Last month I hit the road doing Prayer Encounters workshops at various churches. One of the stops I made was to a small church in a neighborhood that most of the city has seemed to have abandoned. Ironically, you can see the state capitol building from the parking lot of the church building. I doubt the folks at the capitol can see that church, though.
Most of the members no longer live in the neighborhood, but they feel called to serve and worship there. They look out for the children and families as best as they can. That building and those people stand as a visible reminder that God has not abandoned the neighborhood.
The church has been studying and practicing Prayer Encounters (the book) for a few months and they welcomed me and fed me well. Throughout the workshop they shared their own stories. One woman told me of an elderly woman in her neighborhood who for the last forty years or so has regularly stood out on the street corner to pray for people. As children walked by she would call out, “Come over here, child! You need some prayer.” She would lift up prayers for them and their families. Even adults would walk by and she would call, “I know you need some prayer for something! Come on over here!”
Over time, the neighborhood came to her for prayer. She was like the local priest right there on the corner. Grown men would come by and tell her how they remembered her praying for them as boys and what it meant to them.
Over the years she must have prayed for thousands of people. Imagine what she means to her neighborhood. She stands as a visible sign that God has not abandoned her neighborhood.
How different from the street corner preachers I have run across over the years who randomly fire out all the ways a person might go to hell?
This woman is a street corner prayer, lifting her people up to God with tears and smiles. Though I will probably never meet her, I can imagine her. Her face is worn with care. Her back is stooped and her knees are knobbly and rough. Her hands are leathery and warm from the sun. Her eyes are like small pools of tears, though there is a light that shines through them with hope. She always sees you before you see her. And she is waiting, always waiting for you to turn the corner.