I was in Brooklyn over the weekend, taking a stroll with my granddaughter and wondering how her faith is faring since I saw her last.
Brooklyn is a beautiful town, full of interesting shops and a neighborhood feel that is lacking in its sister borough across the bridge, Manhattan. Among the street vendors my 8-year-old companion and I came upon was an African-American man who approached us in a friendly manner and wished us a good day. I instinctively swept past him at first, thinking I was being targeted by an ambitious street hustler. But then we looked up at the sign above the simple roadside stand that very much resembled a lemonade stand. It said in bold black letters on a white board:
I asked my granddaughter if she wanted to learn more about what the man was “selling,” and she said yes. Still tentative, but at the same time hopeful, I asked the man what this was about. He in turn asked if we wanted prayer for anything. I replied that I would like to pray for a blessing on my granddaughter. The man immediately bowed with us, a huddle of three on a street in Brooklyn, laid his hand on my little one’s head, and prayed all kinds of blessings—for her protection, for her growth to honorable womanhood, and for other requests I do not now recall.
He prayed in the name of Jesus.
He was not looking for payment.
He was not selling a book.
He was not rustling up church members.
He did not need our email addresses.
He was simply a man who thought along the lines of the apostle Paul:
“What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge …” (1 Corinthians 9:18).
What we saw was a few men (I counted three) employing their creativity to come up with one of many possible means of reaching others for Christ, in order to save some:
“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
My 2001-02 Westminster Theological Seminary Student Directory has a photo spanning back and front covers of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987, Christian philosopher and seminary professor) and Jack Miller (1928-1986, Christian pastor and seminary professor) preaching on Wall Street, a subway ride from my companion and me. I often study the faces in the crowd in that photo. Some look pensive, some look inquisitive, a few are walking away.
A sidewalk “Prayer Stand” may be the intersection of destinies for many. I know it came at the right time for me and my precious child of God, on the occasion of a grandmother’s visit to Brooklyn.