He shook his head, no – this homeless guy in New Orleans. This Jesus guy, he may work for you, lady, but that is not my life. Because, that is not my God. He held out a cup for a donation not for me to pray.
Doc and I were in New Orleans for a conference. Each night we would walk through the French Quarter. Music filled the air on every street with so many amazing artists picking up extra money. Paintings filled the windows of shops, some hung with clothespins on fencing, and some were chalked onto sidewalks down the streets.
We saw men walking dogs who were doing tricks, and cats who sat on hats above their owner’s heads. We saw a parrot riding shotgun on the shoulder of a man, its feathers all cobalt and lime green, whistling at women who passed, and making crass comments to men.
Night life in the French Quarter of New Orleans was full of good food and a carnival atmosphere.
But, you cannot miss the dark places of the street. The men and women who, with tattered clothes carrying the stench of a urinal, lay with their few possessions on the threshold of stores locked for the night. Some rattle cups asking for your coins. Some sing, then ask for money to return home. Some sleep with a sign covering their head, simply asking for food.
When I was ten years old, I heard of a relative who lived like this. Alcohol held him hostage, destroying his relationships with everyone he knew. My dad received a call one night from the New Orleans police. Our relative had died on the street. My dad’s name and phone number were all he had on him as identification.
Looking at these people on the street, held hostage by addiction, mental illness, or abandonment – my heart broke. I wanted to reach out. Doc stood guard at a short distance, as I walked up to a young man. He seemed about the same age as our youngest son.
“Sweetheart, why are you here? Who can we call for you?” I dropped into his cup vital resources for this world.
“No one. I ain’t drank in a week.” He looked away as if he might get caught in a lie. Yet, in his eyes, I think I saw a gentle soul.
Jesus was what I wanted him to hear, and how I knew Jesus would help if only asked. He dropped his head, shaking, no.
“I can see how hard your life is, I can see it has been unfair. And, I can see that you don’t believe Jesus can help you. But I know He can. I will pray for you.
For a moment, I paused and wondered if I were like Job’s friends, speaking out of turn for God. I didn’t know all that had happened to him. I didn’t know this young man’s heart and to presume I could give him the answers was arrogant on my part.
When he looked at me again, his expression had changed. There was anger. He tried to mask his emotion in front of the one who had just given him, either his next fix, or food. What was not masked was something I don’t think he realized was there – Hopelessness, maybe, despair. Maybe he knew but it was so familiar that it didn’t seem out of place.
We talked a minute. He couldn’t come up with a plan of escape. And the world outside of this doorway was perhaps scarier than the street life he faced. It seemed he believed there was nothing more for him to hope for, no dreams to chase, no hope about his future – alone and on the street in his late teens or early twenties.
Later, with my head titled back on my soft pillow and cozy beneath a down blanket, I thought more about that young man. I had not even asked him his name. Why had I not asked? To say his name out loud would have helped him to know he was not invisible – That he counted.
When the heart breaks, it can bleed salty onto the bed, and it did that night. My heart broke for this man. The only thing I knew to do, was to call out to the one who knew his name and who held his future.
“Father, get him off the street, and give him a family, and give him food, and an education, and get him of the drink, and show him you love him and…”
I paused, trying to think of what else God needed me to say.
As the silence lingered, I heard God speak.
“Pray My Sovereignty, not your sympathies, daughter.”
His answer caught me by surprise.
In my desire to see the young man have a better life, I had prayed all the things I wanted for him. But this was not the first thing God wanted for him. I was praying from a position of sympathy and God wanted me to pray from a position of His supremacy and sovereignty.
God wanted my intercessions to lined up with His perfect will. Seek The Kingdom first, and all these things will be added. But, pray for what he needs in The Kingdom, first. The most sovereign will of God is for all to come to the Salvation of the Christ their Savior. Sometimes we can get caught up with the worldly needs of a person and miss the most important need they have – Salvation.
We need to help meet their needs, but as we care for their body, we need to start our prayers for them with the need of their soul.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
Prayer: Father, we pray for those who are homeless, hopeless and need of your healing touch. Be near them, and woo them to you, until they finally say, Yes, to your calling. Amen
- In January 2016, 549,928 people were homeless on a given night in the United States.
- Of that number, 194,716 were people in families
- 355,212 were individuals.
- On that same night, there were 35,686 unaccompanied homeless youth, roughly seven percent of the total homeless population.
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