The small group my husband and I led shared prayer needs at the end of each meeting. Jeff or I usually asked if one or two people wanted to pray for the prayer requests. Tony and Brooke, a young married couple, had been in our group for a few short months. Brooke had come to Christ a few years earlier, but Tony had only been a Christ follower for a short period of time. He was a friendly guy but was very quiet, and I was sensitive to the fact that the entire church scene was a completely new experience for him.
I wanted him to feel comfortable in our small group, and, for this reason, I had never called on him to pray. When he volunteered one evening, I was surprised and delighted. There was a large pause and then he dove in: "Uh, Dear God, uh, thank you for being with us today and, and, be with …"He paused and then started again. "Dear Lord … " He said, and then broke off again with a heavy sigh. I waited patiently, reluctant to assist him. I did not want him feel as if he was not doing a good job. I sat quietly hoping he might find the words. After these few false starts, he said in a slightly panicked voice, "I need a little help here."
Delighted by his child-like honesty, I squelched a chuckle. "You're doing great," I said, and several other group members affirmed him as well. Then I helped him finish his prayer. After we concluded, I praised him again. "Thanks for volunteering to do that. You did a great job. It's really scary at first, but you'll get better with practice. The important thing is to remember that you are just talking to God like you would to anyone else."
The experience with Tony taught me a lesson in discipling. Sometimes people remain on the sidelines because it is intimidating when others ...