Joshua shares the importance of prayer and living a happy, joyful life as one of the best ways to evangelize your loved ones. He shares his personal experience on how prayer is a powerful tool to bring others closer to Jesus Christ.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”1 Cor. 2:4-5
- It is only through the Holy Spirit that anyone can truly come to conversion. This is one of the reasons that arguing with someone about doctrines or dogmas of the Faith rarely yield much fruit. Have you ever found yourself arguing about the Faith with someone? What kind of fruit did it yield?
- We should always remember when trying to preach the Good News to actually talk about the good news, rather than merely focusing on sin or suffering. What are some good things God has done in your life that you could share with others?
- We’re often called to preach the Gospel using our words, but one of the best starting points for leading others to conversion can be to show them through our example that the Christian life is one of joy. What are some ways that you can be a good example of Christian joy to others in your life?
- God is capable of saving people on behalf of those who bring them to Him, as He did in the Gospel when the paralytic’s friends brought the paralytic to Jesus. Who in your life do you want to bring to God to be converted?
Text: Witnessing to Our Loved Ones Who Have Left the Church
Hi, and welcome back. My name is Joshua Mazrin, and for this talk we’re going to be talking about witnessing to loved ones, especially those that are in our family, or our friends that are outside the faith. Let’s begin in prayer.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Heavenly Father, we thank You and we praise You in the name of Jesus, and we ask in a special way that You pour forth Your grace and anointing upon us. The anointing that anoints Your Son, Jesus; the anointing that allowed Him to do His ministry; the anointing that filled Him with the power of God to go out and proclaim the good news, to do miracles, and to bring healing; that same anointing mentioned in Isaiah 61, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me. Mother Mary, we ask that you would teach us how to do this. That you would teach us to be true disciples of Jesus Christ and that, through your intercession, we would learn how we ought to respond to our loved ones that are outside the faith. We ask this as we say Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A Different Starting Point
So, this time we’re going to talk about how we can witness to loved ones. So, many of you, I’m sure, you have people on your mind right now, people in your family that are maybe not practicing the faith, maybe not practicing the faith well enough. Maybe they go to church sometimes, maybe they’ve fallen away from their faith, or maybe they never really had one. So how can we approach these people? How can we share Jesus with them? Just really how should we encounter them? What should we do? Ultimately, a lot of us feel like, either we’re equipped or not, that we need to convince other people.
You know, there’s that… actually, there’s that quote that’s falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” I will say that yes, absolutely, it’s necessary to use words, but there is some truth to this statement. Actually, it kind of bothers me when I hear it, but what I want to emphasize to you is maybe that there’s a different starting point than just arguing with people, or trying to convince them. Maybe think of your own personal prayer life, think of your own conversion, things like that.
Anointing of the Holy Spirit
First, I want to say that your conversion and your faith is dependent on God’s anointing on you. We can get very theological about it but, basically, not one person can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Spirit. And before your baptism, especially those people that have had conversions later in life, and this was all over in the early church. We talked about the anointing of the Holy Spirit in 1 st John. So this anointing, the Holy Spirit Himself anoints us and allows us to respond to the Word of God with faith. This is very interesting for people that are not baptized, because they have not yet received the Holy Spirit, yet they still need the Holy Spirit to say yes to Jesus.
So they need to have this external exposure to the Holy Spirit Himself in order to even believe that Jesus is the Christ, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And, to put it simply, you cannot force the Holy Spirit on another person, but that has to be the starting point. So, in preaching the Gospel, we need to find a way to mediate the Holy Spirit to these other people, so that God can work and do the conversion. You can’t do the conversion, unfortunately, but here are all the things that you can do.
Jesus is the Example
So yeah, I mentioned that quote before, and you should talk about Jesus, but you’re probably not going to make a lot of headway by arguing. So you have to be careful with how you use your words, and which approach to take. So yeah, you can talk about Jesus all the time and preach the good news, but if you’re going to do that actually preach the good news. A lot of us preach the bad news, and think that we’re preaching the Gospel. The Gospel is the remedy to the bad news. You can talk about the bad news – you know, our sin and the reasons that we need God – but that’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is the solution to that. So the stuff about Jesus loving us, and the transformation, and the grace, and all of that, that’s the good news, because it’s the restoration of all of us from our sinful state. And I think Jesus is probably the best example on how to preach the Gospel, because He came to preach the Gospel.
