I was asked to do a little children’s story time in our church yesturday, and the topic I was given was “Praying as Outreach”. As I was thinking and praying about what God might want me to pass on to His kiddies, the following story came to mind:
A few years ago, I was at the mall. After shopping for awhile, I sat down on a bench for a bit of a break. As I sat there, I noticed a lady coming towards me. She was pushing a stroller, and had three kids with her. They were the most unhappy family I had seen in quite a while – the kids were screaming, the mom was screaming, and they did not look as though they were having a good time at the mall.
As I watched them come towards me (while trying to be very discreet, because I wouldn’t want her to know I was watching the whole performance), that little voice inside said to me, “Pray for her!”
My immediate reaction was, “What?!! I don’t even know her! How on earth would I know what she needs prayer for??”
And the answer came instantly: “Isn’t it obvious?”
Since there was no arguing with that, I decided that although I felt really silly, sitting on a bench and praying for some random woman at the mall, I really didn’t have anything to lose. So I started praying for absolutely every little thing that crossed my mind as potential prayer material.
I prayed that her kids would stop screaming.
I prayed that God would fill her with such love, patience, and kindness for her children, that she wouldn’t even understand what was happening to her.
I prayed that she would have an absolutely wonderful time at the mall with her children.
I prayed that she would find what she was looking for at the mall, and that God would give her much wisdom as she spent her money.
I prayed for her the whole time she was slowly making her way past me with her chaos on display, and until she rounded the corner, out of sight.
I never saw that woman again, obviously. I have no idea what happened to her after I prayed for her.
But the experience taught me a few things about what I like to call “Sneaky Prayer”:
I don’t really need to understand why God is asking me to do something. I just need to do it. When I do my part, who knows what God does as His part?
There are many Christians out there who feel very uncomfortable with the idea of praying aloud, in front of other people. To me, it makes sense that the more we practice when God is the only one who hears, the more comfortable we will become with prayer in general. If we would pray all the time, for everything, and then suddenly one day, be asked to pray out loud, I think we might be able to just do what we always do, except a little bit louder.
It would probably still be a hard jump for some people, and there’s no way around that. It might come down to gritting your teeth, squeezing your eyes shut really tight, and taking one wild, nausea-inducing leap of faith and courage, and just forcing yourself to do the uncomfortable, but I’m still thinking the extra practice on your own can’t hurt.
As Christians, we often say, “I’ll pray for you.” But there’s something different about being told, “I’ve been praying for you.”
Sometimes we make empty prayer promises – we have full intentions to pray, but we forget. When we can say, “I’ve already been praying for you”, I think there’s a special blessing in that.
A few years ago, while we were going through our time of infertility, I met a woman who was a wonderful listener. She also had trouble conceiving, and even though we were around each other for a day, I shared a bit of my heartbreak with her. (Shocking, hey?! Me, sharing deep, personal struggles with a random stranger?:))
We had a wonderful talk, but then I went home, and I didn’t really think about it very much. She had been a great source of encouragement to me, but life moved on.
Then, maybe six months later, I received a card from this woman in the mail. She wrote that God had moved her to pray for me for the last six months, and she had faithfully done so. She was wondering if there was anything in particular that I might want prayer for.
I sat there, holding that card and bawling, for two reasons: It amazed me that God would care so much about me, He would ask a stranger to hold me up in prayer. And it amazed me that she had taken the time to obey.
There was such a huge blessing in being told, “I have been praying for you.”
So here’s hoping this week is filled with many “sneaky prayer” opportunities for all of you!
Does anybody have any cool sneaky prayer stories to share?:)