At a Soup Kitchen, Prayer Goes Both Ways

For servers and the served, an act of transformation.

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Posted in , Aug 15, 2017

Soup kitchen prayers

On Saturdays I like to volunteer at our church’s soup kitchen. As I think I’ve mentioned before, we feed about 200 people a week, giving them a hearty meal and–thanks to donations from Whole Foods–a bit of food to take home.

I wouldn’t be much help cooking in the kitchen but Marilyn, the volunteer in charge, usually puts me out on the floor where we get a chance to talk to the guests.

That’s how we think of them: our guests. Okay, some of them can be a little ornery at times–like that lady whose coffee is never hot enough. But most are incredibly gracious. Appreciative. Grateful.

During the morning we make announcements, inviting them to church services on Sunday or letting them know about other resources in the neighborhood.

Rick and Marilyn singing at the soup kitchen.We’ll have a moment of silence–a prayer–and then I’ll lead anybody who is willing into a song. “Amazing Grace” is a big hit but so are selections from The Sound of Music. And you should have heard us singing “America the Beautiful” before the Fourth. Boisterous.

I sometimes get a little ornery myself. Running back and forth with plastic forks, napkins and placemats, cleaning up spills with a sponge, trying to get people to vacate a table so we can seat the next guests.  

But I remind myself how Jesus said we can come to see him in “the least of these.” That means our guests can be teachers too, like the Teacher we honor.

Just the other day, one of our guests came up to me and introduced himself. His name was Andre. He told me he sells used books at a table he sets up on upper Broadway. But he wanted to talk about prayer.

“You know,” he said, “it works both ways. You pray for us but we pray for you.”

“That’s very nice of you,” I said.

“I mean it,” he said. “When you lift me up, I lift you up. That’s what I’m meant to do.”

I’ve got a book coming out next month called Pray for Me (FaithWords, September 19). But I rather feel like anything I might have written about intercessory prayer got trumped by Andre.

Maybe I can give him a couple of my books to sell. 

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