I can’t stop thinking about him and I don’t even know who he is.
Every Sunday during church service we have a time set aside for prayer. Anyone in need of prayer can write out a request and put it in the donation basket. Pastor then reads the requests and we pray together as a congregation.
Every church I’ve ever attended has some form of this ritual. The standard joke when I was a teen growing up in a Southern Baptist church was that collective prayer was the best place to get all the latest gossip on each other. Usually it was the “silent prayers” that was the source of most of the rumor-mongering. You knew Miz Dorothea was asking for silent prayer because her husband liked drinking on Saturdays better than he liked church on Sundays.
But most those people I attended church with as a teenager have quit attending church altogether, and no longer consider themselves Baptist. Instead they say things like, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Some of my friends grew up and spent a week of their precious vacations making yearly trips to Mexico or Costa Rica or Guatemala to bring the Love of God to the primarily Catholic communities. Now grandmas and grandpas, these friends are the very same people who are chanting “Build the Wall! Build the Wall” and “Save the unborn! Save the unborn!”
I’ve always said if you live long enough you begin to regret it.
But I digress.
When Pastor Andrew read from the basket of prayer requests this past Sunday he pulled from the pile a folded sheet of paper. The prayer requests are typically written on yellow note cards available in the pews.
Pastor said the folded piece of paper had been stuck to the church’s front door. Scribbled on the note was a prayer request that a kid had written:
“Please pray for me. Brandon”
That was all.
It’s possible that it was a prank, a bunch of kids fooling around, double-dog daring one another.
But what if it wasn’t. What if Brandon is real and in such despair the only thing he could think to do was to tape a note to the door of a church he doesn’t attend?
We prayed for Brandon on Sunday, of course. But I have prayed for him and worried about him ever since.
What if he is a gay kid being bullied?
What if he is struggling with an addiction? What if his parents are?
What if he’s having suicidal thoughts, or anxiety over the state of the environment?
What if he’s from an abusive environment? What if he is being abused by a coach?
I have thought of dozens of scenarios why a kid might tape a prayer request to the front doors of a church they don’t attend. Every single one of those situations leads to a dark place.
I don’t know if Pastor has tried to track down the kid behind the note. I don’t even know if he should try to do that. Maybe the kid doesn’t want to be found. Maybe just the act of asking for prayer was all he needed in that moment. Who can say?
There were times when as a teenager in turmoil, I would go sit inside that imposing sanctuary of my Southern Baptist youth and read my Bible and pray. Times when I just needed to be someplace calm to pray over the troubling matters of my life. I don’t do that nearly as much as I should any more. There are days when I feel like going to every church I pass and taping a note on the front door and asking everyone inside to “Please pray for America. We are in trouble.”
I am not sure about much of anything any more, not like when I was 40 and had an answer for everything. But this one thing I am sure of – prayer matters. It may not change our circumstances, but it almost always changes us, equipping us to deal with whatever situation we face.
I am praying for Brandon. I don’t know what he needs, but I pray whatever it is, he finds it. Most of all I pray he doesn’t feel abandoned.
I hope he knows that beyond the front doors of the church is a place where broken people gather and pray for one another.
And for him.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how fear erodes our faith. (Zondervan).