About halfway through my pastoral career, I had a local gangster come and ask for my blessing. His daughter had just been born, and he and his live-in girlfriend wanted to make sure the child would go to heaven if she died. I blanched. This was such a strange experience. But in the end I agreed to give them my blessing.


Why? Because they were good? Because they were sinless? Because they were asking for grace? No. I gave them my blessing because it doesn’t cost me anything. I recognize that, by virtue of them asking for the blessing, it demonstrates that somewhere, deep down inside, this gangster recognizes that God is real, and he wants God to be part of his life. He may not be ready to call Jesus “Lord” but neither is he ready to nail Jesus to a cross.


After that experience, and many others like it, I’ve come to think about the following things as my rules for blessing mobsters.


  1. Chastisement, correction, and rebuke have to come from the Holy Spirit. Don’t try to “pray” your morality onto someone else.


  1. Always thank God for the good things happening in the other person, as evidenced by their desire for blessing.


  1. Be thankful for the fact that the other person wants to open up his heart to God.


  1. Always bless the step this person took to align his life with God and help fan that spark into flame.


  1. Encourage growth in virtues. For example, “We pray God’s richest blessing over you that every day you would become more loving, more generous, more kind, that the sense of God’s courage, bravery, and godly risk-taking would continue to develop in you as you face life’s challenges.” Pray for growth in virtue rather than praying for blessings that can be tangibly quantified.