One time when I was a teenager, on the way home from youth group on a Wednesday night, my friend Olivia and I witnessed a car accident at an intersection in inner city Harrisburg. I don’t remember the moments that followed very clearly, but after calling 911, I somehow ended up near one of the cars, leaning in towards a man whose face was covered in blood, asking him if I could pray with him until the emergency vehicles arrived.
I am not normally that kind of praying-for-strangers person.
The main reason is that most of the time it just doesn’t cross my mind to ask a stranger if I can pray for him or her. I mean, really, how often would that situation arise in normal, everyday interactions without it just being weird?
Well, last Saturday night, we drove out into rural Kentucky with some friends to eat veggie burgers and listen to a Jimmy Buffet tribute band play at a winery. No joke. Jimmy Buffet.
The evening was entertaining. Good friends. Good food. Weird strangers who would not leave us alone as we waited in the food line. Not being allowed to taste any wine because I didn’t have my ID along and even though I am over thirty, I apparently don’t look it. Good times were had by all.
But as we were heading back to the car, after dark, we noticed a woman sitting on the ground, leaning against a sports car.
She seemed to be crying.
The hubster and I looked at each other, wondering who would bring it up first. So I said, “Should we do something?” And he said, “Well, it would be kind of awkward for me to ask if she’s okay.”
Meaning: he’s a man, I’m a woman, she’s a woman, so I should do it.
I went back to her and asked if everything was okay. She told me the story of why she ended up sitting there crying, which I won’t go into here. Right then, her main problem was that she wasn’t sure if she had a ride home or not, and her phone was now dead so she couldn’t call anyone to come and get her. Trying to be helpful, I offered my phone, but she didn’t know anyone’s phone numbers.
[Word to the wise: always carry written-out phone numbers in your wallet in case your phone dies and a stranger offers you her phone to use.]
So I stood there, not wanting to just leave her sitting on the ground in the dark and debating silently whether we could squish another adult into our already full vehicle. She did tell me that she knew the person who owned the car she was leaning against, so she was probably fine, and, quite honestly, I didn’t know what else to do to offer assistance. Except one thing.
I felt that nudge.
I asked if she minded if I prayed for her.
She was thrilled that I would. Thrilled. I knelt down beside her, asked her name, and held her hand while we leaned together in the grass and I asked God to give her peace.
And you know what? Then she prayed for me. She even called God “Papa,” thanking Papa for sending me to her, and asking him that if she ever finds herself in my shoes, she would be willing to do the same thing.
It was pretty humbling.
I’m guessing no miracle occurred Saturday night on the lawn at that rural Kentucky winery. Her phone still didn’t work.
No miracle occurred that night in Harrisburg, either. The man’s bleeding didn’t stop, and he still left in an ambulance.
But we don’t only pray because we think miracles will happen.
We pray because sometimes people are in front of us.
Because prayer is needed.
Because prayer is what we've got.