theplaceofprayer_EcoverAn Excerpt from my book:  “The Place of Prayer.”

Chapter Six:  What’s for Breakfast

Richard and Jarrod arranged to meet the following week for a quick breakfast. Getting their two schedules to cooperate was about as easy as catching a squirrel with a fishnet. Yet they were determined to carve out a few hours together before Jarrod had to catch a flight out of town. Core-Finn was sending Jarrod to its Midwest office in Kansas City. Jarrod wasn’t a fan of business travel; he was a homebody, but duty called.

Richard was excited and yet tempered with humility at the prospect of mentoring his friend in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jarrod, on the other hand, was anxious to hear what Richard knew about Core-Finn’s layoffs. Then there was the other hand: Jarrod wanted to know what his friend could tell him about God’s dealings with King Nebuchadnezzar, which was still haunting him. Neither of these men could have foreseen what God had planned, what pieces He had already put in place for this seemingly casual, simple reunion of old friends.

As both men settled into a booth at the diner, Richard said, “Jarrod, I am so glad we could get together. You have been on my mind lately and I’ve wanted to catch up with how you’re doing these days. It has been too long since we sat down and just talked. It’s been too, too long in fact.”

Richard was the type of guy who could make anyone feel comfortable and relaxed. For Jarrod, it was just like old times. He had no problem letting his guard down with his old friend.

The waitress politely took their breakfast orders and Jarrod anxiously started the conversation. “Thanks for your willingness to meet with me out here near the airport. I know it’s a little out of the way for you. As you can imagine, changes have already begun at the office, like this last-minute trip out of town. I’m betting that today’s trip is just a taste of what is to come, like it or not.”

Jarrod changed his tone and the focus of his subject to one of the issues that was eating away at his insides. “So tell me, Richard, what do you know about the changes going on at Core-Finn, especially the pending layoffs? You definitely captured my attention with your comment on Sunday.”

Jarrod didn’t want to waste valuable time with small talk. His stress level had been increasing with each day at the office. He was still frustrated that he had been in the dark about the layoffs and didn’t see them coming. After fifteen years with the company he thought he deserved more respect, at least enough to be given a heads-up regarding something of such magnitude. Now, he was hoping that his friend had some behind-the-door information that would ease his fears and anxieties.

Richard tried to downplay any urgency on the subject. “I knew about Core-Finn’s layoffs because it spread through the industry pretty fast, as you can imagine.” He paused and took a sip of coffee with the intention of easing Jarrod’s nerves. Instead, Richard’s short, passive answer only tightened them.

The pause, any pause, was too long for Jarrod, so he responded with, “I’m sure it did, but Richard, you knew all about it by Sunday morning. The bomb had just dropped on my department the previous Friday. Normally this kind of thing is kept hush-hush until the last minute and yet … I get the sense that you weren’t surprised by it at all.”

“I saw it coming Jarrod. This is my specialty–analyzing, forecasting, consulting. It’s what I do for a living. If I don’t know what is going on in this market, then I’m not very good at what I do. In which case, I’d have to lay myself off. I saw Core-Finn make a few strategic and out-of-the-ordinary, aggressive moves well over a year ago. I was pretty sure that it was all going to backfire on them. So I just watched and kept my ear to the ground. Sadly, I was right.”

“What aggressive moves? What are you talking about? I didn’t see any risky actions. I don’t know of anything that was not in line with our strategic plans.”

“You probably wouldn’t have noticed the specifics that I am referring to since none of them directly involved the Marketing Department or the R&D Department. But Jarrod,” Richard stopped in mid-sentence as the waitress arrived with their meals.

The waitress put the plates down in front of her customers, and asked, “Is there anything else that I can get for either of you?”

Richard, reading her name from her badge, smiled and said, “Mary, thank you very much. All of this looks delicious. Mary, my friend and I are about to pray and give thanks for this food. Is there anything that we can pray with you about?”

The question caught Mary off guard. She was used to having requests for more coffee creamer or another utensil to replace one that dropped on the floor, but this was a new one for her. No customer had ever offered to pray for her before. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to respond. It took her a second to regain her composure, and then in a humbled tone she responded. “Well, sir”.

“Please, call me Richard.”

“Well, I have an eight-year-old son that isn’t doing well in school. His grades are pretty bad and for some reason lately he’s causing a lot of disruptions in class. He’s getting into a lot of trouble, which isn’t like him at all.” Her voice softened out of embarrassment. She surprised herself that she revealed such a personal part of her life. This was completely out of character for her, and yet for some strange reason she felt at peace sharing her burden with these two strangers. She continued.

“I don’t know what to do with him. I’m a single mother and I’m working double shifts here, six days a week, and that is just to keep things going. Even his daycare is having problems with him and threatening to make us go somewhere else. I can’t afford any other place.” She put her hands in her apron pockets, looked down at the floor, and then continued. “To tell you the truth, I’m at my wit’s end and, and …” Mary had to catch herself before her eyes began to tear up. Her face turned red with embarrassment and decided that she should apologize. “I am so sorry. I don’t know why I shared all my problems with you. Please forgive me.”

Richard jumped in to take over the conversation to ease the awkwardness of the moment. “I understand, Mary. I have kids of my own. I always say, ‘Parenting IS NOT for cowards.’ We’re going to pray for you and your son. What’s his name?”

“Jonathan, Jonathan Gilbert.”

“Do you have a moment to pray with us, Mary?” Richard was being careful. He didn’t want to put her on the spot and make her more uncomfortable, nor did he want to get her into any trouble on the job.

With almost a begging tone in her voice she replied, “Sure, I’d appreciate a prayer; please.”

Richard looked over to Jarrod and nodded with a smile. The three of them bowed their heads and Richard began to pray.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for this wonderful day, and thank You for our new friend, Mary. I don’t believe it is a mere coincidence that we have met this day. Father, I ask that You would reveal Your mercy and grace to Mary and to her son, Jonathan. As You know, they are going through some real struggles and Mary needs Your strength AND wisdom with raising her son. I ask that You would grant her this in Your loving kindness. And in doing so, may You lead her to know Your blessed Son, Jesus Christ. I also thank You for this meal and for providing it, along with this time that Jarrod and I have to talk and catch up from old times. May You, heavenly Father, be honored in all that I have asked. In Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.”[i]

When the men opened their eyes they first looked at each other and then simultaneously to Mary. She had already grabbed a tissue from her apron to wipe her eyes. “Thank you, Richard. Thank you very much.”

Richard reached into his pocket and handed her a small leaflet-like brochure, and said, “Mary, here is something that you might enjoy reading. It is about Jesus Christ and what He did for you and Jonathan. It’s called a gospel tract.”

Mary accepted the gift and slipped it into her apron pocket with her tissue. “Thank you, again. I promise to read it later.” Mary turned and walked back to the kitchen trying to get her bearings together and to remember her other customers.

[i] Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

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