Most reading this might consider it offensive to use prayer as a gambit, but public prayer draws many different responses these days. Use public prayer at your own risk, but remember that you need to be faithful to who you are and who God is. If it is faked, others will see through it immediately.
A few years ago, my wife asked me to hold her hands when we were at a restaurant. She said a short prayer before the meal. We had rarely done this in the past. We might individually bow our heads briefly, but we never made a show of it. Now picture seeing this, there was a small table for two at a busy restaurant, and the two people were holding the hands of the other. Their heads were bowed, and they were obviously praying. My wife said that we pray at home, why not here?
Since that day, we rarely miss having a blessing before a meal, regardless of location. If it is a table for four, we may not hold hands. We’ve noticed people staring, but maybe that has been our imagination. What has not been our imagination has been the open responses. One waitress came up to us after we were done and said, “That was the sweetest thing.” We didn’t even know she was watching. We have never done it for others to watch what we are doing. We were thanking God for all He had done for us.
Then came an impromptu trip to the warehouse store. We had planned to leave a church meeting and get a quick burger on our way home, but my wife got a call from the warehouse store pharmacy. We had not picked up a prescription, according to their computer system. When we arrived, they realized that we had picked up the medicine the previous week, but it had not been signed for. I then remembered that the system was down that day. I was unable to sign on the computer screen, and the staff was supposed to clear the database when it came back up. Apologies and no problems were exchanged, but since we were at the warehouse store at lunchtime, we each had a hotdog. While I waited in line to order, my wife commandeered a table that was free. It was the peak rush for lunch. An elderly couple was at the next table. They invited a friend to sit with them. The friend, instead of sitting with them, sat across from my wife, at our table.
When I arrived, I was quite puzzled. There were empty tables. Why was my wife seated with a stranger? Since there was room for two people on each side of the table, I sat down and got cozy with the stranger. He didn’t flinch. I got up, filled our drink cups and returned. The old guy was still there, unfazed by my intimate presence. We each took our turns getting up to dress our hotdogs. The man stayed right where he was. He wasn’t dining. He was just talking to his friends, friends who had one side of their table completely free where he could sit.
By now, we were wondering if this guy had all of his marbles. Maybe his elevator didn’t stop on all of his floors. Maybe his happy meal was short a few French fries. Were we safe sitting here? Should we move?
But then came the Prayer Gambit.
My wife reached across the table. We held hands, bowed our heads, and prayed. As we chowed down on hotdogs, the couple at the next table cleared their throats and made excuses, and all three of the interlopers moved.
Did the prayer shake them up? Did the prayer offend them? Regardless, they became decidedly uncomfortable, but they left us alone. I finally had elbow room.
So, if you pray in public, you must be ‘real’. It has to be what makes you comfortable. We should be worshiping God all of the time. Why not pray before your meal? It must fit your lifestyle. But be prepared for the responses.
We have only had the one waitress give us positive feedback. We’ve gotten some noticeable frowns, but we’ve never had anyone get outwardly angry. We’ve never been told to take our food in a doggy bag and leave. We’ve never been mugged in the parking lot. When I stated that you need to be prepared, you need to anticipate all of the possible scenarios that may transpire. Being a Christian in the US is not what it used to be.
In the end, if it is a “Prayer Gambit”, don’t do it. Making a scene in order to voice your right of freedom of religion will backfire. You will be the worse for it. But remember that Jesus often sought a quiet place to pray with His heavenly Father. Since my wife started our tradition, we’ve noticed that one of the quietest places that you can imagine is in the middle of a crowded, noisy restaurant.