A few weeks ago, I was preparing to preach at the church I serve. Before worship, a woman in the church came up to me and said “I have a prayer request that I would like announced”. This isn’t unusual in the culture of this church, so I was happy to listen and take note. I listened as the woman told me that earlier that morning, while walking her dog in the park, this woman, let’s call her Karen, met a woman named Lisa. Lisa had spent the night in the park, so Karen quickly returned home, grabbed one of the blessing bags we had assembled at church earlier in the summer, and went back to the park to reconnect with Lisa.
They had a brief exchange, but Karen made sure to ask Lisa how she and the church could pray for her. Lisa’s response was: “Please pray that I wake up alive each day.” This is a powerful prayer from a woman who doesn’t always know where life will lead, or if she will have the things she needs, and for who, survival is a very real concern. What is even more powerful, is that this prayer was voiced to Karen, a woman who had just recovered from a severe brain bleed. Karen had looked mortality in the face and had encountered the fringes of life in very real ways.
When Karen told this story to me, there was a conviction in her voice that I usually only hear when people have experienced God in ways that surprise and terrify them. Karen knew that Lisa’s prayer was meant for her that morning. As Karen told me this, tears welled up in my eyes, because I knew something Karen didn’t.
I knew that in worship that morning, we were going to be talking about 2 women who desperately needed healing and resurrection. The scripture that morning was about the hemorrhaging woman, and Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (you can read the text here). Tears came to my eyes because the Holy Spirit was moving, moving in a way that reminded us that the stories we read, and the Jesus we praise- these are not static things of the past. In fact, the Spirit of Christ is still very much alive in each of us, and the faith we practice is a faith that should be life-giving and restorative.
What a prayer to hear on a Sunday morning, a prayer to “wake up alive.” Are we waking up alive each day? Or do we go through the motions in auto-pilot, not engaging with one another, not embracing opportunities for connection and relationship? Lisa’s prayer, and the way that it came to me, is something I will not soon forget, and in many ways, it has brought me to some much needed restoration, wholeness and healing. This prayer has become my own, echoed in my morning conversations with God, as I seek to live life to the fullest, embracing opportunity, and recognizing that God’s plan weaves in and through us all.
This past Sunday, Karen made a B-line for me before worship- and she excitedly said “Lisa is here with us this morning!” Karen and Lisa had seen each other in the park, and had built a relationship, and Lisa trusted Karen enough to take her up on her invitation to church. I met Lisa, I shook her hand and I told her that we have been praying for her, and how her prayer was a blessing to me. She ate with us after worship, and was sent off with a few more blessing bags and the assurance that Karen would see her soon. We talked about how we can, as a congregation, continue to support and nurture Lisa, and how we might help to meet any of her needs. But what I keep coming back to is that Lisa has come into the life of this church at just the right time. She has come when we are needing resurrection, energy, new life- and without knowing it, she is inspiring us to wake up alive in new and exciting ways.
My hope is that we will all “wake up alive” each day, and seek to live a life full of connection and restoration.