I stood in the arena…overwhelmed by the number of empty seats crammed together in a far-too-close-for-comfort manner…designed, I’m sure, to maximize the people who regularly cycle through this very room for games, for concerts, for events of magnitude.
The usher, clad in his red suit jacket, would later tell me about rock concerts that required extra security, where attendees were regularly arrested for drugs and drunkenness – some before they even entered the front door.
But as I stood just inside the door that morning, and I swept a glance over the 11,000 or so seats that sat empty, I imagined them filled with women – as they would be very shortly. The women would rush in, some having waited outside the doors for hours in the chilly pre-fall morning, and cram themselves, their bags, their coffee, their Bibles, their journals, and some – bulging diaper bags – into the too-small space and they would wait. They would wait for worship to break forth from the team on the stage, and they would wait for teaching. Their hungry souls would lap up the lyrics, the Scripture, and the admonition.
I thought about those women. I would greet the smallest fraction of them, while representing the radio station where I work. They would stop by to sign up for free stuff, to grab a piece of chocolate, to ask if it would be okay to keep the pen. Some would be nervous, some would be excited, and some would want to disappear quickly back into the swarm of women gliding in and out of the arena and waiting in the eternal line for the restroom.
Each empty seat before me represented not just a pile of girl-luggage and a sign-up slip in our bucket. Not just a boxed lunch from the massive carts that had rolled down the halls before the doors opened. Not just a car in the gridlocked parking lot.
A woman. A woman who had come that day hoping for something. Filling. Healing. Hope.
I prayed for them. I had heard that a group passed through the night before and physically prayed over every seat. I couldn’t do that in the fleeting moments I had, but I could pray over the sea of seats. I prayed for the divorced, the widowed, the single, and those whose marriages hung in a precarious balance pending the outcome of what would be learned that day. I prayed for the sick, the injured, and those who would struggle in the biggest physical sense just to be there. I prayed for the new mamas, carting brand new babies in tow and those who had just kissed the last baby goodbye for college. I prayed for those who had been counting down the days until this one and those who were dragged into the room out of the insistence of a friend.
I looked at the seats closest to me and wondered who would sit there? What would those women represent?
They flooded in, they worshiped loudly in such beautiful harmony that seeped out under the blackout curtains between the arena and the hallway where I stood to work. And at the very end of the day, I sneaked inside and listened to the final challenge. I saw women stand to their feet to be prayed over for release from fear, from illness, from wounding. I heard calculated sobs that escaped lips all over the arena as prayers were offered.
I kept praying.
And I wondered…what if we prayed over empty chairs everywhere? Not just in arenas before women’s ministry events, but everywhere?
What if we prayed over the seats at church – even just our own pews – when we walked in on Sunday? What if we prayed over the row of chairs at the doctor’s office, where perhaps someone will sit before hearing the worst news? What if we prayed over the chairs in the funeral home as we stand in line for a viewing, knowing that the next day, a family will sit for a final goodbye? What if we prayed over the chairs in a plane, knowing that someone could be flying to a life-changing event?
What if we prayed, because an empty chair always represents a real and needy soul to come?
Bekah Shaffer wears many hats throughout the day, serving as a wife, writer, blogger, radio producer, and commuter. But under the hats, she's a redeemed and restored daughter of the Most High King. She loves life with her husband, after waiting 34 years to be married, and she loves to scrapbook, cook, make memories and point others toward the Lord!
Find Me Online: www.bekahsbits.blogspot.com