People-watching is a thing, defined by Google as “the action or practice of spending time idly observing people in a public place.” And you can even get good at it. Practicing good observation skills, you may be able to deduce certain things about a person’s life, likes and dislikes, culture, passions, situation, emotional state, self-esteem and priorities, just by watching. Sherlock Holmes could take someone apart by looking, and I’ve embedded a fun clip at the end for you to see him do just that. The challenge is to take a little of what he’s doing, and use it to pray.
Welcome to day 12 of our Pray-May Challenge. Today we will take the art of people watching and morph it into a new practice: Prayer Watching.
Prayer Watching takes the observational skills of people watching, and with an attentiveness to the Holy Spirit’s voice, uses what we see to shape our prayers for someone else, someone we don’t even know.
Here’s the challenge: go somewhere that others are present, even for a few minutes. Rest on a bench near a park, enjoy a coffee at a local shop, or sit among a crowd at a sports game.
And then just watch. Do it unobtrusively–no one should wonder what you are up to (this should not be creepy!). Simply observe others around you, and try to imagine what is going on in their lives.
Watch for body language, for facial expressions, for signs of who they are. See them interact with their kids–are there signs of frustration, joy, worry, stress? Are they alone? Walking fast, or loitering with no purpose? What can you tell about their passions and interests Is there anything that you notice as you watch?
And then, ask the Holy Spirit to show you who you should pray for, and how you can pray for them. Be open to what he says to you. You may be surprised at a thought which pops into your head, or an image that you see–pray into that as it may be the Holy Spirit praying through you.
Based upon what you see and what you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit, pray for the person or people you’ve been watching. You may pray, for example, that God would grow joy and patience in that stressed-out dad, or that he might grant peace to that woman who seems to be struggling with mental illness. Or, you may only offer a brief prayer, asking that they experience God’s grace and peace. You may even use one of Paul’s prayers, as we practiced back in Day 2, that they may know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” for them.
The point? Watch people, and then pray for them.
This is a practice that can be used at various times throughout our lives–whenever we find ourselves waiting somewhere for a ride, or even sitting quietly amongst a larger group. We can watch people, and instead of simply observing (or worse, judging them negatively), we can pray for them.
That’s our challenge for today. Let’s see the people around us–people God loves–and pray for them.
My prayer for you today: Father, would you enable us to see others as you do, so that we might pray with your heart for them? Help us to see the hurts and the joys, the passions and the challenges, so that we might silently and anonymously intercede on behalf of others. Take this simple practice and use it to grow our heart for others, and see your kingdom come and will be done in them. Amen.
Share how it goes for you! I’d love to hear. Comment below.
And, as a little bonus, enjoy this clip from Sherlock Holmes. Amazing observations, with little tact. Can we take the skills and apply them more helpfully to prayer? Yes, I think we can!