Unexpected Grace: Praying for a Stranger

Jul 7, 2011

Today is a big day. I have a minor surgery this afternoon, one I’m dreading. It’s complicated by the fact I know the pain that will come as a result. That and my family can’t be with me. One of my boys is jumping on a plane to visit his grandparents for a week, and my husband has to take him to the airport, being that I’ll be “otherwise occupied.”

I’ve had several procedures over the past few months. After a lifetime of being the healthiest person on the planet, I’ve had a long stretch of doctor’s appointments, tests and too many unknowns over the past several months. If I step back and look at the big picture, it could be far worse than it is. I know this. But I’ve never really had to face any health issues. And after a short time of it, I’m weary.

Knowing I’ll be out of commission for a couple days, I went for a 6-mile run this morning. It felt good to get some exercise, feel my blood pumping, inhale the air and see the Rockies spread out before me. For a time it took my mind of the afternoon’s unavoidable appointment.

About a mile or two from home, I crossed paths with a young woman out for a walk. I smiled. She smiled. Our interaction lasted seconds. Then she continued walking west while I jogged east.

But I couldn’t get her out of my mind.

Why? Because her young form was absent a right arm. Her hairless head wore a baseball cap. And her face carried the aged, gaunt look of someone who’d endured too much chemo.

I don’t know her story, but with one look I could imagine it. My own private journey over these past several months offered me the barest glimpse, maybe even tendered my heart to seeing her more than I would have otherwise. She’d endured too much pain, too much reality of how harsh life can sometimes be. But she walked on, her one arm and hand gripping the leash of a faithful dog, and she smiled at me.

Sometimes it takes me too long to process what I’ve seen. By the time the truth of her story registered in my mind, we were already too far apart, moving in opposite directions. I wish I would’ve stopped. Asked for her name. Maybe even asked for her story. But I didn’t. Instead I did the only thing I knew how to do:

I prayed.

I prayed for her healing. I prayed that today she’d have joy. I prayed that those who loved her would surround her with their presence and reassurances. And I prayed, above all else, that she would know — as she’s never known before — how much the God who made her loves her, sees her, walks with her.

I prayed nearly every step of my jog home, and even through my own minor surgery. I don’t know her name, but I know the same God who thrills me with His presence is fully aware of hers. And today, for a time, I stepped into her story and out of my own.

By simply praying.

The biggest surprise? Offering her an unexpected grace ended up becoming my own.

Note: Author River Jordan recently released a new non-fiction book titled Praying for Strangers. I haven’t read it yet, but her story intrigues me, and instantly came to mind after my experience today. You might want to check it out.


  1. Jon Fulk

    Love this story! I sometimes wonder about people’s stories. This post has encouraged me not only to ask but to at least pray for them when I don’t. Someday, I think we will be amazed at how many of our secret prayers made a large impact on the lives of others without our knowledge. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Michele

      I have thought of this woman so often in the past couple weeks. How I regret not stopping and talking to her! But I prayed. And someday I think we’re all going to get a glimpse of how God weaved seemingly inconsequential or “small” things into something glorious. What a day that will be!


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