By Tara K. E. Brelinsky
A number of years ago, I was standing beside my 15 passenger van pumping gas, when a stranger asked, “Would you pray for me?” Her name, she said, was Frances and she had a pressing need for prayer. That’s all that I ever learned about the stranger. However, our brief encounter continues to fuel my prayer life.
I don’t know why she chose to approach me. Perhaps, it was because the bumpers of my van are covered in pro-life stickers. But whatever her reason was for soliciting prayers from me, and no one else in the immediate vicinity, I took her request to heart. And I prayed faithfully for Frances for a year or more. In fact, though we’ve never crossed paths again, her name still finds its way into my litany of intentions now and again.
Shouldering the Stranger’s Sorrow
Occasionally, a stranger will read an article that I’ve had published or they’ll stumble across my blog and then they’ll email me their request for prayers. I suppose in those cases a reader can deduce from my topics that I’m a woman of prayer and someone who is familiar with sorrow. But even still, it takes a bit of courage for a complete stranger to reach out and petition my prayers.
Typically, when someone has chosen to contact me through email, they open their lives up to me. They make themselves vulnerable, sharing the intimate details of their grief, confusion or loneliness. I consider it a great privilege to be invited into their sorrow and allowed to shoulder a bit of it with them.
Like Frances, I often revisit these people in my thoughts. I wonder how God worked in their lives: did He heal their bodies or give them peace in their suffering, did He fill a need or lessen the desire for a material good, did He change a situation or the person’s perspective of it.
The Woman with a Hemorrhage
I’ve always admired (and sometimes related to) the woman with a hemorrhage from the gospel of Luke. Over the course of 12 years, she’d exhausted her whole livelihood on trying to find a cure for her bleeding, but no doctor was able to heal her. I imagine her, feeling desperate and alone. Perhaps, she’d even contemplated despair when she woke up day-after-day to discover her health problems persisted in spite of the promises of this or that expensive treatment.
Then, she heard about Jesus, the miracle-worker. She heard about the Man, Who made the blind see, the lame walk and the leper clean. She heard and she believed that He could do what no one else could. With hopeful determination, the woman with the hemorrhage braved the crowds who’d come to meet this Jesus.
Jesus, Take Away the Pain
In my mind, I hear the throng of people all shouting, “Jesus, Jesus!” Maybe, they even publicly disclosed their needs, “Take away my pain! Heal my child’s illness. Cure my spouse’s cancer.” Calling out their intentions, the crowd of people pressed against Him from every side. Each one was eager to grab His attention and benefit from His blessing.
As for this nameless woman, whose suffering was great and long-endured, she settled for merely touching the tassel which hung from Christ’s cloak. With all humility and trust, she was satisfied not to grab His undivided attention, but to brush her hand against the strings which dangled from His garment. And in that moment, her bleeding stopped.
Like Tassels on His Cloak
When Frances asked me to pray, she was reaching out to Christ. Like a tassel on His cloak, she saw my prayers as a thread through which His grace and power could flow.
Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. Matt 18:19
Indeed, her own prayers were necessary, but she recognized her need for connection to the Body of Christ. And by extension, she invited me into a greater participation in the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus Answers Prayers
I may never know how Jesus answered Frances, or the other strangers for whom I’ve prayed, but I am confident that He did. Though sometimes the answer might not appear as we expect it to, the Lord never fails. Just as Jesus said to the woman healed from a hemorrhage, so too He will undoubtedly say to Frances and to everyone who places all of their hope in Him, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”