On most Mondays I join a handful of fellow pastors for lunch and Bible study. Over lunch we share the details of our lives. Aside from the blessing at the beginning of the meal, there is nothing particurlarly holy about our conversation. Our conversation might sound much like anyone else’s: family, job, sports, medical conditions, upcoming vacations, etc. In truth we do not even pay that much attention to the people around us. We are not looking for ministry opportunities. I suppose we just want to be guys hanging out like anyone else.
Recently, an usual thing occurred. We had enjoyed a nice meal at a busy downtown establishment. The service was good and unobtrusive, which frankly we prefer because we are usually fairly engrossed in conversation the whole time. As the waitress, a lovely young woman, delivered our credit cards and receipts stopped and said, “Can you guys keep me in your prayers?”
We all dropped our mundane conversations. Frankly, we were all caught off guard.
She continued, “I find out today if I got the new job I applied for. Also, please pray for my living situation. It may be changing.”
We all nodded and said we would be sure to remember to pray, but John, the pastor closest to her said, “May we pray for you right now?” She agreed and allowed her busy world to rest for a moment.
I assumed John would be praying, but he then said, “Paul, would you pray for her?” with a look that communicated that this was all my idea anyway having written a book on it. Haha.
I was caught off guard and frankly hadn’t listen well to her request. I asked her to repeat it and she did, adding, “If it’s God’s will.”
I prayed. John then asked if she attended a church. She said that she was not, but that she had been raised Presbyterian. Did I mention we are all Presbyterian pastors? We were right across the street from one our churches. Mike, the pastor of the downtown church invited her to come see him soon, which in fact she did the very next day.
The next week we learned that her living situation and her potential job were tied together. She got the job that she had applied for: co-manager of the half-way house in which she lived.
Recalling the appearance of this lovely, young, presbyterian-raised waitress, I never would have guessed the struggles that she had. She knew about hardship and she knew about grace and she had long learned to never miss an opportunity for prayer.
As long as I have been offering to pray with people anywhere and anytime, this was the first occurrence in which someone out of the blue asked for prayer, family and friends aside. Very unusual. But it happened again the same week…
John, the same pastor friend, and I had lunch at the end of the week on our day off. I try to look as little like a minister as I can on my day off. I do not shave. I dress sloppily and usually don’t even shower.
We were trying a new fried chicken place near where John lives. Casual, seat yourself. Nice cozy feel.
As we sat down a waitress arrived with a smile and menus. She was middle-aged, care-worn, but very upbeat. Joyful smile. John started bantering with her right away. He had been there once before and really enjoyed it. Then he said, “Oh, and we are pastors.” D’oh! Cover blown.
Her smiling face changed and she said, “I can really use your prayer.” John and I looked at each other. “My family is really having a hard time right now. Just pray for us.” John responded, “Can I pray for you right now?” She nodded and said, “Yes, please do.”
As John concluded the prayer she said, “It’s just…my sister–” She became choked with emotion. “I am too emotional to talk about this,” she said as she was turning and walking away.
As she served our drinks, John said, “What about your sister?”
She took a breath and said, “She has leukemia. She’s had it for fifteen years, but it’s been really tough. Please pray for her.” And she left.
Before we begin to eat I said grace and as we prayed we included her sister. As I said “amen”, I heard a voice from the table to my right also say, “Amen.” I turned and there were two men eating their lunch. One said, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help overhear you. We just can’t pray too much can we?”