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Some reflections on standing in the need of prayer

Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” Can I get an amen?

I have had that old-time spiritual on my mind since friend and former colleague Susan Larson wrote to inform me that Thursday, May 6 is National Day of Prayer. Incidentally, the president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is Kathy Branzell, of Atlanta, a graduate of the University of Georgia, a hallowed institution to be sure. Can I get another amen?

I suspect we all are standing in the need of prayer. Otherwise, our world wouldn’t be in the mess it is in these days. For example, do you think our brethren who make anonymous death threats to public officials took a few moments to pray about it before they did? I rest my case.

This is the 70th annual National Day of Prayer. While it is good to set aside one day each year to remind us of the importance of prayer in our lives, our focus on prayer should be daily.

There are a lot of things I can’t do. Let me count the ways. But one thing I can do. I can pray. And I do. But before I polish that halo atop my head, I admit that there are times my prayers are cursory. Sometimes a quick ‘thank you’ to assure God that I haven’t forgotten Him even though I am very busy with other stuff. And then there are those times when I am in big trouble. I am in over my head and looking for God to bail me out. If it happens, my inclination is to think maybe it was my doing after all, not God’s.

My prayers tend to be a wish list and a one-way conversation. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” A non-cleric translation: “Why don’t you quit talking so much and try listening for a change?” And do I ever need to remember to do so.

God welcomes our prayers, however we make them. A suggested proper sequence is to adopt the acronym ACTS: Adoration (Praising God); Confession (Admitting we aren’t as perfect as we would like others to think we are. Of course, God already knows that); Thanksgiving (for what God has given us. Chances are it is more abundant than we sometimes wish to acknowledge) and, finally, Supplication (That is where our wish list comes in. Spoiler alert: God may or may not agree with our wish list. It helps to remember who is in charge and who isn’t.)

My personal prayer time is pretty extensive these days. I pray that a beautiful soul is at peace today and enjoying a long-cherished reunion with her beloved grandson. I pray for those who have gone through or are going through equally challenging times and hope they are as blessed as I have been. I thank God for a family more loving and caring than I deserve; for the joy and excitement of new life; for friends who have helped me navigate through the dark days and for those of you I have never met that have reached out to me with encouraging words of support.

I just hope God is hearing my supplications. I had an uncle, a street corner preacher in my hometown, who fueled himself with copious amounts of John Barleycorn before trying to save sinners crossing the street to avoid him. The more hooch he consumed, the more enthusiastic his efforts. He eventually cleaned up his act but never found favor with his sister-in-law, the family matriarch, my Aunt Callie better known as Cack.

Many years later at a family reunion before lunch was to commence, Uncle Bill solemnly announced to those assembled, “I will now say grace before we eat.” Cack leaned over to my momma and said, “That prayer isn’t going to make it through the ceiling!”

The National Day of Prayer organization is Christian-based but I don’t think they would mind if we agreed that prayer works in any and all faiths. In fact, it would be nice if we prayed for each other. I suspect God would like that.

Maybe it’s time we accept the fact that it’s not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. And then pray it gets through the ceiling. Can I get an amen?