An Elevator Prayer request

As I made my way onto the verrrrrry slow elevator at a hospital recently, having just spent some time with a parishioner who was quite ill, my mind was wandering all over the landscape. It was late on a long day, and I was internally debating whether to go back to the office and the pile of work on my desk, or go home (I went home!). I was tired. I wasn’t, however, finished. For which I am glad.
Just before the elevator doors closed, a hand reached out and blocked the door. There was an African American family trying to get on. I punched the “hold door” button as they piled in, three adults, four children. They were headed out as well. They were laughing and joking about something that had just happened in their loved one’s room, when one of them noticed….”hey y’all, clean it up – there’s a man of the cloth in here”.
I get that a lot.
Of course they all immediately stared at my priest collar, some dropped their heads (giggling I might add), a couple nodded at me. I wished them a good evening. One of the men told me his father was a pastor and he had such a hard time putting his priest collar on. So when I quickly removed the tab collar I was wearing, he said “Man, I have to tell my Daddy about that one! He spends half his life getting a collar on”. As the elevator opened on the bottom floor, one of the other men grabbed my arm and asked me to pray.
I get that a lot too.
I said sure, what would you like me to pray for? By now the others in his party had gathered back around the two of us, standing in the elevator lobby. He looked at me with tears in his eyes. I made the assumption the person they were visiting must be very ill and my heart went out to him.
I was wrong.
I get that a lot.
He said, “man I am so worried about our country, about people who look like me. It seems every crazy white person in America is coming out of the woodwork now and feeling they have won the lottery. I worry about me, but most of all I worry about these kids and the America they will now grow up in. It’s always been harder for us, more dangerous for us. We’ve had to learn to cope. It just seems that the hate is rising again and I am actually scared to death.”
So I thought for a moment, and then asked for his name so I could pray for him. He gave me his name, then he said something that floored me. “Pastor, I appreciate you praying for me. But that’s not what I want you to do. I want you to pray for the government. For everyone in the government. That they will really do things for all people, to remember all were created equal. That’s all I want. To be treated fair. To be seen as equal. To have the same opportunities. I work hard. I went to school. I am raising my kids right. We want the same things for our families that white folks do. We are Americans, too! Pray for Trump and everyone he is appointing and everyone in government. Cause we are scared out here. America Great again? I don’t even know what that means but I am afraid of what it could mean. Pray for them. They need it. We need them to need it. Would you pray for them?”
I don’t get that a lot.
So we prayed. I offered some words and then he offered some words and we hugged in that elevator lobby. His kids were anxious to get moving, laughing about something, unaware of the enormous concern this man had just shared with me – a complete stranger, a “man of the cloth”, a white man who can’t even imagine what it is like to walk in his shoes every day.
His words have stayed with me. “Just treat us as equals” and “we want the same things for our families”. And most of all, “I am scared to death”. For his children. His loves.
So we must pray. And we also must pay attention and hold people accountable. A great America starts right there – with the bedrock premise that all are created equal, there is just one race, the human race, and we are all, truly, sisters and brothers. Our history shows we haven’t always behaved or governed like we believe such to be true. In fact, we rarely have. So, to quote our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, let us pray:
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 820).
Justice. Peace. Wisdom. Thankfulness. I can pray for that. And I will. Join me.

15 thoughts on “An Elevator Prayer request”

  1. David, I am right there with you praying for those who have been marginalized, mistreated, overlooked and most of all for the the government and our citizens who have done this. I too fear for what is in store for us. Blessings to you and your family. I am so blessed to have known you.

  2. Thank you for sharing and for words so well stated. Thank you for taking the time to really listen to that man in the elevator and really hear his concerns and to share them with all of us so that we may be more aware and join in those prayers. Miss your words of wisdom here in Delray. I will be joining in those prayers.

  3. Historians and political pundits alike often refer to the First One Hundred Days of office as a defining era in a new president’s term. It is in that period of time that the new administration has its first and best chances to model action, build alliances, and effect policy that can potentially alter the direction and resolve of the nation. May we all vow to make this upcoming First One Hundred Days a time of committed prayer for our nation and for ALL OF OUR LEADERS, including elected officials, community volunteers,teachers, parents, friends and pastors traveling in slow elevators.

  4. David, you have the warmth and caring we all need in 2017. That man is not the only one afraid. I actually worry for the safety of the entire Trump family and for everyone. My granddaughter and our children in Paul’s Place give me hope. Christians are also questioned. I will continue to pray. Blessed New Year to all the family.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful story and the concluding prayer. Please continue writing your blog as often as you feel called to do so. Your voice helps.

  6. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing! There are many prayers in the BCP that continue to remind us to follow lessons taught by Jesus. I’m so glad you are writing again, David!

  7. Before the election I prayed from the BCP – page 820 #18 “Prayers for National Life” daily. I am a staunch conservative, beliver in the American free enterprise system of government and a republican from the time I was able to vote so I am pleased with the election and have high hopes that the new administration will make our country #1 and support the President Elect and his Cabinet choices and pray daily for their success to bring sanity back to government. Praise God and God Save America.

  8. Thank you for being truly present with an open heart in that elevator. You and that man have called us and challenged us to pray for our country and our leaders.

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