“I need a stranger. I’m thinking like some stalker moving through a sea of bodies, bags, and worn-down suitcases. I guess I am stalking, searching in my spirit, thinking, surely here—somebody. An older woman with dark hair comes up and speaks to us a few times, and to the lady in front of us. It’s gotta be her because if you could see her, you would understand why. Hands down, put my money on it, it’s her; she looks like she really, really needs prayer. But is that what I’m really doing here? Am I just supposed to pray for everyone that crosses my path who looks like they could use it? Well, maybe so in the big scheme of things, but this is all about the resolution and I’m still trying to figure it out. I could pray for practically every stranger who crosses my path who looks like he or she need prayers and I’d have a very busy prayer life. This is different. I feel like I’m supposed to be sensitive to one significant, special person every day. Finding that one person is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Particularly at this moment in the Nashville bus station. But then two things happen at the same time.”
What you have just read is an excerpt from a devotional I love, Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit, by River Jordan. The book is a national best seller, a collection of journal entries and personal observations that accompany the author’s “resolution” to pray for a stranger every day after her two adult sons were deployed overseas at the same time, just days after Christmas. I shared this excerpt with my church this morning, and wanted to include the rest of the story here.
That day at the bus station, the author realized that she had never before shared with a stranger the fact that she was praying for them. Now, she felt she must. She goes on in the book to say that she is not evangelical where her faith is concerned. She doesn’t talk to just anyone about her spiritual journey or belief in God. She has put her life in Jesus’ hands, but she doesn’t advertise that near and far. Faith, for her, is a personal matter, as it is for many. But today, she feels compelled to tell a stranger that she is praying for her. What will the outcome be, what will the woman think?
No. 1 of the two things that “happened next” then, is that the author felt an impetus to reach out and tell a stranger she was praying for them, when she hadn’t felt that way before.
The second thing that happened at the bus station that day, and the wonderful thing about reaching out and telling people you are praying for them, I think, is reflected in this second excerpt from the book:
“I approach her slowly, not wanting to frighten her. I am well aware that just walking up to people in public and saying, ‘Excuse me–today you’re my stranger,’ could seem a little peculiar. The fact that I could be pegged as crazy isn’t lost on me. I clear my throat and speak to the woman in a low voice so that the girl at the counter can’t hear us. I tell her about my resolution, explain that today she is my stranger, that I’ll be thinking about her and saying special prayers for her all day. Then the oddest thing happens. She looks at me with what I must call wonder. She grabs me and hugs my neck. ‘Do you know what I was just saying to God this morning? Do you? I was just praying this morning and praying for other people, but I stopped and asked the Lord, ‘God, is there anybody in this whole wide world who is praying for me?’
Well, what do you know? ‘Looks like I am,’ I say and return her hug. ‘You have a good journey home, ‘ I tell her.
‘Oh, now I will!’
She ‘s wearing a big smile and I can understand why. God answered her question. Looks like he used me in the process.”
I don’t know about you, but for me, this is such an encouraging snippet of literature. I love this story, and this book. I love having the opportunity to pray for others. I often pray for strangers, and sometimes I tell them that I am going to be praying for them. I have received smiles, tears, hugs and other responses to that declaration–all good. One girl absolutely fell apart emotionally, sobbing. I would have hugged her, but she was behind the counter at a fast food restaurant at the time.
I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God honors prayer because he instituted prayer. I believe there are strangers that pray for me. I covet those prayers. I hope you are encouraged by the idea that strangers are praying for you, for surely they are. Everybody benefits from a prayer said for them. I’d love to hear how your life has been changed through prayer. I’d also like to encourage you to spend some time in prayer with Papa God today. I promise, you’ll never be the same!