What should I do if prompted to pray for a stranger?

Chris —  August 7, 2012

If you sensed the Holy Spirit prompting you to pray for a stranger, what should you do?

I caught a short question and answer recently on a Christian television show – – – and I don’t even know the name of the show – – – The host was answering viewer mail and one of the questions was, “What should I do if prompted to pray for a stranger?”

The host emphatically answered that you should go ahead and make supplication.

So far, so good. I agreed completely. If prompted to pray for a stranger, then by all means, do it. Seriously.

But the television host went on to explain that he thought you should approach the stranger and ask permission to pray. So the scene might be one of walking up to someone in a Hy-Vee grocery story (“where there’s a helpful smile, in every aisle”) to say, “The Lord just prompted me to pray for you and I wondered if that would be okay?”

The host stressed that he has never had someone reject such a request, implying that he has, on numerous occasions, approached a stranger and said, “God just put it on my hear to pray for you . . .”


We  ought to break this down into two questions.

  1. If I feel prompted to pray for a stranger, should I do so?
  2. If I feel prompted to pray for a stranger, should I approach him or her and ask permission to have a word of prayer?

As I have posted in the past, I am a firm believer in secret prayers. Not only do I think there is a place to pray for strangers, but I have done so on numerous occasions. I have a small dream that when I get to the other side, I’ll be able to read the files on how secret prayers have been answered. But I don’t have a biblical defense of my hope. I just think it would be kind of cool. But heaven will be wonderful either way.

Anyway, if we really believe in the power of prayer, is it necessary to tell the person we are praying for him or her? Wouldn’t it be better to just pray?

And how wise is it to approach a stranger and offer prayer?

Thoughts? Under what circumstances?

Maybe there is a third question, “Should I expect the Holy Spirit to prompt me to approach strangers and ask permission to pray for them?”

See also:

The Value of a Place to Pray



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7 responses to What should I do if prompted to pray for a stranger?

  1. Yesterday I was at the grocery story and there was a woman getting medication for her sick son. The poor kid was really sick and I felt so bad for her and the little boy who was around two or three years old. She also had a baby in a car seat in her grocery cart and some assorted other items. I just immediately felt the need to pray for her so I did silently. I did not say anything to her. I love praying for people without them knowing about it. I hope others would do the same for me. I know Jesus talks about going into our room and closing the door to pray and I agree. Prayer is special and should be treated that way.

  2. It’s hard to imagine that there could be anything fruitless, much less wrong, in praying for anyone, or any circumstance, if that prayer is offered to God in holy reverence for the ultimate glory of His name. Approaching a stranger to ask permission? That seems odd. If you’re looking for an opening to witness I would think there could be better ways, but I suppose it would depend on the situation.

    On another note, because we live in such a pluralistic society, one with a facade of spirituality, but that abhors the singular claim of Christianity, I think we should make an effort in our public discourse to speak of the power of God not the power of prayer. Specifically, the power of God through the name of Jesus as unleashed in the prayer of the righteous. Again, context of the discussion is crucial. With a stranger deliberately connecting your prayer to Jesus is essential. Everybody believes in the “power of prayer”.

  3. Maybe a better goal would be to follow up your secret prayer with a small gesture of kindness. Ask how their day is going. Lift something heavy for an elderly person. Get the door. Smile. Play peek-a-boo with their baby in a grocery line (I always look for a spot in a lane behind a baby so I can do this… helps the mom and puts a smile on my face!) Then, if the situation seems to lend itself, maybe upon parting, you might say something about your secret prayer to encourage them.

    I fear if I did it the other way it might be more about me than them, which defeats the purpose.

  4. I agree with what you’re saying, but secretly praying seems like a cowardly way to fulfil what God is prompting you to do. Unless you actually approach the stranger and pray for them, they won’t know their, (i.e) healing, is a work from God. This will mean the whole opportunity of conversion is missed out and it doesn’t bring them closer to God in any way.

    I do encourage secret prayers for people not strongly prompted, as there’s no harm in blessing people!

  5. I like to ask “is there anything I can pray for, for you?” That way they know they are being prayed for, they know you care, and they know God cares! It’s not asking for permission- it’s telling them, I am praying for you, and asking if there is anything in particular they want us to pray about. 🙂

  6. I like your point John about a person not knowing that God has healed them and that they won’t be converted to the Lord. I on the other hand think that we should let people know we are praying for them because you might find that a person has been struggling to pray effectively in their life so they might ask how your prayer helped them and why they were unable to pray for themselves (in case the stranger is a christian too). And that would be an opportunity to witness about how walking faithfully and unwavering faith can help a christian. The secret to powerful prayers is being obedient to God all the time.

  7. Thanks Jacqueline.