So what did Jesus do? And it sounds kind of funny, it sounds kind of cheesy almost, but Jesus is the example, the apostles are the example. They’re the ones that taught us how to do it. So what did they do? You know, people knew they were Christians from their love, they were being persecuted by Nero and the Romans, and all these people, and they’re just loving them. They’re loving them and loving each other. It was literally distinguishable when people would see Christians, because they were filled with so much peace, joy, and love. We don’t see that in today’s world. I know that, personally, I encounter a lot of really grumpy Christians who go to the church.
But here’s the big one. Some of you guys maybe, depending on your demographic, might get a kick out of this. How many of you have ever experienced going into a church and sitting in a seat that belonged to someone else? They get mad. “You’re in my spot!” Is that very Christ-like? No. We’re grappling the tradition, and we’re sitting there firmly planting ourselves into “What I do,” and “This is how I was brought up,” and things like that, and many of us do it. It absolutely… the faith absolutely is right. It is absolutely what we need in our lives. We are literally made for a relationship with God. So it is the most important thing in the entire world, it’s the most important thing in the entire universe.
But some of us stick to it so blindly that we focus only on the externals, on the “We do this,” instead of utilizing the externals. The sacraments are necessary, but the sacraments are meant to give you grace. So you are meant to encounter God through them, and that is the method, that is the mode, that is the structure that He set up for us to approach Him to receive grace. But if you forget that the point of that is to encounter God, instead you end at just participating in the sacraments. Which is good, you’re still going to receive grace, but you’re missing point.
Work on Your Prayer Life
So, really, the point of this whole Christian life is to be transformed and filled with joy. So a really big evangelization tool, it’s going sound crazy: smile. Be happy. How many people are going to look at you – and you’re grouchy, and complaining, and gossiping, and all of that stuff – and you’re the Catholic and be like “I don’t want that.” That’s what it comes down to. They have to look at you and see that your life is worth living. You have to be happy and content with yourself. If you just charge on them aggressively, why are they going to want your life? Why? They’re going to look at you and be like “This is just another grumpy person. I’m already grumpy. I’m already sad. I already have enough suffering. Why do I want that?” You have to actually display, and this is what I kind of meant by the “when necessary, use words.” Your words aren’t going to hold a lot of weight unless your life looks like them. You actually have to be joyful. You actually have to have this relationship with Christ.
So number one for witnessing to your loved ones is going to be: Work on your prayer life. Work on your actual relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. And especially know the mother. Know Mary. She’s going to teach you how to follow her Son. She’s going to teach you how to deal with suffering. We went over all these other ones. This is how you bring it to your loved ones. Get filled with joy, work on your prayer life, know Jesus. And once you start to experience His love for you uniquely, share that. Tell those loved ones outside the faith about that. “Jesus loved me this much. Jesus did this in my life. I was struggling with this, and Jesus healed me of this, Jesus got me out of this, Jesus delivered me from this situation.” That’s going to grab their attention.
Sometimes they might think you’re a little crazy, but you’re going to make a lot more headway by sharing these personal testimonies about Jesus’ actual love for you than you’re going to by trying to convince them of doctrine and dogma. Now, doctrine and dogma are very important things – they help us to divine and understand our faith – but they’re not going to be the best evangelical tool for most people, because most people are not academics that study theology and philosophy. You’re going to encounter some of them, so you’re going to have to use it.
Sometimes evangelization comes through that. But most people that you encounter aren’t going to be swayed by just logic and dense words. They’re great, we need them, but they’re going to be convinced primarily, singularly, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in their own life. And they’re going to be put in the disposition to encounter that through experiencing you in yours, hearing about the positives, and through your prayer. So prayer is not just some nice sentiment, it’s not that I’m doing my obligations. Prayer is going to be the power of God coming and actually touching you, you relying on Him, you getting filled with the Holy Spirit, and you watching Him work in your life and outside of your life.
