I had just come home from a funeral. I was upstairs changing clothes when I looked out of our bedroom window to the street below. There, I saw a man kneeling alone in the road, hands folded, head bowed as if he were praying.
Normally when I see a need, I move toward it, but this one had me scratching my head. I was glad there was no traffic, as my first concern was for this man’s safety. He was just a few feet from an intersection and would be hard to see. At any moment, a car could turn quickly onto our street.
“Surely he will get up and move on,” I thought. I finished dressing, and when I looked out the window a few minutes later, he was still kneeling there, head bowed and hands folded.
“There must be something wrong,” I thought. I told my wife I was going out to check on him and walked the 50 feet to where he knelt in the road. He didn’t look up as I approached. In his hands, he held a cloth decorated with three tiny yellow flowers.
“Excuse me; are you all right?” I asked.
“I’m sorry; I’m sorry,” he said, rising to his feet.
“No, you don’t need to apologize. I just wanted to know if you are all right.”
“I’m all right,” he said in broken English. I noticed his skin was darker than mine and asked if he was Hispanic. He shook his head no.
“Do you need something to eat or drink?” I asked. I was watching him closely for signs of mental illness, but he was calm, composed and answered my questions without hesitation.
“No, I am fine.”
“Do you need money?”
“No, I have work.”
“Is there anything I can do for you?” I asked.
“No; I was praying.”
I was confused. He sounded normal and wasn’t acting erratically; he was just kneeling in the road, praying.
I decided to try another approach.
“Who were you praying to?”
“God,” he said.
“Do you know of Jesus?”
His eyes lit up, and he patted his heart. In his broken English, he said, “I am follower of Jesus. I am a Christian.”
“And you were here, kneeling in the road, praying to Jesus?”
I didn’t know what to do, so I asked him, “May I join you in praying to Jesus?”
“Yes.” He dropped to his knees and continued his prayer.
I dropped down next to him, my knees on the asphalt as well. I clasped my hands and bowed my head, and there we knelt in silence. He didn’t say a word, but I could tell he was focused on his prayer. I am not sure what people who saw us may have thought: a young man and an old one, two different skin colors, both kneeling in prayer in the street.
At first, we prayed silently, but then I felt led to pray aloud for his life and his family and to thank God for this man who stopped in the middle of the road to pray. I am not sure how long we were there, but we got up, and he thanked me. Then he turned around and walked away. I watched him to make sure he was all right; he turned the corner and went out of sight.
I am still confused about the whole event. As a missionary, I have been in many situations that would be considered strange, but this one left me scratching my head.
I felt like the disciples in John 9 when they were with Jesus and passed a man who had been blind from birth. They asked a simple question, “Rabbi, who sinned: This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2b). Jesus gave them an answer that made them scratch their heads: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).
I don’t know why this man chose my street, prayed outside our bedroom window and happened to be there when I looked out. He had no physical needs that I could see or meet.
I’m still praying for my new friend. And as I pray that the works of God might be displayed in him, I pray that they also may be displayed in me.
Even when they leave others scratching their heads.