I just ran into my neighbor and her grandson, and we had a nice chat on the sidewalk in front of my house. Then I said a cheery good-bye and was glad they were on their way to other places so that I could go inside and get my work done. “There, that was a successful encounter,” I thought to myself with satisfaction about the affable meeting. For I am often pleased with little interactions with acquaintances that leave everyone with a slightly elevated sense of well-being.
But as I stepped through my front door, safely alone and free of interruptions, I thought to myself, “How meaningless: Here I pat myself on the back for exchanging pleasantries and for having kept up my end of a convivial conversation, vainly imagining that my neighbor will come away thinking highly of my Christian demeanor.” But that’s easy stuff (Matthew 5:47). Like Jesus said, even your average civilized pagan does that.
So before going on with my oh-so-important work, I just now lifted up a prayer for my neighbor and her grandson and for what I know about the stresses in their lives—nothing extensive, but better than nothing. And it occurred to me that if I were to put this very small thing into practice and pray briefly for the people I meet in the course of the day—if I think of these coincidental path-crossings as God’s divine appointments—then I will be doing much better than simply schmoozing. And day after day, this change in custom will add up countless numbers of people prayed for.
For God in many places in Scripture tells us to “pray for one another” (James 5:16), and to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). What a practical way to do so by offering on-the-spot petitions for the neighbor and cashier and bank teller and the dog walker you meet every day, with whom you have up to now only had little “successful encounters”?