We had a great morning church service and had arrived at a Chinese restaurant for lunch on a Sunday some 15 years ago or so.
Somehow we had arrived at this eating establishment ahead of the usual Sunday crowd. We quickly filled our plates and seated ourselves at a table. Then the lunch crowd filled the place with a line going almost out the front door. The buffet line went right down the middle of the restaurant dividing the dining room in half.
For several weeks, the theme of my messages to the church had been about the importance of prayer and time spent with the Lord, listening and worshiping individually and corporately.
As the dining room at the restaurant continued to fill up and we were eating our meal, I happen to glance around the room and noticed an elderly man sitting alone on the far side of the room at a booth. There was something about this man. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to go speak to him. He looked to be in his 80’s or so, had a long white beard and was quietly sitting alone.
I shook off the urge to go talk to the man and continued with the meal and conversations at our table. The children were all talking at once and it was hard to hear what each one had to say.
A few moments later, I once again glanced around the room and my eyes once again fell on the elderly man across the room. Again, I felt an almost overwhelming urge to go and talk with him. Again I fought off the feeling, and returned my attentions to our conversations.
By this time the restaurant was about full and the buffet line was still half way across the dining room.
As the conversation at our table went momentarily silent, I looked around and again, observed the elderly man. I could no longer fight off the feeling I must talk to him. I excused myself from our table and made my way over to him.
As I reached his table, he looked up at me. I said, “Sir, do you need something from the Lord today?” Now, I was not sure why I even ask him that question, in that way. It was the first thing that came to my mind when he looked up at me.
He began to cry. I didn’t know exactly what to do. People around the room were looking at us and may have been wondering what I said to him to cause this situation. He placed his hands over his eyes as he sobbed. I was standing there wondering what I should do, when he motioned for me to sit across from him at his booth. I took a seat, as he regained some composure, and repeated my question, “Sir, what do you need from the Lord today?”
The man then began his story. He said he and his wife had retired years ago and had been saving to build what they believed would be their final home somewhere in Arkansas. They had always loved the beautiful trees and hills of Arkansas he said.
They had found a small acreage they liked and hired a contractor to build their dream house, while they stayed in a local hotel. Not long after this, he said his wife began to feel ill. After several days of feeling under the weather, she agreed to go see a doctor.
The doctor ran tests and then more tests and finally called them back to his office. Sadly, he told the couple she had a terminal type of cancer and that there was nothing that could be done.
The elderly man said, “It all happened so quickly. Six weeks later, she was gone.” We had children living on both east and west coasts. He said, “I called them, but they said they couldn’t come to their mother’s funeral. It was too far and they just couldn’t get away.” I thought to myself, wow.
He said, “Yesterday I buried my wife of over 50 years in the rain, with only the funeral home representatives and the grave digger to stand with me.”
He said, “I went back to the hotel room last night. And for the first time in years, I got down on my knees beside the bed and I talked to God for the first time in a very long time.” He told me he prayed, “Lord, I haven’t prayed in a long, long time. I use to talk to you all the time. But I’ve been so busy with life. Lord, I feel so alone. Forgive me for not talking to you. Lord, if you would just send someone to pray with me.”
I fought off my own tears as I reached across that table and humbly took his hand and we prayed together.
Later I asked the Lord to forgive me, it shouldn’t have taken the Lord three times to get me to go to the elderly man in that restaurant.
It’s not always about us, but sometimes about being there to be part of the answer to others prayers.