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COLUMNS

This is where to go and what to do

She shops at a place I love, and she’s hard to miss. A bundle of joy, this woman is always laughing and smiling, full of cheerful words for the clerks.

One day, I saw her pause as she was entering the store. I watched as she studied a man in the parking lot, and a gale of sorrow seemed to sweep over her.

She quickly turned and stepped inside, her head down. I wasn’t far behind and saw one of the clerks approach her.

R.A. Mathews

“Are you okay?” he asked.

She looked up, trying to brighten. “Yes. Why?”

“You seem so unhappy,” he said.

She smiled warmly. “It’s nothing prayer can’t fix.”

I thought of the words to Billy Graham's favorite hymn: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.”

When the Apostle Paul and Silas were traveling through a Roman colony, they were accused of mischief and brought before the local magistrates. These judges then had Paul and Silas beaten in the marketplace and thrown into jail.

At midnight, the other prisoners heard Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns. That’s when an earthquake struck, shaking the prison so badly that all the doors were thrown open and all the prisoners' shackles were broken.

The jailer thought his prisoners had escaped. Knowing he'd be executed, the man quickly drew his sword to take his life.

“Don’t harm yourself!” Paul shouted. “We are all here!”

The jailer cared for Paul and Silas that night, taking them home and binding their wounds. He and his family also accepted Jesus.

At daylight, the magistrates sent word to release the two, but they wouldn’t go. Paul said the judges had unjustly imprisoned and beaten two Roman citizens.

When the magistrates heard this, they fearfully went to the jail and apologized. Acts 16:16-40

Do you see our God in action? The jailing of Paul and Silas brought salvation to the jailer and his family. It also brought a public victory for God!

Prayer is often neglected and underused by Christians. Yet God will show you the right path and strengthen you on your way. He will comfort you in time of trouble. Need a miracle? He is the God of miracles.

I ran into the woman at the store the next weekend. She shared her life with me, even explaining about the man in the parking lot. He’d reminded her of a lost love. 

She also told me about her devotional life.

“Sometimes,” she said, “when I’m sad, God will show me a person in a wheelchair or with cancer. That changes everything; I focus on my blessings.”

I nodded, knowing that feeling.

“At other times,” she continued, “it takes me a while to pray through my pain. But God always sends an answer. Maybe from another person. Sometimes I simply feel His guidance. Music really helps me.”

“What kind of music?” I asked.

“Hymns.”

I thought of Paul praying and singing hymns in prison.   

“Which ones do you like?” I asked.

“My favorite is ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’” Ding-ding-ding!

The hymn continues with these verses, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”

Powerful words!

Look online and you’ll see the stars who’ve recorded the song: Dolly Parton, Amy Grant, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Aretha Franklin and the list goes on. Each proudly sings of the answer when life gets rough: Take it to the Lord in Prayer.

I encourage you to sing when you pray. Remember Psalm 100: “Come before His Presence with joyful singing.”

I also hope you’ll find a place in your home for this verse --- perhaps near your kitchen sink, bathroom mirror, or bed:

“Do not be anxious about anything,

But in everything by prayer and supplication,

With thanksgiving,

Let your requests be made known to God,

And the peace of God,

Which surpasses all understanding,

Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians  4:6 

Know where to go and what to do. God is always the answer. 

The Rev. Mathews is a faith columnist, seminary graduate, and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at Letters@RAMathews.com Copyright © 2021 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.