A couple of weeks ago, Steve K and I were praying on a bench just behind Shops at Don Mills. While Steve was praying, I noticed that a lady sat down on the bench right across from us. I thought, “She must see that we are praying. Our heads are bowed and she can certainly hear Steve. Should I talk to her? God, what do I do?” As soon as Steve was finished praying, I said, “It’s a beautiful day isn’t it.” She responded by telling us how encouraging it is to see people praying in public.
We had to slightly yell to communicate, so Steve and I ended up sitting on the bench with her (not too close though … it was not awkward .. the benches were quite large). With a smile she told us, “I’m a stanch Catholic.” She went on to tell us of some struggles her brother is having. At that time I was able to share what Julian had been preaching on in 1 Peter 1:6-7, that God gives us trials to for the testing of our faith.
She was thankful for what I shared and went on to speak about the goodness of God and our need to follow Him even when times are tough. It was a nice conversation, and it was quite tempting to NOT push to the Gospel, BUT, being compelled by God, I knew it would not please the Lord to let this opportunity pass … how often to we have people approach us in the midst of prayer?!
I asked her, “Do you think God will accept you because of your faith in the work of Christ alone OR because of your faith in Christ PLUS her efforts of following God?” She was quite sure that her works contributed to her reception of the forgiveness of sins. I asked her if I could show her a passage from the Bible that teaches that savlvation is by faith in the work of Christ alone. She consented. So I opened my Bible to Ephesians 2:8-9 and read it to her. She was silenced and seemed a little surprised. I went over it again, nice and slow.
However, somehow she was able to redirect the conversation. I forget how this happened but suddenly she asked me if she still needs to forgive a family member who has done many wicked things and remains unrepentant. I took her to Matthew 18:21-35 and read it to her. She seemed to want me to move on and just tell her my thoughts … but I persisted in reading Scripture – I figured, “you need the Word, not my opinions; I’m gonna give you the Word.” I emphasized that she must forgive as she’s been forgiven, that is, of course, if she believes she deserves hell and has received God’s unmerited grace. I re-read to her Mt 18:35 – “So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
I asked her if she had unforgiveness and bitterness in her heart (for by the way she talked, it seemed she may be struggling with it). She said, “No, I have forgiven him.” But then she asked me, “How can we know if we’ve forgiven someone?” I took her to Psalm 103 and read these words: “as for as the east is from the west so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” I told her, “when God forgives, he completely removes the sin. He forgets it and he does not hold it against us. He does not hold onto it. It is gone.” She persisted in saying that she had forgiven him, but we continued to chat about this. I forget the exact comment she made at the end, but she basically ended up saying something like, “Maybe I haven’t forgiven him as much as I originally thought.” Then she left.
Now that’s an accidental evangelistic prayer meeting. Be it Ephesians 2, Matthew 18 or Psalm 103, may the Lord use His Word and draw her to the Gospel of his grace.