Earley: Prayer in the oddest places

Published 9:43 am Friday, July 26, 2019

A child once prayed, “Dear God, bless Mommy and Daddy. And Lord, take care of yourself. If anything happens to You, we’re sunk. Amen.”

Prayer is a unique experience in the life of the Christian.

Jesus tells us prayer opens the doors for us to enter into God’s presence and receive God’s blessings.

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We read in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Pastor and humorist Grady Nutt told of a seminary student that drove to a small church in west Texas to preach a service.

When one of the church’s deacons died, the student was asked to minister to the grieving family and friends.

The family residence was a small house and was wall to wall with people. So, he and the widow looked for a private place to talk and pray.

They settled on the bathroom, which was very small and close to the crowd of people just outside the door but afforded a level of privacy. So they entered and closed the door behind them.

The widow of the deacon sat on the side of the tub while this young minister sat on the toilet lid.

After consulting, praying and consoling this dear lady they both rose to re-join the guests.

Out of habit, the student reached for the handle and flushed the toilet. All the guests knew they were in the bathroom, but it made for an awkward moment when they heard the toilet flush.

Interestingly enough, soon after I heard this story I was in a similar situation while a seminary student.

The widow and I did find a place a little less awkward than the bathroom to pray, but I wondered if I would have flushed the toilet as well.

I tell this story because God used this experience to begin broadening my understanding of when to pray.

Too often we think of prayer as something we do only in church or in the privacy of our home.

What about on the phone?

I got a frantic call from a friend who described a family crisis to me. Things were happening fast, tempers were flaring and people’s feelings were being hurt. It was a bad situation getting worse by the moment.

I said I could be there soon, but could we pray about this situation right now over the phone? She agreed. We prayed for God’s peace to change the situation.

When I arrived 20 minutes later, that is exactly what God had done. The power of prayer was evident.

Now I almost always pray over the phone when making pastoral calls.

This is not something God wants just ministers to do.

I had been teaching the congregation we can pray anytime, anywhere, and God will bless those prayers.

A parishioner who worked at a popular restaurant found himself listening to a distraught co-worker crying almost uncontrollably about a family situation. He offered to pray for her. He had never done this before, and admitted he felt his words were clumsy, but he prayed his heart for her, and as he prayed her crying stopped, a calm came over her. She thanked him, and went to work.

Later, she told him she had little expectation prayer could do anything to help, but said yes to be polite. She realized prayer completely worked, and God got her through the shift, when she didn’t believe she could ever make it through.

Now I pray anywhere it seems a prayer is needed: On the phone, at the back of the sanctuary, and especially in Walmart. That is because when people need a prayer that is the best place to pray.

The more I pray in places people think may be odd, the easier I find it to pray anywhere a prayer is needed. I also find prayers are needed a lot more often than I used to think.

These unplanned prayers have really taught me the power of prayer as I have seen desperate situations quickly change into peaceful ministry opportunities where God is glorified.

Do you think you could pray with someone who needs a prayer right when they need that prayer?

Do you think God will give you the words?

Is it more important to sound eloquent or pray whatever is on your heart, even if it doesn’t sound polished?

Do you think you can pray for someone over the phone? In a restaurant? In the aisle at Walmart?

If you can pray in these places God will use you to change people’s lives and glorify His name.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.com.