Praying For You: A Workbook for Reaching Others Through Prayer
By Howard A. Tyron, Jr.
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
8.1 (Spring 1997) : 123-125
Tryon's book argues for neighborhood witness that asks non- Christians what they need prayer for, checks back with them often, and remains available to them with caring sensitivity. The writer, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary in 1985, has the back cover endorsement of former Dallas president Donald C. Campbell.
The author has tried his method extensively with fine success in leading people to Christ. He reasons that something is wrong with an evangelical process of witness that confronts the unsaved in a way that they interpret as hostile or a put-down, or feel uneasy about. It also causes those witnessing to see little positive response, makes them feel ill at ease and not useful, and discourages further effort. As an example, he cites an all-out blitz on a local area in personal presence or by phone that has stirred resentment and shown no continuing Christian follow-up that proves sincerity.
A catalyst for Tryon is 1 Tim 2:1-8 (10) which points to prayer. A Christian shows interest by offering to pray, then comes back and says, "I have been praying for your dad. How's he doing?" Tryon calls this "Praying For You Evangelism" (11). Only a few of hundreds refused an offer to pray. He feels his method is better than much witnessing that starts with an interest such as sports, cars, or gardening, and delays reference to spiritual things. The focus, too, is not on a reasoning technique that causes some Christians to go into a freeze of fear, but on prayer that any believer can implement with care.
Chapters 5-8 conclude by showing how to put Praying for You (PFY) into action. They give specific examples of what to say and focus on looking for areas of stress and crisis in the lives of the unsaved. This produces a sensitive approach that is helpful. Examples of these are marriage, a baby, and a new opportunity, such as a job promotion. Tryon emphasizes careful listening in order to spot concerns or problems. He advises praying every day for the people, keeping a prayer diary (72, 125- 28), going to the people for updates repeatedly, and looking for ways to show kindness, to talk about common interests, or to witness directly.
Chapter 6 offers strategy for introducing PFY into a local church by training leaders and developing prayer fellowships. Chapter 7 delves into practicing the method as a family and getting it into parachurch groups to promote witness there.
The book is stimulating in offering a plan to be used in love to establish rapport and win people. It is also helpful in pointing out problems with assumptions that discourage some Christians, such as advocating an approach that works for one but not for another or using a complicated, lengthy system of argumentation.
Other points of the book will sound arbitrary to some. One example is Tryon's criticism of Friendship Evangelism whenever the agenda is friendship only to get a decision, i.e., to "use" people (30). But this problem can also beset PFY if one's motive is askew; good or bad motives can accompany any method. He also reasons that PFY is caring, implying that other methods are not, but Friendship Evangelism or other kinds of witness can be caring too. He leaves the impression that PFY is open and above-board in getting right to a spiritual show of care, whereas some witness begins with a common topic such as gardening. But even PFY has an ultimate agenda, just as other methods do, and winsome witnesses often move quite quickly from sports to analogies in the spiritual realm and can be above board too. Tryon reasons that any Christian can pray, yet why cannot the same logic apply to using other methods of initial contact? Every believer ought to be obedient to tell what God has done for him, to explain the simple gospel, to find answers to most questions asked and get back to a person, and to seize occasions to show love.
Pros and cons considered, the book is a simple, readily usable stimulation for more faithful witness. Scholars, pastoral staff, and lay people alike can benefit from interacting with it.