The Tattooed Prayer

Image for The Tattooed Prayer

“What’s that noise?” Cindy asked. “It sounds like water running.”
The Living Hope Center had been in construction for several years and was now near completion. Its purpose is to offer practical assistance, health coaching and the message of salvation to the local population. Cindy and I had just stopped by to drop off some books and clothing.
“That’s the furnace making noise,” I said. But as I listened more carefully, it did sound like water . . . and it was coming from the basement. I grabbed a flashlight and went downstairs.
Oh, what a mess! Water, everywhere. Thinking of the possibility of electrical hazards, I gingerly put the toe of my sneaker in the inch-high standing water before stepping off the stairs. Water was pouring out of the ceiling in several places, and I was getting soaked. I glanced at the thermostat on the wall—32 degrees. The furnace must have failed, I said to myself. Hurrying from room to room, searching for the main water valve, I found it and turned it off.
I spent hours brooming the water into the only working floor drain. It undoubtedly prevented the basement from becoming a swimming pool. Later that afternoon, I called the Montana conference with the bad news. Praise God there was insurance.
For the next several days, I spent my mornings busting out sheetrock to dry out the wall studs. I called building contractors for repair estimates. Most businesses did not want the job. “It’s not in our area of service,” they would say. The extreme remoteness of the reservation was not helping.
It was on one of those days that I met José. He had just attended a funeral, one of many in his short lifetime, and I sensed he may have tried to ease the pain with a drink or two. Seeing my hands full of broken sheetrock, he graciously stepped toward me and offered to help. I told him I really did not need it and that I was finishing up for the day. It was already after 5 p.m., and I was tired and hungry. I wanted to go home.
Jose would not be dissuaded. “I don’t want to get paid,” he encouraged, “I just want something to do.”
I guessed he probably wanted something to take his mind off his day. As we visited, he told me he had a brother “buried right over there.” He pointed to the cemetery a half-block away. “He was murdered,” he said. I watched as his eyes teared up, and he turned away.
Once again, he asked if he could help. Once more, I explained that I was finished for the day.
He then changed the subject. “What will the building be used for?”
“It will be a community training center,” I said. “We will offer classes on physical and family health. It will also be used as a church for the community, for Native Americans and non-Natives.”

He seemed curious that Natives could attend . . . then, out of the blue, he asked, “Do you like tattoos?”

I told him that I had almost gotten one when I was in the service but didn’t. “I don’t mind them,” I replied.

“I have several tattoos,” he continued, studying my face to see if I would react.

“That won’t matter; you can come,” I said.

He stood there looking at me for several seconds, then abruptly asked, “Will you pray for me?”

“Of course, I will.” I reached out and put my arm around his shoulders. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and asked God to help him in the way he needed, to protect him and his family, and to show him the plan God has for his life.

As I finished, my new friend started digging around in his pockets. First, he pulled out a phone, then a phone charger, then a broken cigarette and some other stuff before finally pulling out the object he was looking for—a wicked-looking knife. It looked like a skeleton wrapped around a blade. Somewhere on it, he pushed a button, and the blade snapped out. With a strange look, he glanced sideways at me, then back at his knife.

Grinning, I said, “That’s a scary-looking thing. Where did you get it?” Instead of answering, José glanced at me again, folded the blade and put it back into his pocket. He turned to leave.

“Wait!” I said. “People always want me to pray for them, but hardly anyone prays for me. The work here is going to be difficult. Tonight, when you are alone in the quiet, would you pray for me?”

“Yes,” he said. “I will pray for you right now.”

“Wonderful,” I responded.

José reached out and put his arm around my neck. Then he closed his eyes and bowed his head just like I had done. As I was about to close my eyes, I noticed his other hand slip silently into the pocket where he kept his knife. I am ashamed to admit it, but I kept one eye open as he prayed.

With nearly every other word an expletive, José asked God to give me strength, wisdom and safety for the work I had to do. And then, at the end of his prayer, he apologized to God for swearing so much, admitting that he did not know how to pray properly. When he opened his eyes, he was aglow with the Spirit of God.

“That’s the first time I have ever prayed for anyone in my life,” he said excitedly, obviously moved by the experience.

“Thank you,” I encouraged. “That was a good prayer.” And it was . . . expletives and all. I am so thankful we have a God that knows the guts of our lives and meets us where we are.

The Living Hope Center will provide many ways to meet more people like José and share the good news of life, hope and a future. The enemy of God and man does not want this center to open, and I am reasonably sure this recent delay will not be the last bump in the road. As I write, the center is a mess. Our planned opening for this year will most likely be delayed. But the building is not why we are here. We are here for José and the hundreds of others who live here—people who need prayer and need to learn to pray. As you pray for them, please pray for us too. We definitely need it.

Be the first to leave a comment!

Please sign in to comment…