The man called Apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17) tells us to “pray without ceasing.” As a pastor, I wish always I did this to the letter, but I admit that I do not. Occasionally, I forget to pray. Nevertheless, I have what I call “pastoral radar,” and at particular moments, I know, the only thing to do is pray.
Such was the case this past week, in an unlikely setting, while I waited at the opticians to order new contact lenses. I was talking to the optician about being able to see the whole sanctuary when another woman, also awaiting assistance said, “Did you say you’re a pastor?”
I turned from my chair to see before me a woman with vibrant dark eyes, lush curls, and rich chocolate skin. She wore a bright, neatly pressed cornflower blue print, and her voice exuded a kind of love and gentleness which reminded me of my grandmother.
“Yes, I am,” I said.
“Oh, please” she said, stepping closer. “Would you pray for me?” Then, as if releasing a great weight, she began telling me about her struggle with cancer (which wasn’t at all evident to me by her outer appearance), as well as with her faith. She wanted me to ask God to bless her.
Forgetting in the moment where I was or who was around us, I said, “Would you like me to pray with you right now?”
Her vibrant eyes widened. “Would you?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said.
I took both her hands in mine and began to pray, praising God, blessing her and her magnificent body temple, affirming God’s ever-abiding grace, infinite compassion and unconditional love for her. As I prayed, she whispered along, several times saying, “Yes, Jesus.” Perhaps the prayer lasted a minute, maybe two. I don’t remember every word I said; I rarely do in such divine moments.
When I concluded with thanksgiving, I saw tears in her eyes. She squeezed my hands tightly and as I looked at them fully, continuing to hold them in mine, I felt tremendous warmth flowing between us. Two strangers, connecting through the intimacy of prayer. In an unlikely place. In a powerful way.
I don’t know much else about this woman, except that she and her mother had been visiting that office for many years, and that her mother also had survived cancer. I don’t know where she lived or which church she attended or anything about her personal feelings and beliefs. None of which matters. Because, in that moment, we were one with God, connected, each of us transformed in beholding the Presence of God in one another.
It’s especially in those moments that I know: Prayer doesn’t change God. Prayer changes us, opening us to see, hear, feel and know God’s Beauty and Presence everywhere, in every one.
Pray, Blessed Reader, wherever you may be.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.