I hugged an answered prayer last night. It is an "amazing grace" story that has encouraged me to continue even more boldly in a practice I've employed for several years.
Through the years I have noticed that waiters and waitresses are often mistreated and misrespected by the people they serve. I have seen people, even Christians, be embarrassingly rude to the person who takes their order, fills their tea glass, and delivers their meals.
I have a chosen the opposite path. If these human beings are going to be the targets of rudeness by other human beings on a regular basis, then I want to be a positive part of their day to help overshadow some of the negatives. At first, I started with simple acts of kindness and a little humor to let them know I wasn't going to be a problem customer. I also tip generously and unconditionally.
Another common practice of mine is to pray before each meal. Whether I am at a restaurant with family and friends or at my desk unwrapping a bologna sandwich, I pause to give thanks.
At some point, I started combining these two practices. I don't remember when, but one day, after my waitress took my order, I called her by name (thanks to the name tag) and told her we were going to have prayer before our meal and we would like to pray for her. I asked her if she had any specific needs. She gave a nervous answer, smiled, thanked me, and went to her next task, and I prayed for her.
I've been doing that ever since. I've made a few friends along the way in the restaurants I visit frequently. It has blessed me to pray for them. It has blessed them to have someone see them as a real person with real needs. On a side note, it is amazing how great the service is when you treat people with compassion and respect. Please don't do it for that reason or it will ruin the real blessing.
I have a long list of fantastic responses from waiters and waitresses that I could share with you, but I want to tell you what happened that resulted in last night's answered-prayer-hug.
The Lord called me to serve as pastor of Lake Fork Baptist Church in east Texas in November of last year. Shortly after God called us here, the church staff and their families invited us out to eat following a Sunday evening service. There is a restaurant right around the corner from the church. As usual, after the waitress came to our table and took our order, I asked her if she had any prayer requests.
She hesitated. Then she held back tears as she asked us to pray for her brother. She didn't go into any personal details, but the rest of the staff knew the young man and knew a little about his needs. Her request for prayer for her brother stuck with me. She was sincere. She smiled and thanked us. We prayed for him by name. That was ten months ago.
For ten months, every time I've entered that restaurant and seen that waitress, I've been reminded to pray for her brother, not knowing who he was...until last night.
After our Wednesday night services were over and we were standing around talking, one of my deacons tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I want you to meet someone who just met my best friend." I introduced myself to the young man and hugged him. He had that smile on his face that Jesus gives people right after He moves into their hearts.
My deacon told me the young man's name, but nothing registered. It's a common name. But the wife of our worship leader was looking at me funny. She had that wide-eyed look that indicated to me there was more to the story than I realized. She whispered into my ear, "Do you remember that time right after you came here that we went out to eat and you asked the waitress if she had any prayer needs, and she asked us to pray for her brother?"
I love it when the light comes on! Instantly, I had an "A-ha!" moment. This was him! I turned back to the young smiling man and said, "Young man, I prayed for you long before I ever met you." I told him the story. We hugged again. That hug was sweeter than the one before because I was hugging an answered prayer.
I'm encouraged to continue asking waitresses and cashiers and anyone else God puts in my path if they have a prayer need. There's nothing like hugging the neck of an answered prayer.
When you go to a restaurant, do yourself a favor. After they take your order, take theirs.