Jesus Asked Me to Pray He Gets a Home

older man closeupI blasted out of my office with a broken heart and crestfallen face. I needed a break to calm my agitated spirit.

As I took off down the street, a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk said something to me. I stopped and bent closer. “I’m sorry; I didn’t hear you,” I said.

He asked if I had any prayer needs, because he would pray for me. Have you ever had a homeless person offer you a generous gift?

Cars sped down the busy street as I asked if I could sit on the corner of the man’s sleeping bag. He invited me to do so, and I lowered myself to the down bag beside him. He took my hand and asked what I needed prayer for. I told him about the painful situation at work and asked for prayers.

He was thin, perhaps post-retirement age, and scraggly around the edges, but his eyes were lucid. He prayed a fabulous prayer with passion and grace. I held both his hands as he held mine. I bowed my head and agreed as he prayed.

When we were done, he said, “It’s the evil one who’s attacking you.”

As he said it, I knew it was true, confirmed by my prayer and discernment recently.

Who is this guy? How can he know?His rotted teeth and faint body odor were a disguise, because this was Jesus. How did he know, I asked, that I really needed prayer?“Long before you saw me, I saw you coming,” he said. “Your face said a great deal.”

In retrospect, I’m thinking about Jesus telling Nathanael that he saw him under the fig tree. I leaned against the brick wall behind us, legs outstretched, and told him a few more details of my sorrows. But not too many! I had to move on, I explained; this was just supposed to be a 10-minute break. I was so comfortable sitting in that timeless moment that it’s hard to put it into words. Now as I write this, I can only imagine what we looked like: me in my business suit and he in his worn clothing.

“I go to the Progress Church! Would you like to join us there? We’re having a great service on December 17th. . .”

“Thank you, but I already have a church community,” I said, asking his name. (He’d already asked mine for the purposes of our prayer.)

I continued to my destination a few doors down: a Catholic bookstore where I wanted to look briefly for a gift for my sister. A few minutes later I was at the checkout counter when the man came in and stood behind me. He told the cashier he wanted to exchange his new Bible for a larger print version. The bag he held contained a receipt. “What good is a Bible if I can’t read it?” he said. He’d selected the bigger print version, and I told the cashier I’d pay the difference.

During the transaction, he said that when he was a child he got to play baby Jesus in a Christmas play. And suddenly his face lit up as a new thought occurred to him. “I know! I’m going to ask Jesus for a Christmas miracle: that I not be homeless starting December 24th!”

Was Jesus asking for room in the inn, right there in the Catholic bookstore?I promised to pray that for him, and pray I’ll be heard. I returned to work; my desolation and heartache were gone. I still had a rough work schedule ahead of me, but the man’s prayers were heard on my behalf.

As I left my office that night, before I could begin my Examen, my heart flooded with the memory of that day’s encounters. I didn’t need to ask for light and the Holy Spirit; both were already there.

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Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. Loretta has six years experience as a spiritual director and was trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. She is also a workshop presenter and retreat leader on Ignatian spirituality and prayer. Loretta is a founder of Women’s Ministry at St. Francis in Sacramento, CA. With more than 20 years in ministry, including Christian Life Community (CLC) and small group leadership, Loretta is an expert in being busy. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.

21 COMMENTS

  1. St. Teresa of Calcutta saw Jesus in the faces of the poor and I am sure some spoke to her. This despite her feeling separated from her early intimacy with Jesus when she founded the MC’s. In fact, this separation may have been the reason she could see Him in their faces. How blessed you are to have experienced your encounter and for the Spirit to unite both you and your homeless friend in prayer. For certain he has found a “home” in many hearts through your experience. Thank you Loretta.

  2. As believers, we’ve known long before that these chance meetings we have are subtle reminders from God please that He is indeed just around us disguised in different forms and images. You’ve been blessed, Loretta. Now, do the same.

  3. Loretta, thank you. Like you, and the others writing, I know I have encountered Jesus, saints and angels in my many trials and travels. Often they are living on the edge of society and sometimes they are higher up the social incline. What matters is their love, care and message. I pray for the grace of a heart open enough to listen to their words of hope and faith.

  4. truly a beautiful and memorable experience. I had a similar one at UC Davis Med Center a couple of years ago. I think of it often still to this day.

  5. God keeps blessing us, and often we are too busy to notice. Thank you for noticing, and taking time to pause, mid-stride, and say “I didn’t hear you.”
    This Advent. I pray, “Please God, help me to notice Jesus entering my life each day, over and over.”

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story.I just rec’d news about one of our nursing staff whose cancer has returned. If you meet “Jesus” again, please ask him to pray for Kim. Also tell him how much his prayer is helping so many.

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