If you want to know what people really care about and where they're really hurting, look to their prayers.
I wouldn't normally have privy to that information but through my involvement in a website called OurPrayer.org I see the requests for prayer on the site, people asking for prayers from people like me, from anybody. And what do they want? Jobs, jobs, jobs.
"Please pray that the Lord will guide my steps into the right job. I need enough to pay my bills..." "Please say a prayer so I can find a job. I don't have any source of income..." "I have a brother who needs a job really bad..." "I have been without fulltime employment for almost three years. I am working two part-time jobs but making way too little to support my family..."
That's just from scrolling down a few pages and doesn't include the people who don't want to share their requests publicly but still ask for prayers. We have over two thousand volunteers around the country who pray for every request and it can be heartbreaking work. You can feel the pain that's out there. I'm extremely grateful to have a job, but I've been out of work before and it can be humiliating, depressing, agonizing, soul-destroying.
Every job search has its technical side. The phone calls, the emails, crafting a résumé, networking, contacting people who just might give you a lead to the person who could possibly have a job. But I believe every job search is also holy.
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet," wrote Frederick Buechner. That takes more than just pounding pavement. It's the work of prayer and reflection, writing down where your thoughts take you then putting shoe leather to your prayers. Hasn't every job you've found felt like a Godsend? Then for God's sake, don't do it alone.
In the past year as I've found more and more friends and acquaintances out of work, I've tried to make myself available for those conversations that job seekers depend on. Rarely have I had something tangible to offer, but that's not the whole point. If I can do something to help them make their way in this snarly process, something to ease that loneliness of feeling outside the work world, then I feel fortunate. Responding to the tentative email from an out-of-work "friend of a friend" is a sort of entertaining angels unaware.
As a country we all seem to pray for the big disasters splashed in the news: the devastating tornado, the city wiped out by a tsunami, the school paralyzed by a crazed gunman. And then we move on. I confess I too get weary of the unemployment statistics. They just seem like numbers. I'm ready to move on. Until I read some of those prayer requests.
I've made it a point to put some job seekers on my prayer list and keep them there. In this market it takes a long while to find a job and it's easy enough to get discouraged. But to pray is to be persistent. If you are in that job-hunting slough of despond, I welcome you to log on to OurPrayer.org and let your need be known. It's a free service. (I find it appalling that some prayer sites charge for prayer.) Ask for as much prayer as you need as often as you want. Anything that can give you energy and hope on a day-to-day basis. May your prayers take you where you deserve to be.
Follow Rick Hamlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fhamlin@guidepo