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by David Story
12/20/2007 / Short Stories
The old man walked between the Fellowship Hall and the sanctuary, pulling his cleaning cart behind him, and whistling a familiar hymn.
At the side doors to the sanctuary he stopped and unhooked the large ring of keys from his pants. With one hand on the cart, he used the other to find the correct key.
The deadbolt turned easily, and he walked into the darkness of the sanctuary. He turned on the light to the hall behind the sanctuary, which allowed him to get to the breaker box in one of the closets.
He opened the panel of the box and began to switch each lever, right-to-left. As each one clicked into position, the lights for the entire sanctuary came on.
He was ready.
He left his cart by the women's bathroom, and then went through the swinging doors that led into the sanctuary.
With a pronounced limp of his left leg, he slowly walked up the steps to the pulpit, his keys rattling as he did so.
He made it to the pulpit, and stopped.
Reaching out with both hands, he grabbed hold of the top of the pulpit and held onto it tightly. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. After only a moment, he opened his eyes again, took a long look toward the pews, and began
"I ask for Your blessing on Sunday's service."
He smiled as his eyes concentrated on a particular pew second one on the left, about two seats over
"I pray for Hazel and all she's been through lately."
As he spoke the name Hazel, an elderly woman appeared in her usual place on the second pew, two seats over. The body was transparent, but for this prayer warrior, on this Friday morning, he could see her as if she were truly there.
The image remained as he continued
"I pray for Judy and her family. Give them comfort today, Lord."
A single mom with daughter and son beside her, smiled up at the pulpit, acknowledging the prayer request made for her and her family.
One by one the old man would pray for an individual, a family, or even an entire group. And each time they would appear in their seats, transformed in the old man's mind.
He turned and looked behind him, at the choir loft.
"I pray for the choir, Lord. Bless their singing come Sunday..."
The entire church choir appeared before him.
"And bless each one for all that they do for this church..."
He turned again and placed his hands on the pulpit.
"I pray for those I haven't mentioned..."
The whole church began to fill.
"And those that I don't even know."
Again, more seats were occupied.
"Bless them all, Lord. Comfort them, Lord. Give them Your grace and Your mercy."
The old man looked to the corner of the church where the keyboard, drum set, and guitar stands were, and Sunday's musicians came into view.
He took a step to the side of the pulpit.
"And I pray for Your servant..."
A young man wearing a minister's cloth suddenly appeared before him.
The young man turned and smiled at the man praying.
"Be with him and his family, Lord."
The young man stepped toward the man praying, offering a hug.
The old man accepted, and the two embraced. The old man continued to pray as they hugged.
"Be with him as he brings the message on Sunday."
When they were done, the Pastor smiled and turned back to his congregation.
And the old man came to the end of his prayer.
"In Jesus name I pray this prayer..."
He looked once more at the images before him, smiling at each and every one. And each and every one returned the smile.
And they were gone.
The man walked carefully down the steps and made his way to the back of the sanctuary. He stopped at his cart and grabbed a toilet bowl brush and a can of cleaner with one hand, and with the other, a washrag and a roll of toilet paper.
The door of the women's bathroom closed as the church custodian went to work, whistling a familiar hymn...
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