Sunday mornings.  Yet he also sees this as important for both the church’s mission and his own vocation.

God has been up to a lot in my life through this Free Prayer ministry. While it has done admittedly little to expand the ranks of my congregation, it has done much to expand my vocation to include the ranks upon ranks of God’s people I have never met who are searching for answers, waiting for comfort and willing to pray.

Though Rusert is Lutheran, his free prayer ministry beckons to a very Anglican understanding of the parish being a geographically defined place and not just members of a congregation.  Amid the competing demands of parish life, where does such ministry fit in?  How important is it relative to other ministries and activities?  Are there cultural factors at play here – how might this practice be adapted to different contexts?  Tell us what you think.


image from Thomas Rusert

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