“Can I Pray For You?” – A Joining Jesus Story

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It’s a busy Sunday morning at Café 14 in Palatine. A waitress armed with a pot of coffee, white polo shirt, and blue pin striped apron busily works the room, while keeping an eye on the door, awaiting one of her regular guests.

Mary Jane Gaza pulls into the parking lot of the restaurant on Northwest Highway after church at St. Peter, part of her weekly routine. Part of the waitress’s weekly routine includes greeting Mary Jane as she enters the door, serving her, and praying with her hand-in-hand.

“She almost saves a table for us!” exclaims Mary Jane.

Mary Jane has been praying with servers and restaurant guests since reading Greg Finke’s book Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary.

“It really hit me that God puts people next to you no matter what the situation. I heard Pastor Greiner say when you go out to dinner ask your server if they’d like to say a prayer. And I thought ‘I really like that idea, so I’m gonna try it.’”

Mary Jane admits the first time it was a little scary.

“I’m in a public place. I didn’t want to speak too loudly…Praying in public isn’t the easiest thing to do. Asking for the first time, I can tell you I was definitely nervous. So when they brought the meal to my table I said, ‘You know, I always say a prayer before my meal. Is there a possibility I can say a prayer for you?’”

She calls that first time “very positive.” And each time praying in public, whether with servers or those she’s eating with, got easier and easier.

Mary Jane says she doesn’t ask her servers the stand there with her while she prays. Sometimes she just fields prayer requests. Other times she’s had people break out into tears sharing their problems, struggles and hardships. Mary Jane assures them that “God already knows.”

Her hope is to give people something to think about when they walk away, and she says only once has a server walked away from a prayer request.

”It’s a wonderful thing to do. And talking to God in public is never a bad thing...”

For those considering asking that ‘scary’ first question, ‘Can I pray for you?’, Mary Jane says she’s learned that sometimes, “you get more out of it than they do.”