Last week I needed a bow for a graduation gift and stopped at the local dollar store. As I stood in the checkout line, a woman approached me while giving me a compliment. I thanked her and she continue walking past me. Suddenly, I felt hands grab my shoulders from behind and she began praying. Loudly. And long-ly (I made that word up, but it seems fitting…it was a VERY long prayer).
It was so uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to politely get out of the scenario. I watched the cashier ring up my item and then shrug his shoulders at me while rolling his eyes about the praying woman. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see small children staring at the situation. I saw others rushing past in an effort to escape, lest she turn her boisterous reverse-hug prayer litany on them. She said “Amen,” turned around and headed to another unsuspecting woman in the make-up aisle (who, by the way, was not having it…she actually told the lady to leave her alone).
I know she meant well and likely felt as though she was doing the right Biblical thing.
However, I was so taken aback and so completely out of my comfort zone, that I was not able to listen to what she prayed. I couldn’t join her prayerfully, as Sisters in Christ, because I was too “in my own head” rather than in my heart for Jesus.
Interestingly enough, I had read an article just hours before about a woman who made her New Year’s Resolution to pray for a stranger every day. The article described her interactions with those she prayed with and those that she silently prayed for. At the time of the article publication, she’d being praying for a stranger daily for two full years.
Maybe the Dollar Store lady had a New Year’s Resolution to pray for strangers. Maybe not.
I’m intrigued by this praying for strangers idea. Part of me feels compelled to tackle a similar resolution. Praying for one another is good. It’s certainly Biblical, as there are countless examples instructing us to pray for one another.
Galatians 6:2 (NASB), “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
1 Samuel 12:23 (NASB), “Furthermore, as for me, far be it from me that I would sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.”
1 Corinthians 7:5 (NASB), “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Here’s the raw truth of this from Emily’s heart. I’m all for praying over strangers. But I think I want rules to this endeavor. After what I experienced at the dollar store, I don’t want to ambush any strangers with prayer.
Here are my proposed self-imposed rules:
1. A conversation has to happen prior to starting to pray (i.e.: introductions, common ground established, niceties, etc…).
2. Ask if you can pray for them—or if they have specific prayer requests (and be gracious if they say “no”).
3. Be intentional about who to pray with or over (don’t just pick someone willy-nilly because you have a daily “quota” to fulfill).
4. Continue to pray for that person even after the interaction is over.
I’d be interested to hear what those on the Iron Porch think about the proposed rules. And of course, I’d be really interested to hear how you would have handled the surprise-attack prayer warrior at the dollar store!
Acts 5:42 (NASB), “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and preaching the good news Jesus as the Christ.”