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Pray for me, a sinner

Every once in a while, I get someone who wants to pray for me rather than the other way around. They usually approach me with great enthusiasm, surprised and delighted to see someone who appears to be all-in for Jesus (which I am). I love it when this happens. We might talk about the goodness of God, life in Christ, and whatever spiritual stories they want to share. Then I heartily welcome their prayers, which generally end up being a request for God to fill me with the Spirit and bless my ministry. Amen. This week I had another one of these familiar encounters but with an unexpected twist. A woman opened her prayer by asking God to forgive me and cleanse me, citing 1 John 1:9. She didn’t quote this verse of Scripture, but I know it by heart because it’s in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. We use it during Lent – “If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Okay,” I thought, “I didn’t express a need for forgiveness to this woman, but I can get on board with that.” Then she asked Jesus to reveal anything in me that is not of him, so that I might be further cleansed. For a second, I thought of a scene in the Netflix movie, Come Sunday, which is about a pastor who loses his megachurch because he tells his congregation that hell doesn’t exist. A former parishioner approaches his wife in the grocery store, asks to pray for her, and then essentially tries to cast out a demon. (See the 1:00:32 mark to watch.) Was this woman trying to cast something out of me? Did she think I was some sort of heretic? I very well might be, but that’s beside the point.

Next, she offered an analogy that put my mind at ease. We all pick up dirt without even realizing it. We can look down at our jeans and notice a stain and not know where it came from. I agree that we can likewise pick up sinful behaviors unintentionally. Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.