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Lesser Prayers (by Billy Coffey)

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The prayer request portion of Sunday school class is the reason why we never seem to get much Sunday schooling done. And that’s not a knock against me or anyone else there. We have a fine class, a fine teacher, and a fine time probing the depths of the Good Book. Secretly, though, I suspect many of us spend most of that first half hour of class fidgeting and sighing so we can get to the good part. The part that, whether stated or not, means a little more.

A few Sundays ago the teacher wrapped up his lesson early, allowing those so inclined a full twenty minutes to spill their guts and tell everyone the happenings in the days of their lives.

“Prayer requests?” he asked.

Hands shot up. The teacher would call a name or nod to a person, going one by one through the room and taking notes, which would be distributed the next week on our official prayer request sheets.

Yes. We take this seriously.

Our space was then transformed from classroom to confessional as secret pains and worries were flung out into the light to be prodded and prayed over.

The lady two seats down from me was the first to raise her hand but not to be chosen. She lowered her hand and waited her turn. The one chosen began to speak on soft and muffled words of the tests she was to get in the coming week that would reveal whether she had cancer or not.

A couple near the front had just learned they were going to be parents. It was their fourth try, they said. The first three pregnancies had resulted in miscarriages.

One man was losing his job.

Another man was still looking for one.

One woman said her teenage son came home drunk two nights before and threatened her. She’d been staying with her sister since, afraid to go home.

A mother and father had a son who’d just been given his traveling orders for Afghanistan. “Pray he shoots straight and ducks,” the father said.

Another couple had a friend who’s son had just come home from Iraq. The funeral would be the next day.

A car accident had taken the life of a seventeen-year-old son of a preacher in the next town.

A woman buckled under the grief of a marriage in tatters.

And on. And on.

And through it all, the woman two seats down would raise her hand and wait her turn, lowering it when the Sunday school teacher had called upon someone else, scribbling both name and note on the paper.

After ten minutes, her hand went into the air slower and with a little more hesitation. After fifteen, her hand wasn’t raised at all.

I found her in the hallway afterward and said hello. Then I mentioned the lack of time and the abundance of prayer requests in class, and that it was a shame she never got to share hers.

“If you’d like,” I said, “you can tell me what it was. My family and I will pray.”

She looked at me and offered a small smile.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I guess it’s not that important. I lost my necklace, you see. It’s just one of those cheap silver crosses that you can pick up at the Christian bookstore for about five dollars, but it meant the world to me. My son gave it to me for my birthday last year. Saved up his allowance for almost a whole month.” She paused and than added, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t find it.”

I nodded.

“It seemed so important at the time,” she said. “But then came all those other things people needed praying for, cancer and war and death. So many are hurting now. My problems just didn’t seem that great after that.”

I nodded again. I understood, I really did. But she was wrong.

She was called away before I could tell her what I was thinking. What I thought she really needed to hear.

She’s right, of course. There are so many hurting now, and for so many reasons. But I for one believe that doesn’t mean one person’s problems are greater than another’s. Not to God.

To God, at that moment the only thing in the universe that mattered was that she had lost her necklace. Just like the only thing in the universe that mattered was one son going to war and another coming home, and a family dissolving, and a car accident, and a threatened mother.

Humility is an important thing to feel. We need to know the world doesn’t revolve around us.

But the love of God is an important thing to feel, too. And we also need to know that.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

So this is actually sort of embarrasing…

I am quiet comfortable being sarcastic and ridiculous, and I’m all for a little self-righteous ranting now and then. I’ve been doing the aforementioned things for as long as I can remember. I’m a painter, and while I’m no Rembrandt by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t mind posting pictures of projects I’ve worked on because I’m satisfied that every project, big or small, was done while upholding a fairly high standard I’ve set for myself. Most artists, whatever their medium, put a part of themselves into their work, and the work is a reward in itself. Blogging is sort of the same for me. I appreciate the fact that I have a few faithful readers and have met some absolutely fantastic people through this medium. I can certainly understand if someone stops by once and never returns. There are some incredibly good blogs out there, and if you don’t enjoy reading something, why waste your time? Nothing personal.

Now, here’s the embarrassing part. Ever since I could talk, I have loved to sing. I never pursued singing (outside my car or in the shower) because I never thought I was that good. Then about 10 years ago, my dh and I were having dinner with some new friends, Ed and Kris from church. They were both on the praise team, and Ed was leading worship on a volunteer basis. I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but I mentioned to them that I loved to sing, but had never sang in public. (I didn’t mention the time “back in the day” when I sang Stairway to Heaven at my friend’s wedding reception. I’ve actually tried to block that memory–it wasn’t pretty, not even a little bit.) Out of the blue, Ed says, “Come sing on the praise team!” He could have said, “You just won 10 million dollars” and I wouldn’t have been more excited, or more terrified. It was like God was saying to me, “Here’s your dream come true. Don’t screw it up.”

Long story short, I’m an okay singer. I’m not great. I am surrounded by other vocalists on a regular basis that just knock my socks off, and I simply appreciate the fact they let me sing with them. Earlier today, I was feeling convicted about my personal worship time. An old hymn came to mind that is one of my favorites – “I Surrender All”. I lit some candles, got down on my knees and worshipped God right here in my living room. I recorded it on my flip video, but I’ll get to the reason behind that in a sec. I played it back. It is long, monotonous, I sound mostly lispy and warbley, and at some points like I’m chewing on cud. I was really tempted to re-record it. But I decided against it because one of the things I need to surrender is my pride, and playing back this video was certainly humbling. Besides, no matter how it sounds on the recording, in my heart it was beautiful, and it brought me into His Presence. I pray it was an acceptable albeit unworthy offering to Jesus.

So, why record it? I hope this doesn’t sound incredibly sappy, but I was thinking how honored and humbled I would be if I could worship with you. If not in person, than in some small way right here on this blog. Beth, Sherri, Jason – feel free to throw in some kickin’ harmonies and/or drown out my voice with your own. I have posted the lyrics below the video. Feel free to sing the correct words in the last verse. Not sure what happened there — I close my eye alot when I sing.

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

I pray this Good Friday through Resurrection Sunday is a very special time of reflection and reverence; that you can spend time with family and friends; and that you would feel God’s love and power in a big way.

Jason, I’m praying for your church big time. Whether you have 10 or 10,000, I know that you will give an offering that is pleasing to Him.