You Never Know
Our family has a pretty old habit. I can’t even remember when we started doing it–probably a few years ago. But usually, when we’re all out to eat together, we like to chat up our waiter or waitress. We find out a little about them, tell them a little about us… And then, right after they give us our food, we pause before we give thanks and take the time to ask them if there is anything going on in their lives that we can pray for.
You will not believe the answers we have gotten to this. Some people are thankful, and tell us that they are Christians, too. Others turn red and embarrassed, and mumble a general, “Oh, just anything, I guess.” There are also those who get defensive, and firmly tell us no, they don’t need our prayers. So we pray for them anyway once they are gone and hope that God has used our simple gesture for some good in their life.
But I don’t think any response to this question has been so touching as our waiter’s answer while dining on the cruise ship. We were served by a man named Sa, from Thailand. He was shy but very friendly, and told us about his two boys back home, and how he would get to see them in about five months. On that first night, when my dad asked if there was anything we could pray for him, he was startled. He nodded and said, “Yes. For my family, and for my friends.” Then he stopped where he was and bowed his head, waiting for us to pray.
We were a little bit startled too, as we’d never actually prayed with the waiter. But we closed our eyes and listened to Dad’s nice prayer for Sa and his friends and family. Then we said, “Amen” and Sa nodded and left. Nothing else was said about it the rest of the night.
Imagine our surprise when the second night, before we’d even gotten our food, Sa asked if we were going to pray again. He didn’t have time to stand with us that evening, but he expressed his thanks as well he could. “I appreciate your family,” he said to us in broken English. “Eight years I have worked here and no one has ever prayed for me before.”
That just about brought tears to our eyes. He shook our hands and left to go get our food, but not before thanking us one last time. The next night, when he brought our food, he asked to pray with us again and then told us, “I will pray for you and your family. I am thankful for you. I will be thankful for you in my prayer.”
Later on, as we were discussing this as a family, my parents took the time to stress to us kids the significance of what had happened. We’d only seen Sa on a dozen or so occasions. We’d probably never see him again in our lives. But by sharing a simple prayer with him, we had built a connection that both families will probably remember for years to come. You never know who you can reach out to, simply by offering to pray for them or telling them a little bit about your faith. You never know who you will touch, and what that person will reveal to you. You never know who is hurting or lonely and needs to know that someone cares about them. That is what I learned this week.