The Little Prayer Chair

I stood in the back of the church, begging my eyes to memorize the way the paneling looked and my nose to memorize the deep smell of chestnut wood.

It was September 2009. In less than a week, the building would be completely torn down. the building: My home church.

I called It home

When the church was first built over 125 years ago, my family was among the founders. The original church building sat about 3 miles up the road from where my family’s homeplace is. I have often heard stories that my great-grandmother helped raise money from selling fresh baked goods to start the very first Sunday School program there.

I can first remember visiting the church in July 1989. My dad tells me that he took me there on several occasions as a young child, none of which can I remember.

It was there I first experienced a church young group, and had some important milestones in my faith journey. And that it why I called it home- still do though it is not the church in which I was actually saved in 2011.

The burial of the old church

The building that I grew up knowing and loving was the second building that the church was ever housed in. Over it’s nearly 100 years of standing in the valley, it had become heavily damaged by black mold and age. It had not been structurally sound for full time services in over three years in 2009, and the last youth service had been held in it a year prior. It had well lived it’s time, and needed to be torn down.

My dad and I stepped into the church for what would be our last walk through. I ran my hands across the panels, and wept as I looked stood in the empty sanctuary.

As we stood there, the Pastor said to Daddy and I “If there is anything left that you would like to have, you are welcome to it”. Dad’s eyes went immediately to a slightly damaged copy of the church covenant.

I wondered the tiny classrooms, not expecting to find anything to take home.

The Chair

Three little child-sized chairs sat in the remains of one of the classrooms. I pointed to one with a cracked seat and asked the Pastor “May I have that?”. He said yes.

I loaded the chair up in my jeep that day, not knowing where or how I would ever use it. Perhaps for decor, I thought. It was a rough little chair, and it had well long since lost its time for being a useful chair.

The chair would travel with me just 2 years later over 30 miles, and then again another 30 miles in 2014. It had served as sort of a display chair for my Muppets collection that I once had.

In 2014, I placed it in the corner of my bedroom and just wept. The chair was a reminder of just how much I had failed the Biblical teachings that I had been raised in, lessons that I had even learned in my home church.

I spoke to my dad a few days after placing the empty chair in a corner, and mentioned in during the conversation.

“Why don’t you make that your family alter, little one? You can list your prayers on the wall beside it, and sit beside it to pray, or read your Bible.”

And that was exactly what I did.

Remembering A Different Chair

I can remember in my 20s hearing a little analogy about a man using a chair for prayer. It goes:

“All of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head..”

“I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon.

“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.

“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, in fact, beyond strange-kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

(Source: The Empty Chair)

I’ve thought about that sometimes, when I have laid my head on that chair crying out to My Heavenly Father.

What about you- do you have a special place in your home as your prayer room/alter?

 

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It’s Monday, and Sunday is over

The alarm dishovels my sleep and I wake knowing three things: it’s Monday, it’s time to get ready for work and Sunday is over.

Sunday, it’s so easy to be focused on God and His blessings, His magnificent mercy. Sunday, it’s easy to meditate on God’s Holy Word and furl His praises loud. 

But Monday? Monday means our weekend break is over and we return again to the mundane March of work and life. 

Monday means bills come, doctors appointments need to be made, and the faucet is leaking.. again.

Providence in Prayer

Pray. Stressed? Pray. Rejoicing? Pray. Had to ask your child for the thirtieth time to finish getting ready? Pray.

It doesn’t have to come on bended knee or in some ceremony. It can be whispers of, “Lord, I need You” as you restart your computer for the 3rd time. Prayer is simply conversation with God Most High…our Father.

Yes, I do know not everyone was blessed or is blessed to have the kind of Daddy I have. I can talk to Daddy about anything and I do mean anything. There are only two rules for when I talk to Daddy: (1) whatever I say or talk about I must say respectfully & (2) I must be willing to listen not only talk.

Prayer is the same for me. I talk to God about anything and everything. My pain, a sick friend, a lost watch, a family mourning, my want for a queen sized bed, forgiveness of sins or just in thanks. 

But I can’t just talk. I must listen. I must cup the ears of my thoughts to His Holy Scriptures. I must bend my heart to the words from a Godly Pastor. And in listening, I must obey.

I was only 12. Daddy had told me so many times to be careful around the cellar. One hot day, I didn’t listen to that. In pure fiesty stubbornness, I was playing in the cellar until I felt the distinct singe of metal cut through my foot.

I thought it would be fine. Until I could clearly see the peppering of rust on the lid I had embedded into my foot. I would have to tell Daddy.

Lovingly, my Daddy took me to get a tetanus vaccine and have the two inch gash flushed out. But once I got home, I got a whipping.

Mondays (And many other days) need prayers

Daddy didn’t love me any less because of that moment. Quite honestly, it taught me that maybe just maybe Daddy did know best.

God is much the same. Yes, we will rebel and end up peppered in sin. But GOD is faithful to forgive when we repent and come talk to Him. More than my precious Daddy..or your Mom or Aunt or best friend… GOD truly knows best. 

Sunday is over and Monday is upon us. And God is waiting to hear from you, HIS son..HIS daughter. HIS child. 

Thursday Thoughts: Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in The LORD, and HE will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NASB)

Spend any amount of time around church attending folks (and even some who do not), and you will likely hear this verse tossed freely around like dust.

In the last year, I went through a tremendous financial hardship. Without going into a lot of details, I found myself unsure of how I would have groceries for the week ahead. Don’t panic- GOD has more than supplied for my needs since and continues to do so.

But I became tremendously frustrated with how many times I would hear people quote Psalm 37:4 as part of their reply to my situation.

The context

Psalm 37 speaks on dealing with those who do us wrong, our adversaries. When dealing with our enemies, we need to trust GOD for the battle and the outcome

GOD is not a genie

Too often, I’ll hear this verse quoted when someone wants something that they do not have yet. Recently a woman told me “I don’t have a nice house, but I’m trusting GOD. He will give me the desires of my heart. That’s what His word says.”

Um, nope. That isn’t how it works. GOD isn’t santa or a genie. Yes, we can come to GOD and ask anything of HIM. That is true. And GOD is abundantly able to give us anything HE wants, that is also true.

But notice I say anything HE wants.

Psalm 37:4 starts with “Delight yourself in the LORD…”

Delight here is ʻânag, meaning to be pliable (source: delight). So if we are pliable, if we are bending ourselves to GOD, HE will give us the desires of our heart.

Shape me, Lord

I love older art forms, such as pottery or weaving. One of my favorite older art forms is that of caning a chair. To weave the beautiful intricate seats, the cane must be soaked and made pliable.

For our hearts to be pliable, we need to also be soaked. We don’t need to just be dipped in scriptures, but we need to soaked in them- pulling their lessons and wisdom and correction into our hearts.

So what about the desires of our heart?

When we are soaked and made pliable through GOD’s HOLY and PERFECT WORD, our heart essentially becomes like HIS. We might lay aside our selfish desires for a big home, and instead have the desire to be a better steward of the home we have.

Yes, GOD hears our prayers and HE does sometimes give us the very things we ask for. But we must be cautious to not think of GOD as our genie that will give us all we want.