SIMPLE TRUTH: Is this a joke?

Published 10:17 am Friday, January 25, 2013

By Charles Christmas

What do the three following places have in common: Walmart, a ladies restroom and the patient’s chair at your dentist’s office? Your first reaction to this question may be, “Is this a joke?” The simple truth is, absolutely not, but hang on. Don’t touch that dial; stay on the wagon. It may or may not make sense to you, but the answer to the riddle is a very important insight and truth.

In the mountains of North Carolina, Louise and I were attending a missionary conference several years ago. A special, elective, after lunch class was offered by 90-year-old retired, but still active missionary, Miss Bertha Smith. We arrived early, several minutes before the class began. Louise went to the front of the classroom to privately introduce herself to Miss Bertha and request to be remembered in her prayers. Miss Bertha responded, “Let’s do it now!” Miss Bertha placed her hand on Louise and began to carry the request to the Lord in prayer privately, quietly, pointedly and briefly; and it was done. Now on to what came next:

I knew my wife as a lady of prayer when she was 19 years old. That was only a few weeks after I fell head over heels in love with her. Through the years, she had very little interest in studying about prayer, attending prayer conferences or being chairperson of a prayer committee. Her primary concern was to pray personally. Daily, prayer list, alone with God: such words described her praying. Louise was a fast learner in the things of our Lord. Within 90 seconds of that afternoon in the N. C. Mountains with Miss Bertha, her prayer direction became unalterably expanded. From that time on, when someone asked her to remember some special concern in prayer, if it was at all possible, no matter where they were, she would say, “Let’s do it right now; let’s take it to the Lord right now, right here.” Softly, privately and briefly, believing prayer was offered; then on with whatever was next. If in a phone conversation, someone shared a prayer request with her, it was then and there that a brief prayer was offered. Two prayers in the gospels, which we know God answered, were unusually brief. One prayer was only three words: a drowning Simon Peter shouted, “Lord, save me!” Jesus responded with a rescue. The other prayer was only seven words: the tax collector in the temple said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus confirmed that this man returned home from church that very day with a right relationship with God.

My wonderful dental technician performed her normal, superb six-month cleaning and examination routine for me at my dentist’s office last week. She desired to tell me about one of her most wonderful experiences. One day Louise, my wife, was sitting in the same chair for the same checkup as mine. The technician shared some personal burden that was on her heart and asked that as Louise went on her way she would remember her in prayer. But no, everything came to a halt and Louise touched her and said, “Let’s pray right now.” So, a brief and quiet prayer was offered then and there. The technician’s testimony to me was that I could not imagine what God did for her through that brief prayer moment.

Since her death six months ago, over and over again, people have felt compelled to share with me an account of the help they received from the Lord as it related to Louise and her “on-the-spot here and now” praying. Some of these experiences were in Walmart: quietly, softly, briefly and away from the other customers as much a possible. Some have been in the powder area of the ladies room somewhere.

Now, answer to the riddle question: Did you discover it? Yes, that’s it! Common to each of the three, Walmart, a restroom and a dentist’s chair, is a practical place to immediately, quietly and quickly offer up an intercessory prayer with someone who has shared a prayer request or a burden with you.

What can be some positives concerning praying on the spot, immediately, quickly and quietly? One is that it is scriptural. Jesus taught that God is unlimited and is seeking people to worship him any time or anywhere. Another is that it can keep you from lying. Often, someone may request prayer and you respond that you will pray for him or her, and then you forget it. So, do it now. Again and again Jesus taught, “Ask the Father.”

My wife taught me quite well to pray on the spot, and our wonderful daughter, Joy Carol, of Memphis, Tenn., learned it well from her mother. Though somewhat timid, she has a boldness concerning on-the-spot praying. A noted surgeon, Dr. Netterville, did an innovative surgical procedure relating to my vocal chords a few years ago at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Joy had never met him prior to my surgery. Finally, she met him as he checked on me in the post-operative recovery area. After exchanging a few words together she asked, “Doctor, may I pray for you?” He agreed and she briefly interceded. He thanked her. Louise reported to me later that he said to her privately, “I just hope that my daughter might grow up to be like your daughter.”

So, more people in more places, even the most unlikely places, may be open to prayer, maybe even be hungering for prayer, than we may ever imagine.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.