I just got back from taking my monthly turn preaching at the nursing home. I always go somewhat reluctantly; I generally come away feeling blessed with the feeling that here, for sure, was something worth doing.
In the ministry, one of the challenges with a lot of the stuff we pastors do is that it can be tough to see with clarity what, if anything, is being accomplished. We have to take it by faith that something good is being brought about by our labors.
Week before last I went over to Freddie’s apartment to help him look for his wallet that he had misplaced for five days, causing him a great deal of frustration. I succeeded in helping him find it. He was very grateful, but from my point of view, I too, felt fortunate, because the experience provided me with one of those rare instances when something good was accomplished and it was as plain as day: Freddie was delivered from that nagging anxiety that we all know when we misplace something important. I was delivered from that nagging anxiety of wondering if I did anything worthwhile that day.
At the end of my time at the nursing home, I told the old folks, “You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. Deal?” They said it was a deal, but one lady added that they were getting the better part of the deal. I assured her that I didn’t think that was so. These old folks are very close to God, and I think their prayers are unusually potent. Those of us running about in this world driven here and there by the rat race have much to distract us from the presence of God.
You don’t need to be able to walk, to see, or to hear in order to pray. All you need to pray is to be. Those moments of synchronicity that I wrote about in an earlier blog give us a little glimpse of the mysterious ways we are yoked together beyond our understanding, and they should encourage us to take open-hearted, agenda-free praying seriously. As somebody said, “When I pray, coincidences seem to happen more often.”
The only problem, in the end, is that unlike finding Freddie’s wallet, we don’t often get to see the fruits of our prayer labors. We have to take it on faith.