"I'm sorry if this sounds awkward, but... I feel like I'm supposed to... can I pray for you?"
I stifled a groan and a roll of the eyes, and reminded myself that I should have expected this at a powerful worship service. Not that I am against praying for people, by any means... but so often when a stranger approaches me and says God called them to "pray for me," they are under the conviction that I am to be miraculously physically healed. And those are really awkward prayers to sit through because the person seems disappointed when I don't jump out of my chair.
"It's just that God told me to come over here to you and pray for you.... do you mind?"
The sweet looking lady about my age knelt beside me and placed a hand on mine. So I smiled and said, "Sure, that's fine." Here we go again... I thought. She only asked me my name, and told me hers was Julie, and then she closed her eyes.
I expected a long wordy stream of passionate petition, emphasized in all the right places to indicate earnestness, probably accompanied by a firmer grip on my hand that would squeeze and shake. But that's not what happened. Julie was silent for a moment, then her voice, calm and quiet and tender, prayed for God to bless my life and my ministry - she didn't know I had a ministry... She paused again, as though waiting on the Lord and listening to the Spirit. She asked that as I committed the next year of my life to Him, that He would ease my concerns about how he would work out the details, and that he would remind me of how he's provided for me before and of his presence and provision in my life - she didn't know about long-term commitments that just arose this week, nor that I did have concerns... She was silent again. Then she said, "God, you have called Connie to speak. So give her your words to say." What? How could she know about teaching and singing and speaking and... how much that's a part of who you've made me? Pause again... and then she finished by asking God to pour out his blessings on me.
Throughout this simple and sincere prayer, I felt so much peace and joy... and I couldn't help thinking of it as a birthday gift straight from God. It was beautiful and personal, and I felt like God really did ask this Julie to pray for me. I said thank you and we parted ways, and later as Hannah and I drank tea and talked about it, the awesomeness of it really hit us, and we both wished we could talk to her again and thank her for being obedient to the "awkward prompting" she received from the Holy Spirit.
Today - two days later - Hannah and I were at the mall together. This tall young man walked past us, and a smaller lady followed close behind him. Hannah and I stopped in our tracks and did a double-take: it was her! We whirled around and like creepy stalkers we followed them into a store. She turned around and her eyes got as big as ours and we all laughed. "Oh, wow!" she said, "God really must want us to know each other!" I'd had this assumption that she probably lived close by, but just then she explained that she and her husband were just visiting for the weekend from Kentucky, that it was their anniversary, and that they were leaving town in about an hour. I couldn't believe it, and thought it was so cool that God gave me a chance to really thank her.
I quickly told her about my hesitation in letting her pray, and how closely her prayer came to my life and need at that moment. I concluded by saying, "If God prompts you to do that again for anyone, please take it! He really uses you to bless others!"
We came home and told Pam and Becky all about it. "Can you believe it?" I said. Becky smiled and said, "I think the real miracle was in how you opened yourself up to that prayer. You've had so many frustrating experiences with strangers praying for you... and yet you were willing to receive prayer again. And God blessed that."
Sometimes it is hard to receive prayer, like it was for me. And sometimes it is hard to offer prayer, like it was for Julie. Yet we both learned that when we are willing to trust God to speak and move, He does.