Knowing how to pray for your neighbor or how to talk about faith with your friends who don’t follow Jesus can be challenging and even scary sometimes. Yet, just as you have experienced God’s grace and transforming love in your life, God’s deepest desire is that your neighbors and friends would experience that too. You’re the person who can help them experience that. Amanda and Nathan Flickner, FCC Outreach Partners, share their story below of how they engage their community in Los Angeles.
A couple slides into the chairs next to us as we savor the final licks of our ice cream on a hot Los Angeles afternoon. “It’s my birthday!” the lady exclaims, as she gestures to the generous assortment of ice cream she is about to indulge in. “I know this might sound strange,” we begin after engaging in some small talk, “but we’re learning about speaking blessings and we’re wondering if we could bless you for your birthday?” She graciously accepts the offer.
“I bless you Hannah* in the name of Jesus to experience His delight in you today.” Only a few words into the blessing her eyes fill with tears. “May you know He made you wonderfully. May this next year of your life be one of the best yet.” We exchange hugs as we depart shortly after, grateful to partner with Jesus in showing His love to this couple.
About a year ago, we were first introduced to the privilege of partnering with Jesus in blessing and seeing His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we heard testimonies from a tiny corner of the world (Ffald y Brenin), our InnerCHANGE Los Angeles team was encouraged to put what we were learning into practice. This skill can be practical for anyone anywhere who wants to help their community encounter the goodness of God.
Here is one strategic approach we have used to bless people who are far from the Lord and to posture our hearts to be available for Jesus to use us in these relationships:
Pick Five: We pray and ask Jesus for the names of five people we know who are far from God and write down the ones He brings to mind.
Get Set-Up: We set aside five minutes total (one minute per person), five days per week to bless those on our list. We have found it helpful to have a system, such as an app (like the InnerRoom app), attaching blessing to a habit we already have, or writing down the blessing we will use.
Bless: We have learned that blessing is different from prayer. Blessing is not speaking to God about a person, but using the authority He has given us as His children to speak out the good things He has for that person in Jesus’ name. The Bible is full of blessings and Numbers 6:24-26 is a great example! Romans 2:4 explains, “His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin (NLT).” As people experience the goodness of God in their lives, their hearts open to receive Him. Here is an example of a blessing for someone not yet in a relationship with Jesus that we have used: “I bless you in the name of Jesus, that God may reveal to you everything you need to know to be fully who you were made to be, so that the fullness of life might be released to you (The Way of Blessing, by Roy Godwin).” As we get to know more about the individuals who are on our list, we can bless them more specifically.
Engage: When we begin to sincerely and consistently practice blessing, the Holy Spirit may open doors, so we can be open to how He might be leading us to:
Offer a hand or a word of encouragement
Ask if we can pray for or bless in person (for instance, if they share about a health problem, a bad day, their work, or kids)
Share a Bible story connected to what they are going through: “That reminds me of an inspiring story I’ve heard. Would you like to hear it?”
Mention a way we have noticed God moving in our own life recently
Invite our friends to read the Bible, particularly if they seem open to any of the types of interactions listed above. Here is a great resource about a model of Bible study designed for those who are just learning about Jesus).
Reflect: After five weeks of praying, we reflect back on what God has done. We celebrate the ways big and small that we have seen the Spirit move in response to the blessings and pray for continued strength as we seek God’s Kingdom in our community. We prayerfully ask the Lord for our next set of five people, perhaps continuing to pray for those in whom we’ve seen some movement or increased openness in.
We recently felt led to begin blessing a family in our apartment building using this model. Amanda blessed Dora* and Nathan blessed her husband Jorge*. We knew finances were tight for this family and Jorge felt the pressure of putting food on the table for half a dozen people every day. One of the ways Nathan blessed Jorge was: “I bless you in Jesus’ name to be secure in your work, that your hard work will be noticed, and that you might be promoted.” Within a month of blessing him this way, we found out he had a new job and we rejoiced to see the whole family carrying food in bulk into their apartment. The family is currently more open to Jesus and to relationship with us than ever, with the kids coming over to read the Bible with us and Amanda having the opportunity to do some intensive prayer with Dora. We are so excited by how Jesus is moving and can’t wait to see what He does next!
If you’d like to learn more about using blessing as a way of life, check out this blog post, which includes a printable guide to blessing and an exciting video testimony.
Amanda and Nathan Flickner
InnerCHANGE Los Angeles
*Names have been changed to respect the privacy of our friends.