So, as I said before, Jesus is the best example, the apostles are the best example. How did they do ministry? I’ll say that it’d be pretty hard to find parts of the Gospel – besides maybe some of Jesus’ preaching, like the Sermon on the Mount – it’s going to be pretty hard to find Him going places and not healing people. That’s what He did. It was an exercise of power, a manifestation of the Spirit. St. Paul says later that your conversion would not rest on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God. So right there, evangelization, Paul saying “This isn’t about convincing people with human wisdom, it’s about the power of God.” So if you’re thinking you’re going to win souls over by an argument, Paul kind of cuts that down pretty clearly in Corinthians.
So, basically, Jesus went out and healed people: He rose people from the dead, raised people from the dead, He delivered people, and then sent the apostles out to do this. So when we receive the same Holy Spirit, that’s what our life as a Christian should look like. Maybe that makes you uncomfortable, but get up and go out and there and pray with people. Prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. I can’t say it more, or I can’t say it enough. You have to pray. It’s so simple. Get out there and trust, have expectant faith. Know that God is going to bring healing into your life, and that He’s going to bring conversion into other people’s lives. But you have to recognize that the Holy Spirit is actually going to work through you, and you’re actually going to see these things happen.
So anyways, next up. Once you get your prayer life down, keep praying. That’s really going to be it. And now, go and share these things. This is where the testimonials come in. This is where you can share “Oh yeah, like I said before, that happened in my life. Jesus did this.” But get out there and pray with them, and you’ll start to see these stories happen. It’s amazing how intrigued people get when you go to start sharing miracle stories with them. Actual healings that you’ve seen happen, actual, you know, people that have been brought into loving relationships with Jesus.
I remember one time… I think I have time to share one story. Many years ago I was visiting my grandmother, and when I was there I borrowed a car, I had a rental car, and drove about an hour to see my cousin and my goddaughter. And on the way back, I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed to go to Macy’s and buy some sunglasses. Which wasn’t too crazy, because I was looking for a pair of sunglasses. So the Lord really does work through some of the natural stuff going on in our lives.
But anyways, I get there and there’s a guy named Hayden – he’s an eighteen-yearold kid, the sunglass salesman, all by the Ray-Bans – and comes up and does what any salesman does, any good salesman does, and creates small talk with me. So I’m like “Oh, I’m studying theology.” And he’s like “What’s that?” And so I go “Great, he’s walked right into an opportunity for me to evangelize him.” So I start sharing about the sacraments, and I found out he kind of had a quasi-Protestant background a little bit, but didn’t go to church. So here’s a perfect example of many of the people you’re encountering. They have some exposure to Christianity, but they don’t go.
So I started sharing, because he was Protestant and not Catholic, about the beautiful efficacy of the sacraments, and how it’s God’s way of freely giving us grace. But then I made the switchover, because we started talking about spirituality, and he said a couple of things that showed me that he was open to hearing what I had to say. So I started just sharing miracle stories with him, kind of like this one, except for crazier, deeper, physical healings. And he was just blown away. And by the end of the conversation, he said “Hey, will you pray over me?” And I was like “Yeah, sure. Let me take the anointing oil out of my pocket and we’ll go right now,” because that’s how I was living my life, and that’s how we should. That’s what I mean, like really live this.
So I go and I’m like “Hey, how about you stand with your back against this thing. I just don’t want you to fall over.” And he’s like “What do you mean?” I’m like “Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re just going to pray. The Holy Spirit’s unexpectable. You just… you don’t know what He’s going to do. It’s just to be safe.” So I pray over this kid, I found out actually he wasn’t baptized, so I’m like “Lord, I can’t pray for certain things, he’s not baptized.” So I just prayed that he would be filled with the power of God’s love for him, and just to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to come to know God intimately. And as soon as I started praying with that authority like that, like really calling that the Holy Spirit would come and fill him, he gets like… like, flies backwards a little bit. It was crazy. And he starts breathing – like he just has this big smile on his face – starts breathing really heavy, but in a good way.
