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“Free Prayer”

“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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Marje Sullivan

Thank you for a wonderful ministry! Way to go, bringing the Church out to those in need!

Leslie Marshall

Love the sign. I love seeing people around town that are not ashamed of the gospel. It blesses me.

The other night, I was outside serving dinner to homeless, we made a circle to begin our prayer. John (lives in the shelter) crossed the parking lot walking swiftly toward us. We asked him, ‘would you like to pray with us?’ ‘Hell no.’ he answered, and didn’t break his stride.

It was actually pretty funny. I think he was just in a hurry.

MaryLou Rupp

I really like the idea. The sign is certainly a springboard for conversation and its inviting. I’m reminder that Martin Luther suggested if you sin, sin boldly.

Katrina Soto

I like this. It is high time we stop assessing our “success” by the number of people warming the pews.

Sandra Koenig

I love this idea. I can see it outdoors, near places where people congregate. There’s no need to be inside someone’s business. I’m a layperson, but I would love to organize a weekly prayer thing with different clergy persons in my city. Something to think about.

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