PRAYING FOR CIGARETTES

praying4cigs I lead a Bible Study once a week at a residential discipleship program for women desiring to leave the sex industry or who have been sexually exploited. It’s been such a blessing to me and more of a learning experience than I could have ever imagined. These women have become friends.

I recently attended the graduation ceremony of one of the ladies in the house. It was an awesome night. The graduate, I’ll call her Julie*, had completed the 12 month program and was moving out of the formal residential program. The night was full of worship, prayer and affirmation for Julie by her housemates as well as volunteers and staff at the program.

We went around the room and affirmed Julie publicly – often telling funny stories or touching memories that came to mind when we thought of her. I was particularly touched when one of Julie’s housemates spoke up. She had been in the house for less than a week and it was obvious that she was still extremely uncomfortable with the whole “deal”. But, the story she told, while less than eloquent, was perhaps the most beautiful image of the night.

She told of her arrival at the program earlier in the week. She had driven through the night to arrive…she knew it was time for a change and she went for it. Her bravery astounded me. She used the last of her money to put gas in her car for the multi-state drive. This was particularly distressing to her because she had a half-smoked pack of cigarettes and didn’t know where another pack would come from. She nervously told us that she had prayed to God for Him to find a way to get her more cigarettes. She needed them. She couldn’t take this step without them. With all the life change she was about to make, fighting a nicotine craving at the same time seemed insurmountable. She nervously chuckled and shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know if that’s even ok…you know, praying for cigarettes.” The room laughed and she relaxed.

She continued to tell us that she arrived at the house and met Julie. Julie is one of those easy-to-like kind of people. She instantly puts people at ease when they come in the house. The new girl told of Julie’s kindness to her. She said Julie had offered her one of her own cigarettes from her stash every time she took a smoke break with her. “That just blows me away,” she said. “Smokers and their cigarettes, man. They just clutch them and hold onto them for fear of running out – especially in a setting like this. But, Julie, she just freely shares hers with me. That’s the greatest demonstration of love that anyone has ever shown me. She shares her cigarettes with me. I mean, wow!”

We all laughed through tears. I want to be more like Julie. You know, it’s not cigarettes for me. But, what is it that I clutch so tightly to that I need to freely share? Who do I need to show extravagant love to by giving them something important to me? Am I looking for small things to do for people that show great love?

The greatest hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will only look for big things to do. I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all of the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I will do my duty, not for duty’s sake but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience all of the magnificent grace of God is mine through the glorious atonement by the Cross of Christ. Oswald Chambers

*Not her real name

Written by: Leigh Ranson www.leighranson.com