So I close the prayer out and he looks at me, and he goes “I feel so much lighter. I feel like I can breathe.” So the Lord did some kind of deliverance or something, I don’t know. I wasn’t praying that specifically on that, but just that he would get filled with God’s presence. So what I’m saying here is trust the power of prayer. Really trust it.
So what happened to this kid, Hayden? He exchanges information with me and he goes “Oh, I’ve got to tell my mom about this.” He got so excited because he encountered Jesus. And this wasn’t… it didn’t come from me trying to argue with him or convince him; I was intentional and present to him, and I prayed with him in public – he was on the clock at Macy’s, so I hope he didn’t get in trouble. What happened is I prayed with him, and we exchanged information, and later he contacts me and I found out that literally a couple of months later he’s in the process for coming into the church.
And he goes, and I found out later he went and got baptized, stated dating this nice Christian girl, and they started doing, like, Christian camps and ministry work together. So this kid that was working at Macy’s, didn’t go to church, had this encounter with Jesus Christ through me just praying with him, and his entire life changed. We kept in contact, and he lives his life for the Lord. So it’s not just that he lives his normal life and goes to church now but, through this encounter, he was so radically changed that he actually lives his life for his faith now. His faith isn’t just part of his life, it is his life. And that was through one encounter.
So I want you to take courage and know that the Lord can do this with your family members, but also remember Jesus’ words when He says “A prophet is not accepted in his hometown.” So, as many great theologians have said, it’s very possible that you are not going to be the one that is the instrument for the conversion of those in your family. But you can plant seeds, and you can pray for them, and it very possibly could be through your prayers that someone else comes along and is that instrument.
St. Monica and St. Agustine
So you need to pray, pray, pray for these people, and I think the greatest example, not greatest, one of the greatest examples we have in the saints is St. Monica and St. Augustine. So, St. Monica had this life of faith, and Augustine was this very bright young man that was kind of torn between all these different areas, very intelligent, and became an orator. And she just prayed, and constantly prayed for him. And eventually, it was not directly through her discussing with him, but through other things in his life and through her persistence in prayer that Augustine had this major conversion and became one of the greatest fathers of the church.
So think of what you can do through your prayer because, honestly, God can work more through one ounce of grace than you can do through every conversation, action, and argument in your entire life. Evangelization truly comes through love, patience, persistence, trust, prayer, and primarily through devotion and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Be at Peace
So if I can leave you with anything: 1, be at peace. The Lord is all about families. And I’m not going to get too theological about it, but He is very capable of saving somebody on behalf of someone else. Remember the paralytic that’s lowered through the ceiling unconscious, that can’t do anything. And Jesus looks down and says “The faith of your friends has saved you.” That paralytic didn’t go to Jesus himself. Think about that. He did not bring himself to Jesus. He didn’t even take the first step. He couldn’t. He didn’t say “Hey guys, bring me to Jesus.” They just did it. So it was through their persistence, faith, and intercession that this person was saved. So think of that with your own family. Through your prayer – it’s even theologically true, we don’t have to get into it – but through your prayer, and on your behalf, God can save people in your family. God save your friends.
So just keep praying, but the big importance there is actually trust. Trust that He’s going to do it, trust that He loves you enough to save those around you, trust that He values the family and loves the family so much, because He created it, that He wants those families together with Him in heaven. So be at peace, just like St. Therese when she prayed for the conversion of the first person, that she was, you know, for her little ministry, her little way. She even said… it was a murderer that was going to be executed, and she said “Lord, even if I don’t see an exterior sign of his conversion, I will know that You saved him for me.” But the Lord did give her that little extra gift, and this convict kissed the cross before he was executed. So just have that peace and trust, and pray, pray, pray. That’s the most important thing. God bless you.
About Joshua Mazrin
Joshua Mazrin is a Catholic speaker and writer. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville with a Bachelors and Masters in Theology, while also currently working on his PhD in Systematic Theology at Ave Maria University. Joshua also serves as Director of Evangelization for the Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida. You can learn more about him here.