Prayer at the Park
Normally I get Sundays off of work. I asked for them off, so I could go to church, and since government workers get paid slightly more on Sundays there were always plenty of people willing to cover that day for me. This week however I had to use my days off to attend the first day of school. My school started today, and I don’t get off work until labor day. Which means tomorrow I have to go to my classes and then hop in the car for a four hour drive back home so I can work all weekend. Woohoo.
Anyway I had to work last Sunday instead of going to church. As the morning began I felt a little awkward. I needed to find some way to honor God or improve myself spiritually. I just wasn’t sure what. I was reading a book when suddenly an idea came to me:
What if I prayed for everyone coming into the park?
In case you’ve forgotten it’s my job to take people’s money when they come in. On occasion I’ve said a prayer for a customer (after they left of course; it would be pretty creepy and unprofessional to pray for them while they’re still there) but always when the customer had a bad problem (can’t find their wife, kids are sick, completely lost, stuff like that). I’d certainly never considered praying for every person who went past my booth. Hundreds of people go by my booth on a busy weekend. But the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that when we pray incredible things can happen. And here I was on a Sunday in a job that sends hundreds of people from all of the world past my door each day. Who knows how many of those people need some prayer right now? People of all types come to the park; Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, rednecks, urbanites, hippies, gangsters, nerds, jocks, Canadians, Europeans, Africans, Asians, Mexicans, South Americans, old people, young people, just about everyone you can imagine. I suddenly realized what an opportunity I had. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Lets do it!
During the morning it was easy. Cars come in spurts, with gaps in between them. After each customer left I’d say a short prayer for them. When we hit peak hours and the cars were coming through as fast as we could move them I managed to streamline my prayer so I could say it in the five seconds I had between cars. This is what I ended up with:
“Lord, please bless them, and please use this day to bring them closer to you.”
I think it’s a good prayer, given the context. It fits for anyone. I’d want it prayed for myself if our roles were reversed.
The praying itself was an incredible experience. Here are the highlights:
I’m a Lot Happier: The customers don’t bug me much today. They still don’t pay exact change, they still ask stupid questions, and they are occasionally rude (all of which is normal) but I’m not upset. They haven’t changed, I have. I don’t get upset, frustrated, annoyed, or cynical. This is mostly because…
It’s Not About Me Anymore: When a customer normally comes up to the booth I’m thinking about myself. I want to know whether they are going to make things easy for me or not. If they don’t (by asking stupid questions, not paying with exact change, and being occasionally rude) then I get upset. I’m just concerned about myself. But since I’m praying that God would bless each person it changes my whole outlook. I can’t exactly ask God to bless them without trying to bless them myself. How can I get angry at someone I’m trying to bless? I start to think about how I can help them instead of how they can help make things easier for me. Which, counterintuitively, does make things easier for me. I’m less stressed out and at the end of each shift I feel a lot more satisfied.
This is Suprisingly Like Hiking: Just like hiking the first hour of praying is tiring, the second and third hours are exhilarating, and the final three hours are a gradual decent into exhaustion. It’s just instead of my body being tired it’s my mind and in emotions. By the end of the day I am emotionally drained, but like a long hike I don’t regret doing it.
Why Haven’t I Been Doing This All Summer?: God has given me a rich field of opportunity at the park, and I can’t help but feel like I’ve wasted it. Who knows what kind of impact I could have made if been praying for people all summer?
I might have some more insights to share later, but that’s about the gist of it. If you find yourself having the opportunity to spend a little time with strangers each day, then I would recommend trying this. Pray for everyone you meet. You don’t have to do it while they’re there, or even out loud. Just try it out; for your own sake as much as theirs.