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Scripture prayer 5: what to say


Anybody will tell you that I am seldom at a loss for words. The gift of gab was an asset back in the banking and hospital administration days and I can usually hold my own in just about any verbal exchange. But, for thirty-five years, as I rose to preach, teach, speak, encourage, counsel, officiate a funeral or wedding, or perform any ministerial duty with the potential of influencing others, I prayed the promise of Luke 12:12. It was when Jesus said---

For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

The occasion was the gathering of a large crowd to hear Jesus teach. In 12:1 He acknowledged the multitude but turned his words to the disciples. He challenged them to have no fear of opposition because of their value to the Father, worth more than many sparrows. Then he told them they must confess him before men and would be brought before synagogues and rulers and authorities. He advised them not to worry about what they would say in these legal and threatening situations. He promised the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say.

And, yes, there are occasions when even the most comfortable and practiced verbalist can't gather words appropriate to the moment. Every speaker has a catalog of miscues spoken in the heat of the moment or when caught off guard.

The ninth grader who was awarded an academic honor and was asked to say a few

words in front of the entire student body. He said, "From the heart of my bottom I

thank you."

Or the time when President Gerald Ford said, at a news conference, "It's time for the

Jews and Arabs to get together and work these things out like the good Christians

they are."

The state senate member who said, "it's time to take this bull by the horns and milk

her till we get this thing settled."

Or, even more, times when we are so overwhelmed by circumstances that our emotions outrun our words, when we can't seem to wrap mere words around what we're experiencing at the moment. Even though I prayed the promise for words every time I stood in front of a group, there were several occasions when even my most fervent preparation left me puzzled about what I would say. Two come to mind: the funeral service of my mother, Esther Mae Owens Holmes; and the Sunday sermon the morning after our son's funeral in 2011.

Mother was an admirable person and our family wanted me to speak at her funeral. Relating her qualities and sharing memories of our lives at home were no problem. But, as a Pastor I had this thing about biblical content. So, I labored for hours over the right text and passages that would communicate our families feelings about her example and model of faith. Early the morning of her service I knew I had to get it together. So, I prayed Luke 12:12 even more earnestly. Shortly the verse that began my eulogy came to mind: Esther 2:15---

Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.

It was such a fitting biblical introduction to her life. How thankful I was for an answered prayer.

The Sunday morning after Brian's funeral I was convicted that I needed to preach. Everyone had been so kind and generous to our family and I was impressed to share the crucible of that week with our church. But, words escaped me as I prepared. So, I prayed Luke 12:12 again, with more urgency. Early that Sunday morning Matthew 8:24-27 became clear, with an appropriate opening phrase---

Without warning a furious storm came up on the Lake...

These words expressed the sudden tragedy of Brian's death and the difference that Jesus being in our boat made as we endured that storm. Once again, God answered my prayer, and that of many others, in asking for the right words for an important message of personal faith.

The spiritual leaders in your life will have to speak many words to be people in their care---lessons, messages, counsel, advice, encouragement, reproof, correction, and many other forms of practical application and guidance. You can support them by praying the Scripture promise that in the very hour of need, the Holy Spirit will teach them what is needed for that time.

Ever feel like a prayer slacker? Here's an improvement to your prayer and devotional life. Pray Scripture. And lift the five mentioned this week for the spiritual leaders in your life.


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