In those old white-frame church houses where my dad preached in western Kentucky, men of the earth would often pray. In that area, in those days, it was common for men other than the preacher to lead the congregational prayers.
Farmers and coal miners with hard, callused hands scrubbed clean for the assembling, would bow their heads before the Lord, and lift up their prayers. Though every one of them were more educated and more articulate than stereotypes would suggest, their prayers were plain and direct, pretty much void of lofty language or any attempt to impress the congregation.
Men like Ernest McElwain, James O’Bryant, Euoll Andrus, Jack Harrison, Buell Hargis, and dozens of others, led our supplications and thanksgivings. One of the common phrases so often used it might be mistaken as a cliché, was “guide, guard, and direct us.” As a young child and even later as a teenager, I didn’t really give it that much thought. I suppose it’s human tendency to not give much thought to the things we hear over and over.
In my later years, though, I’ve given that phrase a bit more attention. And subsequently, a greater appreciation. It really covers quite a bit in short order, doesn’t it?
“Lord, give us wisdom and understanding. Help us to be sensitive to your leading and submissive to your Spirit. Let your Word live in us and help us to follow your teaching.
“Lord, keep us safe from the Evil One. Place a hedge of protection about us and send your angels to keep watch over us. Let us not yield to temptation but rather choose righteousness. Let us not be deceived by the illusions and attractions of this world.
“Lord, we recognize there are times when we need a firmer touch to keep us on the Path of Light. When we do not recognize or yield to that “still, small voice,” then use the thunder. When we fail to heed the gentle breeze, then bring us to our knees in the heart of the storm. Do whatever it takes to draw us completely to your Will.”
Given sufficient thought and consideration, even the cliches of our youth can richly inform our maturing years. And make our prayers more meaningful to ourselves.