So I have a friend who's been telling me for a while that one of the most valuable roles we can play in another person's life is to be what she calls a "prophet." When she says this, she doesn't mean the kind of prophet from the Old Testament, calling down judgment or blessing from the heavens or having a specific message handed to you for another person.
I think what she means is having the ability to recognize God's work in the world around and pointing it out and contextualizing it for people. She is always saying that one of the difficulties in our culture right now is that we're driven by emotion, but often people don't really have the ability to put words around what they feel or what they need. One of the most important things we can do for people is sit there and reflect things back to them - thoughts, feelings, and where we see God working.
That kind of role is really uncomfortable to me. I'm a peace-loving person. I like to be in harmony with everyone around me. I'd rather be listening than talking, and I'm usually pretty slow to give other people my opinions about things. So to actually take the step to say, "hey, here's something I'm seeing," or "have you considered this question?" is always a risk.
What I don't want to be is that arrogant kind of person who walks around bestowing her wisdom and thoughts on everyone around, regardless of where they're at or what kind of effect my words will have. But I do desire to be available to help people to recognize the work of God in their own lives.
I've gotten more comfortable speaking into the lives of my friends. My approach is still to ask questions, but I think they've become more pointed as the years have gone by. Somehow, as I've become more familiar with my own spiritual barriers, I've been able to see those that my friends are running into too, and I can ask questions that invite people to think deeply about what's going on in their own hearts.
It's much harder to do that for people who are casual acquaintances. To speak into someone's life who you just barely know seems like a bigger risk. At least when you have a long history of friendship, there's enough of an investment in the relationship that if you say something wrong or hurt someone's feelings, they're likely to be willing to work through it with you. But with someone you barely know, there's no investment. And you don't know the person well enough to be able to predict how your words will be received.
I just had the opportunity or the invitation to do that with someone I just met. I hesitated for a long time, because I didn't want to offend. I wasn't really sure where the person was at spiritually, and I never want to create a barrier where one doesn't exist. But after praying about it, it seemed like the right thing to do, so I took the plunge. I think it ended up working out. The jury's still out.
Anyway, the key for me is learning to be guided by the Holy Spirit. It's amazing how the Spirit is working and guiding to meet the needs of his children. And it's actually fun to be able to be a part of what he's doing there. It's a matter of learning to see what's going on and accepting the invitation to participate, because when it does go right, it's really cool to see how God is able to use your words and actions.