Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Prayer of a Hard-Working Man

“Public performance is in direct proportion to private practice.” That came out of Pastor Jim’s sermon this morning on “The Secret of Prayer” (Mt. 6:6). I was a pastor for forty-five years, and now, after having been retired from fulltime church work for sixteen years, I am now watching our pastor wind down his career in preparation for retirement. Never have I valued a good pastor as much as I do today.

That opening statement summarizes his sermon, but it also captures the essential ingredients of success in most any area of life. Jim also suggested that prayer is its own reward, that prayer always rewards, and that prayer has eternal rewards. Having said that, prayer must be measured, Jim reminded us, by its inwardness rather than its outwardness.

He related an interesting event from the life of Joni Erickson Tada, who always wanted to roll into that Jerusalem pool, where it was said that the first one into the waters after the angel stirred them, would be healed. When she finally saw Jerusalem, and that pool from her wheelchair, she had one of those God-moments, in which she realized for the first time that while God had not miraculously healed her of her paralysis, for her prayer had become more important than being able to walk.

I have always said we should pray as if God was doing all the work, whatever the need might be. Simultaneously, I concluded, that we should also work as if we were doing the whole project. Prayer is essential to good, healthy living; on the other hand, although we are always dependent upon God, work is equally essential to good healthy living.

As I step into another new week, a half-century older than I was in this 1961 San Angelo, Texas photo that follows, I am thankful I have mind enough to pray. On the other hand, while I am not as active as I was in past decades, I enjoy health and mobility far beyond that of many my age, which brings me to a favorite poet. I have used Paul Laurence Dunbar's verses many times in my life, but tonight I am using them as the heart-felt sentiments of a hard-working man: - “When all is done”:

When all is done, and my last word is said,
And ye who loved me murmur, “He is dead,”
Let no one weep, for fear that I should know,
And sorrow too that ye should sorrow so.

When all is done, say not my day is o’er,
And that thro’ night I seek a dimmer shore,
Say, rather that my mourn has just begun---
I greet the dawn and not a setting sun.

From Warner’s World,
I am

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