A previous post on this blog talked about the ordination of one of my friends to the diaconate and focused on the importance of friends in living the Christian life. What about strangers? Do strangers help us on our journey? Speaking for myself, and I’d imagine many (if not all) of you, I’d say DEFINITELY! This experience of strangers was a part of that same trip I made to my friend’s ordination.
Two interactions stand out.
The first came when Brother Anthony (one of my brothers at the monastery) and I stopped at a tiny grocery store. We hadn’t eaten yet (it was after 4) and figured we’d stop.
For a long time, small grocery stores have fascinated me. You find local, often unique, types of sodas and that intrigues me. Small grocery stores also give a small glimpse into the life of the locals. You see the local causes and goings on often on community billboards in small grocery stores. If you wander the aisles, you can get a feel for the culinary habits of the people.
While shopping, Brother Anthony and I met a man who wanted to know about us since we were dressed differently than what he’s accustomed to seeing. When he found out that we were Eastern Catholic, he began to tell us about his son who is in seminary. The conversation then moved to his wife and other children, and he asked for our prayers. He told us that we would be praying for us. That meeting strengthened Brother Anthony and me, and it also strengthened the man and his family.
St. Paul asked for prayer and knew it to be helpful.
“ I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints” Romans 15:30-31
The second interaction came after Liturgy that Sunday. As I was leaving the Church, an elderly woman came up to me to ask if I was Orthodox. I informed her that I was an Eastern Catholic (Romanian Greek to be exact). I don’t think it mattered much to her exactly what I was. We talked for a few seconds, and as we parted and shook hands, she said: “I’ll be praying for you.” She’s on my prayer list too!
I have no doubt of the efficacy of the prayers of random people I meet. I pray for them; they pray for me. I get the better end of the deal since they are all much holier than I am. There are many struggles in life, and that only seems to increase in the monastic life. When forced to see yourself as you are, and digging deeper and seeing more of who you are, each day, you realize that you can’t hold yourself up. I know that I can’t.
Prayer helped St. Peter.
“So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” Acts 12:5
That very same night St. Peter was freed from the prison.
This happens to us in different ways. Most of the time our prison isn’t one of steel bars but prisons we have willingly walked into, namely sin. Other times our sickness is like a prison. In those cases, others hold us up.
The Saints hold me up; my brothers hold me up. My friends, family, and even strangers hold me up. The woman at Church and the man at the grocery store hold me up. Someone on the other side of the globe praying that has no idea I exist and I no idea they exist hold me up.
I do what I can and pray for all of them.
When we pray for the world, we affect the world. When we pray for people who need prayer, we help them and when they pray they help us.
This may all seem obvious and it should. But it’s often the obvious that we forget about it.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” 1Timothy 2:1
Let’s pray for strangers.
Let’s thank God for the strangers who intercede for us.
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.