Pray for the Stranger

Pray for the Stranger March 8, 2006

On Sunday I had the great good fortune of attending the first meeting of a small group here at Calvary. This group, which is meeting for Lent, spent two hours together on Sunday describing for each other the “sign posts” in each of our faith journeys.

For example, we described particular occurrences in our lives that pushed us toward God and people who had been instrumental in our individual faith experiences.

As I bumbled along into my week oblivious of the hand of God at work (as usual), I happened to be listening to a friend talk about worries she had for her adult daughter. My friend could see her daughter was hurting and making some decisions that were not healthy but my friend could not think how she might influence her daughter to choose differently.

I was commiserating and trying to be empathetic when she said something that rang bells in my head. She said someone once told her that when she was worried about a situation she couldn’t change that what she SHOULD do is . . . pray for the stranger.

My friend went on to explain, “You know, if you look back on your life there are probably people who have come across your path at certain times who were able to help you see something you could not see any other way, right?”

(My thoughts went back to Sunday afternoon, the stories I heard about instrumental people and the long list of people in my own life that I’d noted in my journal this week. Uhh, leave it to God to weave a thread of continuity through my otherwise disheveled life.)

My friend continued. “When I feel powerless to change a situation, sometimes the answer is not to chafe at the limitations I feel but to pray for the stranger.”

“Pray for the people you don’t anticipate and don’t know who will, by various circumstances, enter into the difficult situation and help the one you love find her way. They are people who shed light and show direction in situations where, no matter how hard you try, you can’t. Pray for the stranger.

I’ve been thinking lately about a few situations in my life where it seems like I am unable to “fix” problems for people I love. It’s a helpless feeling to come to the realization that you cannot control the way people around you look at the world and the decisions and choices other people make . . . even if they directly affect you.

(I’ve always hated the undeniable truth that you can’t change anyone but yourself. That combined with my need to fix, fix, fix everything can lead to a feeling of profound helplessness.)

What freedom to consider (I am sorry to say for the first time ever) that perhaps I don’t have to fix every single thing . . . that perhaps I could delegate that small task to God and instead, spend my time and energy praying for the stranger whom God will use.

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  • revtadams

    What a powerful image…praying for the stranger. Just think about how many strangers surround us each day…the man on the corner with the for sale sign turned into a “will work for food”. The person positioned next to us in the family photo who holds deep within themselves emotions never expressed…the pewmate sitting next to us on Sunday morning…the person in the office next to us, who only exists in our life from 8-5…the neighbor who we only know by their dog’s name or the type of car they drive. What a testimony to call us to pray for one person a day…to pick out someone, whose name we may not know, whose needs we may not be aware of, and simply lift them before God in prayer…maybe offering a simple prayer for a soft heart, a chance exchange beyond the ‘driveway wave’, a relationship that goes beyond social politeness. Seems to me that praying for the stranger is a means by which we can “touch” someone or “crash” into them and in turn having some renewed feeling and emotion in our secluded lives and transform another heart for the kingdom of God.

    Praying for all the strangers who might read this…

  • LutheranChik

    This is a great post. I once read a book on spirituality that advocated a return to the biblical idea of blessing, and also suggested that we bless the strangers we encounter every day.