Ere You Left Your Room This Morning
Did you perchance hear about two men who were walking through a neighbor’s pasture one day when they spotted an agitated bull? Well, as (bad) luck would have it, seems the bull also spotted them. Quick as they could, they made for the nearest fence. Unfortunately, the raging bull followed in hot pursuit, and it quickly became apparent they weren’t going to make it to safety. Panic-stricken, one of the men shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re done for!”
John yelled back, “You know I can’t do that. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”
“But you’ve got to!” begged his friend. “That bull is gonna catch us for sure.”
“Alright” panted John, “I’ll try the one my father used to say sometimes.”
And then, just as the bull closed in on them, John prayed, “For what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”
Wouldn’t you just know it? A perfect chance and circumstance for a, “guide, guard, and direct us” to’ve been voiced and it was missed. I’d have to reckon, though, that it may be a good thing John wasn’t familiar with, “and please bring us back”.
Seriously, my hat’s off to anyone who’s willing to lead public prayer. It’s a huge responsibility and at times can be an intimidating undertaking that weakens the knees of otherwise strong men. At its best, it’s one of the great blessings of privilege that provides occasion and allows opportunity to direct a group of people in reverent, intimate communication with their Creator. At its worst, it’s a routine, well-rehearsed ritual of reciting words and (catch) phrases learned long ago and repeated many times over. No honest person can deny that there’s a (very easy to fall into) trap of praying from habit and the head rather than from the heart.
But public prayer should never have its roots in public. Way back in the 19th century, Charles Dickens penned the oft-repeated, “Charity begins at home”. Assuming we consider “charity” in that context to be the equivalent of “charitable giving”, I figure most of us have put that saying—to one degree or another—into practice.
I don’t know that anyone has ever written, “Prayer begins at home”.
Except maybe for David.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t put it into those exact words, but if you’ll spend a little time reading the Psalms, you can’t help but see (and appreciate) the concept.
One of my favorite hymns is, “As The Deer”. That song has its base in Psalm 42, where David wrote, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirst for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”. (NKJV) As it concerns prayer, that’s not a bad question for you and me to ask ourselves. “When shall I come and appear before God?”. And, as it concerns prayer, a bad answer would be, “Usually, between 11:00am and11:30am most Sundays.”
David’s ideas of the when’s and where’s for prayer differed just a smidgen from that. “As for me, I will call upon God, And the LORD shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:16-17 NKJV) Put Psalm 55 in any context you want and you’ve still got to see David’s dependence on and his confidence in his Lord in any and every circumstance. I think we can be reasonably certain that David’s prayers at “evening, morning, and noon” went more than a bit beyond being “truly thankful for what he was about to receive” before “supper, breakfast, and lunch”.
David’s prayer life seemed to operate in near perpetual motion. Psalm 139 is a wonderful example of humble, reverent praise and prayer. Take just a few minutes to read it and pay particular note to verses 17 & 18. “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.” (NJKV) David was a man who apparently went to bed thinking about his God, got up thinking about his God, and never forgot or hesitated to pour out his heart to Him.
Likely, most of us began our learning of David in storybook fashion as it involved his epic battle with Goliath. Then, there’s the stories of his difficulties with Saul and of his friendship with Jonathan. There’s not much doubt that most of us have heard more than one sermon concerning David and Bathsheba. And we’ve surely studied the problems David had with his family, particularly his son, Absalom: “David & Goliath”; “David & Saul”; “David & Jonathan”; “David & Bathsheba”; “David & Absalom”. As I write this, I’m wondering if that’s really where we need to start when we want to teach our children (and adults) about the “man after God’s own heart”. Would we not be better served to first teach them about “David & God” and “David & Prayer”?
For those of us who have a stake in the kingdom, the issue of prayer isn’t one of eloquence—saying the right things in the right order at the right time, with nary a stutter nor stammer. The issue is rather one’s readiness to talk to his Heavenly Father from the heart. The issue is one of remembering that prayer isn’t confined to “church”. The issue is knowing, (for a sure-fire certainty) that prayer is an all-day, every-day affair that really does begin at home.
“Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray. In the name of Christ, our Savior, Did you sue for loving favor, As a shield today?
When your heart was filled with anger, Did you think to pray? Did you plead for grace, my brother, That you might forgive another, Who had crossed your way?
When sore trials came upon you, Did you think to pray? When your soul was bowed in sorrow, Balm of Gilead did you borrow, At the gates of day?
O how praying rests the weary! Prayer will change the night to day. So when life seems dark and dreary, Don’t forget to pray.” (“Don’t Forget To Pray”, Author: Mary A. Kidder)
“Prayer begins at home”. Isn’t that a saying we could all stand to put into practice—to one degree or another—just a little more?
~Teddy Horton <firstname.lastname@example.org>