Praying on the run

I’ve developed a new style of prayer. You might call it “ad hoc” prayer or “spur of the moment” prayer, because it comes and goes as the occasion requires or, more accurately, as the Holy Spirit moves me.

Let me tell you a story. I was leaving the Italian restaurant with my take-out order of a large pepperoni pizza, gluten-free penne with Bolognese sauce, chicken milanese and a side order of broccoli rabe—so much stuff they had to pack it in a large box. On my way out, I passed a fellow coming in the double doors.

He was dressed in a leather Harley motorcycle jacket with assorted accessories, and when he saw me, he came back and held both doors for me. It was an unexpected random act of kindness. (Don’t you love them? And don’t you just hate when someone lets the door slam in your face?)

“Thank you,” I said, immediately realizing it deserved more than a mere thank you. Of course, I couldn’t tip him because that would have been inappropriate. Sometimes all you can do is say thank you. But sometimes the occasion requires more than a thank you. It requires a grander gesture of gratitude … like prayer.

So I uttered the first prayer that came to mind: “Lord, may I meet this guy in heaven someday, along with his family and friends … if that’s not asking too much.” Of course, when it comes to someone’s salvation, it’s never asking too much for Jesus.

Lately, I’ve been constantly petitioning him, when I’m on the street, on the train, in the supermarket, at the gas station, in the bank, at the stoplight—whenever my path crosses with someone in need or someone who’s shown kindness. That’s when I’ll say, “Jesus, help him please.” Or “Jesus, help her please.” Or “May we meet in heaven.”

I realize Jesus isn’t my personal assistant, but that doesn’t stop me from petitioning him as often as possible for strangers, in addition to their family members and friends, for good measure.

I have the feeling that Jesus wants us to pray for the conversion and salvation of strangers because he really wants to see them all in heaven someday, and he’ll do anything to get them there. His sacrifice for our salvation was so great that he doesn’t want anyone left out.

While he was on Earth, Jesus was always reaching out to strangers, or they were reaching out to him. Remember the Samaritan woman at the well, the SyroPhoenician woman whose daughter was possessed, Zacchaeus, the little tax collector in the sycamore tree, and the blind man at the pool, not to mention the woman caught in adultery?

Jesus looked on the periphery for those who needed help and who very often didn’t even realize they needed help. There’s a lot of people like that today, who think they don’t need a Savior because they’re convinced they have all the answers. That can be a very destructive attitude when it comes to our spiritual lives.

Always try to pray every day for people who may have no one to pray for them. Your simple prayers could very well be the difference between their getting into heaven and not.

I have a suspicion that when we arrive in heaven, we’ll be absolutely amazed at the number of people who are there because we took a moment to say a prayer for them. We probably won’t even remember that we said a prayer. Although we may forget, Jesus never does. He will have answered all our prayers and done a lot of heavy heavenly lifting to get them through the gates. I recently read an anonymous quote that said, “If you are praying about it, God is already working on it.”

So be generous with your prayers. Keep them short and sweet, as my father would say, and spread them around generously like the sower in the field.

All you have to say is “Lord, help them please.” As short as that is, if it’s sincere, it’s enough. Share the spiritual wealth. There are a lot of strangers out there who don’t even know what prayer is and who could use a few, especially when they least expect it.