How to Help Others with a 10-Second Prayer

You’ll be surprised at how often people welcome a short, purposeful prayer—even in public.

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Posted in , May 8, 2022

Two people praying

Years ago, my friend Steve introduced me to the practice of offering 10-second prayers. A pastor who had built numerous churches by focusing on outreach, Steve discovered that asking someone—especially a stranger—“may I pray with you?” almost always resulted in a “no, thank you.” But when he offered to pray a 10-second prayer, a “yes” was much more common. The promise of a brief prayer seemed to disarm people and assuage their fears that the prayer might put them in an awkward situation. 

Encouraged by Steve’s example, I tried it. It worked. I can’t boast a 100% success rate, but I did discover that people welcomed and appreciated a short, purposeful prayer, even in public settings.

On one occasion, my church was presenting a concert in a public park, and people stopped to watch and listen. I saw a woman standing alone by a nearby lamppost, tears streaming down her face. I approached and asked if there was anything I could help with. She shook her head and started to turn away. I asked if she’d like me to pray a 10-second prayer for her. 

“What’s that?” she asked.

“It’s just a short prayer for God to bless you.”

She nodded and started to tell me more about her situation, as if I would need to know of her health struggles and financial needs in order to pray. I listened, and then asked her if she’d be more comfortable if we kept our eyes open while I prayed. She nodded. I said something like, “God, You heard everything she just told me. I know You love her. Please help her and bless her, amen.”

I don’t know that I ever saw her after that day. I don’t think she ever came to my church. But I believe that our 10-second prayer together had some effect. Maybe it lightened her load that day. Maybe it brought a ray of hope. Maybe that short prayer was answered in amazing ways.

I’ve prayed more 10-second prayers since then. With a pair of female hikers who’d lost their way on the trail. With a recovering addict who’d invited his girlfriend to church and was hoping she’d show up. With an aspiring writer who was feeling overwhelmed and insecure at a conference.

Over the years I’ve often been surprised at how readily people agree to them—and how even people with no religious affiliation (or even interest) say yes. I think the offer has been accepted more often than not. And even when my offer is declined, the other person usually seems appreciative.

Why not try it yourself? If you see someone who’s hurting or seems lonely, offer them a 10-second prayer. If someone shares a tale of woe, ask if they’d like you to pray a 10-second prayer. If that person is a stranger, say something like, “I know you don’t know me, but may I pray a 10-second prayer for you?” If they agree, of course, stick to your promise and keep the prayer short. And, as you part, you might also pledge to keep praying, silently, as you go on your way. I hope your 10-second prayers will open many doors—and hearts.

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