Church of the Incarnation, where I serve as an Episcopal priest, sits on Madison Avenue at 35th Street in Manhattan. There are loads of passers by all day long. The vast majority of them don't come inside of course, but the constant foot traffic presents an opportunity for one of my favorite kinds of ministry - prayer on the street. Every Tuesday morning from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m., I stand outside the church doors in my vestments (a fancy name for robes) with a sign that reads, "Ask me for a blessing. God's grace is meant to be shared."
During the half hour I'm out there, most people walk by me without making eye contact. Several smile and nod or say, "Good morning." Ten or so actually stop and request a blessing. In that moment, I introduce myself, get the person's name, and ask if there's anything s/he needs prayer for. Responses vary but I've noticed some themes - a sick loved one, a struggling child, an upcoming job interview, the need for more peace and less stress, the state of our nation. Half of those who stop are in crisis. Someone always cries. And a few are simply curious or just looking for a good way to start the day. Each time, I offer a prayer based on the need expressed. Then I close by making the sign of the cross on the person's forehead and pronouncing a blessing in the name of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It's a surprisingly intimate experience. Coming before God with a complete stranger, united by a shared and often fervent desire for the Holy Spirit to move in that person's life. There is no pretense on either side. No need to impress. Prayer cuts through all our superficiality, right down to the heart of getting real about our need for God. This is where grace abounds. Grace from God that is meant to be shared by those who gather in God's name.
May you find grace in these stories of prayer and blessing.
(Certain identifying details have been changed to preserve confidentiality and anonymity.)
Rev. Adrian Dannhauser
ASK ME FOR A BLESSING
GIVE A SHOUT
209 Madison Ave
New York, New York County 10016