Shortly before Christmas, I was running errands with the kids. I was planning on stopping by Starbucks (never too cold for a frappacino, I say) when I drove past a young guy holding a cardboard "homeless" sign at a busy intersection. I figured I'd get him a hot chocolate while I was at it - 'tis the season, you know, and it was bitterly cold that day.
When I got back round to where he was standing, I pulled up, offered him the cup and asked his name. It was Steve. He was grateful for the hot chocolate, and I told him I'd pray for him (I would have prayed with him, but the traffic had started moving, and I didn't want him getting run down by a crazed holiday-shopper). And the kids and I did - we prayed that he would have a warm place to sleep, family to spend Christmas with, and that Jesus would meet his greatest need.
Now, here's the thing - when he told me his name, it got to me. That fast, he went from being a random guy, to being "Steve" - someone with a life, a family or friends, some kind of connection with others. I started wondering what had happened in his life that he had come to the point of standing at an intersection, in the bitter cold, hoping for generosity.
And what did I do? I gave him a hot chocolate. Big deal. In the main scheme of things, what difference does it make? It won't feed or clothe Steve, or put a roof over his head. It won't fill his belly or warm him for long. What had I done that would make any real difference? Nothing.
Except...I prayed for him.
My prayers aren't anything special - in fact, they're often rather bumble-y. But bringing a need that I couldn't even hope to meet to Someone who has the whole world in His hands is just about the most helpful thing one person can do for another. I don't know Steve's story and how he came to be standing on the roadside, but God does. I don't know what all his needs are, but God does. I don't know what will become of Steve down the road, but God does.
So, in the midst of feeling helpless, I was (and continue to be) encouraged that, when I'm looking at a problem too big for me to solve, praying is going to be the most important thing I can do and the best way to help.