When Strangers Become Prayer Partners

By Karen Orfitelli, South Windsor, Connecticut

As appeared in Guideposts.com

(Victor Valley)–Jumping out of my car, I clutched yet another envelope addressed to yet another personnel manager. Maybe this time I’ll get a call, I thought as I ran into the post office.

My job search had started a couple months back, when I’d learned that the university where I’d worked for two years would be eliminating my position. Yet no matter how many résumés I sent out, I didn’t get a single response.

I left the post office and headed to work. I came to the busy intersection I passed through every morning and scanned the faces of the pedestrians and schoolchildren waiting for the Walk signal. Will I see my “friend” today? I wondered. I craned my neck.

He was near the rear of the pack. His legs seemed too short for his body, and he wobbled and swayed as he shuffled toward the opposite curb. His beard was flecked with gray and his weathered face was taut.

He seemed almost oblivious. By the time he got to the middle of the intersection, everyone else had made it across.

Just as he was in front of my car, the light turned green. Almost willing him to move, I watched as he finally made it to the curb and inched himself onto the sidewalk. At least no one had honked.

Like every morning that I saw the stranger crossing the street, the same questions came to mind: Where does he live? Does he have a job? A family? How can I help him? I imagined his life wasn’t an easy one. Lord, bless that man today and meet his every need.

As I accelerated through the intersection, I wondered, Why do I pray for him? Does it even make a difference?

I’d lived and worked in this town my whole life. The only place I ever saw the man was at that intersection in the morning. At some point during the past two years, I’d begun to think of him as a friend. That sense of connection spurred a desire to pray for him.

It was strange, because I could barely pray for myself. Were my prayers even heard?

Not that I’d given up on God. I still went to church. One January night the roads were snowy and I was late for service. I pushed open the front door, grateful for the warm air. I pulled off my gloves, unwrapped my scarf and looked around the packed sanctuary.

The only free seats were in the front row, so I hurried down the aisle as the organist started playing.

Between hymns, people would stand and tell how God had provided for them. That night I found myself thinking, What about me? I felt like a kid who didn’t know the password to the neighborhood club.

Suddenly a man spoke up with a voice I didn’t recognize. I turned to see who it was. My friend from the intersection! What was he doing here?

He put his hands on either side of the seat and shifted his weight forward until his feet touched the floor. “I want to thank God…” he began.

I held my breath as he went on. He was thanking God because he had found a new apartment and a job. The service continued, but I didn’t catch much of it. Instead, echoing in my head were the man’s humble words of thanks.

At the end of the sermon the pastor invited anyone in the congregation to come up and pray. People filed forward, but I remained in my seat, my eyes closed. A moment later there was a tap on my shoulder.

“Can you pray with me?”

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