Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
Each week I have both a question and a prayer concerning this column; “What should I write about?” As far as I am concerned, the opportunity I am so graciously afforded here, both by God and man, is a precious gift and a sacred responsibility. That is why I both pray to my heavenly Father and ask myself that question. Sometimes (and no doubt the fault is mine, not God’s), the answer is frustratingly hard to come by.
And then there are times like this morning.
As I pulled back into the driveway from teaching my first-period high school Bible class, I saw my son’s truck hooked to his trailer. He is, among other things, an exceptionally hard worker. He has a full-time job in maintenance at a local plant and, in his spare time, does both stump grinding and lawn cutting.
When I walked in the door, he and my youngest daughter were in the dining room talking. I asked, and sure enough, he was getting ready to go mow some lawns. So, as I always do when one of my kids is going somewhere, I put my arm around him and prayed for him. I prayed that God would give him safety, success, and a good day. I also prayed that above all else, God would keep him from evil and help him to do right at all times.
When I finished praying, my daughter was smiling a wry smile. “What?” I asked. “I will let you feel good about your prayer,” she said teasingly, “but mine counts more since mine was first.”
My daughter, not knowing if I would be home in time to pray with her brother before she left, had already prayed for him. Both she and my other daughter are very good at that. If Dana and I are going somewhere, one or both of them will almost invariably say, “You ain’t going nowhere till I ‘speak Jesus’ over you.” And then they will pray over us, the kids for the parents.
As you may have gathered, praying with, for, and over each other is pretty big in the Wagner household. But what pleases me the most is that Dana and I have not “instructed them” to do this. We have simply modeled it, and they, on their own, have applied it. It would never have even occurred to me (I say to my shame) to teach my kids, “If we are not here, be sure to pray over each other before any of you leave.” And yet, because we have always prayed over them, they are now praying over us and over each other.
Gumbo. Gumbo is an interesting thing. I daresay that many people have never had it, and many people would be hesitant to even try it because it is not normal fare in most of the country. But my wife makes it, and we love it. But she did not make it before she met me. My grandmother, who hailed from Louisiana, always made it for us. When Dana and I met, and she got to know my family, she got to know gumbo. And with her wise foresight, knowing that my grandmother would not be around forever, she finally got my grandmother to write the recipe down for her. My grandmother has been dead for many years now, but her recipe still lives on, and a new generation is learning to love it.
I have not changed subjects.
Passing down a love for the things that matter is all about modeling. My grandmother did not talk about gumbo recipes; my grandmother made gumbo. Dana and I have not lectured on prayer; we have prayed. We have gathered five Wagners together each night for years and prayed before bed. We have prayed for our children every day before they ever went to school or work. We have stopped at random times during the day, any time any big thing has come up, and we have prayed over it. We have prayed over every meal, not some formulaic, memorized and rehashed words, but genuine thanks over what God has provided for us.
We have cried together in our prayers. We have even laughed together, often hysterically, during our prayers. I am glad that God has a sense of humor because sometimes things are just funny, even during prayer time.
And now we get phone calls from our kids during the day, or even in the night when any of them are working third, asking us to pray with them for a few minutes if anything is bothering them or not going very well.
And they are praying over each other in our absence, which means that when Dana and I are dead and gone, they will likely still be praying for and with and over each other.
We prayed over them when they came into this world. I suspect they will be praying over us as we leave this world.
A praying family does not happen by portraying prayer as a grim duty in which all of us must engage if we are to placate an angry, frowning God; a praying family happens by loving the God you are praying to, loving praying to Him, and loving the people you are praying with and for. It happens when prayer is as natural a thing as breathing in your home.
Some days figuring out what to write about is pretty easy.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and his books and other resources are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner