If you ask me to pray for you, I will gladly say yes. ThenÂ I’ll probably feel a little guilty â€“ unsure I can deliver as expected.Â Prayer, in the sense most people mean,Â is not part of my routine.Â Â As I’veÂ said before, I don’t really believe in God. I’m not looking for an argument here, but this is how I see it: if there is a God, I hope he or she is way too busy feeding the poor and healing the sick to attend to my trivial requests or expressions of gratitude.
I’ll feel better knowing I’ve made this clear. If I say I will pray for you, this is what I mean: Your troublesÂ matter to me. I will be thinking of you more than you imagine. I hope everything works out okay.
A couple of people have asked me to pray for them this week. I am doing my best.
I had an early meeting up at the medical school this morning and was headed back to my office through downtown. All the talk on the radio was about April Fool’s Day. Apparently last year someone announced that there was a new law in Oregon mandating that dogs in cars to be strapped into seat belts. Mayhem ensued when angry dog owners showed up at pet stores all over town demanding the required equipment.
Headed for the Morrison Bridge, I decided to seize the opportunity to give $100 away if I could find a place to pull over for a few minutes. The streets were bustling with a steady stream of people. I found an empty parking space on the corner of 6th and Alder and checked my pocket for the c-note I had stashed there earlier.
Similar to what happened on this day, it seemed that the streets emptied out as soon as I got outside. I stood on the corner for a while, feeling mildly silly. I had my eye on a woman wearing a purple coat and walking with a little girl, but she turned and crossed from the other side of the street.
Two guys walked by together and I let them pass. I spotted a very tall man approaching. He looked serious, worried. Burdened, maybe. I stepped up to him just as he got to the corner.
“Excuse me!” He stopped, but it was clear he didn’t want to. “How you doing today?” I asked him. “Oh, I’m getting by,” he said. His mood visibly softened and he looked me in the eye. “How are you doing?” he asked. I told him I was doing fine and that I had something for him. “It’s not an April’s Fool trick, I promise!” “What is it?” he asked, starting to seem annoyed again.
“Here. This is for you.” I put the $100 bill in his hand. He looked at it and said, “Wow. Wow! WHY?!” I beckoned him aside so we wouldn’t be blocking the sidewalk. I told him a real quick version of my story and he shook his head. “Oh, wow. You just don’t even know. Here, look.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened it. There was a picture of him and a child, cheek to cheek. “See that little guy? I just got custody of him. I’m looking for a place for the two of us right now. We’re not homeless, but we don’t have our own place. Here, give me a hug!”
He pulled me into a big hug, my cheek coming up to the chest of his gray sweatshirt. He told me that his name was David, then a little about his 6- year old son and the child’s mother. “I had to humble myself and work some things out there. We came to a good agreement.”
“This is so amazing,” he said. “It won’t get us moved in, but it will sure help! Give me another hug!” We just looked at each other for a minute and then he said, “Pray for me. I can tell you’re a spiritual person. You have, like, a glow about you. Please, pray for us both.”
A glow. That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I promised David I would be praying for him and we said goodbye. I watched him cross the street, then saw him open his phone again. Maybe he was going to make a call or maybe he just wanted to look at that photo again.
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I will definitely pray for David and for his son. Thanks Jill for sharing you encounter with him!
I liked what I heard Rabbi Ariel Stone ask someone who said he did not believe in God: “Which God do you not believe in?” I too have no concept of God as a person, and I too don’t much care for prayers addressed to a supreme being. But I have a sense of a universal life force that for want of a better word I call God. Sometimes I find it makes most sense to reverse a prayer. For example, instead of “God is love,” try “Love is God.”
I once read something about prayer that has sustained me ever since: “A heartfelt desire is a prayer in itself.” I rarely ask God for things, even to presume to pray for a person’s health, but I know that I have a heartfelt desire for the well-being of many. I add David to that list.
This one really got to me, Jill. I do believe in God and I happen to sense that God is using you mightily as a force for good in this world. But God’s existence questions/opinions aside, just, wow, this is so so amazing. Every post of yours means so much to me! Just prayed for you, David!
A PERFECT story, Jill, perfectly told! Mired in many disasters at this point in time, I really needed that
positive look at the lives of others who are somehow
My sentiments re: GOD and prayer closely echo those of you and the Rabbi,and Carole B. KEEP THAT GLOW!
Love, hugs, Pru
you always seem to sense the exact right person who needs the money. You must be a sensitive…you just didn’t know it…
Your stories often lead me in to deeper contemplation, Jill. I am grateful. I have often said that “God” is too small a name for what I believe in, and my focus of prayer is on holding the intention for the highest and best good to become manifest for a person or situation, as I no longer believe that I would necessarily know what that is. Blessings to you..
I love that; thanks. Jill
I think I see character, as well as the pain, in this young man’s face. That he asked for prayer shows something! The real, the One, God sees, hears, knows.
I have come to equate prayer with sending out good thoughts. I don’t think it’s fair to place expectations all on prayer. After the recent tornadoes for example, some people whose lives were spared proclaimed that God listened to their prayers. That always leaves me sad for those whose loved ones didn’t survive but may have been praying just hard. What does that say about those who succumb to illness or tragedy versus those who survive? I really don’t believe God favors one’s prayers over another’s. This leaves a lot of questions to ponder. Surely as David must have seen in you, goodness and spirituality are more than how much a person prayers or what a person believes in. Thank you Jill.
Andrea- I like your idea of prayer as sending out good thoughts. And what DJan said in her comment above: â€œA heartfelt desire is a prayer in itself.â€ And I agree that many, many seemingly worthy prayers (“heal my child”, “spare my home”, “feed my family”) go unanswered. Thank you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. Jill