I prayed for a homeless guy today, this morning to be specific.

He said his name was Martin, and he approached me at a gas station. Novice Portlander that I may be, I still had no doubt what he was looking for before he spoke.

He called me “big guy” and asked for $1.25 to help him pay for a bus ticket.

“Is that all?” I asked with a smile. I was in a good mood. “I think I can spare that.”

I forked it over while the attendant finished pumping my gas. (Oregon law doesn’t allow consumers to pump their own. But that is a topic for another day.)

Martin’s eyes were dark and bloodshot, and one was cocked just a little bit to his left. But his gaze was nonetheless strong and lucid. He spoke like he had more things to say than he had people to talk to.

We said, “God bless you,” at the same time, which prompted him to begin expounding upon spiritual matters. He told me he believed in God. I asked if he was a Christian and he responded with an enthusiastic yes.

Somebody behind me honked, so I pulled up to the side of the parking lot. Martin followed.

Martin did most of the talking. He said he was homeless, that last night he got drunk and was questioned by police officers after he had tried to get some sleep. Later on, someone walking by said he looked cold and gave him the Ambercrombie & Fitch jacket they had been wearing, Martin said.

“I just think God is unbelievable,” he said, grinning.

Martin said there are two ways people can go, which he demonstrated by making a peace sign, palm facing upward. He said his first finger represented the narrow path, and his middle finger represented the
broad path.

“The narrow path leads to God,” he said, bending that finger upward to point to the sky. Then, he held up his entire hand, which was now making an obscene gesture you shouldn’t have too much trouble imagining. “Most people want to take the broad path, but if you do that, you’re f***ed.”

I nodded, and he put his hand down.

“Our king can help you out of anything,” he went on. “It doesn’t matter what f***ing situation you’re in, or what s**t is going on in your head.”

He trailed off for a moment. Then, he added in a softer voice, “I do need to stop drinking, I know that.”

He asked me to pray for him. “Yeah, of course,” I replied. I promised that I would, and I meant it. I gave him a smile and prepared to drive off.

But that wasn’t what he had meant. He took hold of my hand, closed his eyes, bowed his head and waited.

Feeling moved, I prayed for Martin on the side of a parking lot outside a Leathers Fuels station in downtown Portland.

His hand felt cold and surprisingly fragile, like a small bundle of dry twigs. He smelled of the street and alcohol — but not strongly so.

At first, it was hard to think of much besides what I must look like to all the people driving by on their way to work. But after a few moments, I decided I didn’t care.

And I kept praying, even after I left Martin’s side.

“Thank you Jesus, for reminding me that there are other people in this world. May I meet a Martin every single day, and may I come to love them more than I love my stupid self. Amen.”

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