Prayer is something that we should do always. “Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty…” (Ephesians 6:18 Amplified Bible)
Our prayers can be such a powerful tool, but do you ever think of prayer as something beautiful? I never did, until “Uncle” Gene taught me the truth about the beauty of prayer.
The late Fred Eugene Perine wasn’t my uncle at all, but rather a close friend’s uncle who always treated me like family. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism, he worked at the Detroit News, The Lima News, and the Port Clinton Daily News, among others.
Later, he became a social worker, ultimately achieving the rank of deputy director for Franklin County Human Services. Columbus became his hometown, and social work his occupation. Yet to coin an old joke about newspaper employees, his veins continued to bleed black for the rest of his days.
Our paths crossed infrequently after I was an adult, yet he never missed an opportunity to encourage my passion for writing. He had only heard about my passion for Christ, since that came after we had drifted apart.
More than a decade ago, I was blessed to share one last lunch with Uncle Gene. Of course, I didn’t know it would be our final meeting. It didn’t seem possible that this curmudgeonly mentor who always reminded me of Andy Rooney could ever die.
At lunchtime, Uncle Gene who was in his mid-seventies arrived at west central Ohio’s WTLW TV 44 where I then worked as a reporter and producer. I gave my elderly colleague a “fifty-cent” tour of the station. Even though he had newspapers in his blood, I noticed that he seemed genuinely excited by the studio lights, cameras, and anchor desks. What I didn’t notice was that the still barrel-chested, silver-haired senior had become quite fragile.
Therefore, at lunch when our salads arrived, I was a bit intimidated when asking my impressive mentor if it would be alright to say a blessing. You see, spirituality wasn’t something that we had ever discussed.
Besides, praying in public before a meal can require a combination of wisdom and boldness. Sometimes we need to pray silently by bowing our heads. At other times, we have to have enough courage to ask our companions, if they want to be included.
After all, nobody wants to look like a hypocritical Pharisee saying prayers to impress others. While reciprocally, God’s children need to take time to thank Him for his provision. The Bible says, “Pray diligently. With your eyes wide open in gratitude.” (Col. 4:2 The Message)
Uncle Gene gently said that it would be ok to say a blessing. I reached for his wrinkled hand, and bowed my head while offering a simple prayer of thanksgiving for him and the food. When it comes to prayer, I’ve never stood on formality. My favorite definition of prayer is simply, “Talking to God.” Not talking to a distant “pie in the sky” kind of God, rather having a transparent conversation with our Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can imagine.
Anyway, when I finished my prayer, and said, “Amen,” I opened my eyes, and was shocked when I saw tears in my surrogate uncle’s eyes. In three decades of knowing him, I had never seen him cry. As a single tear began to cascade down his weathered cheek, he brushed it away with his stubby hand.
Thinking I had somehow upset or offended him, since we had already entered the politically correct era, I quickly offered an apology. Instantly he assured me that everything was fine. He explained his tears by softly saying, “Beautiful things always make me cry.”
It was my turn to be shocked again, since this was a side of Uncle Gene that I had never seen. Sometimes, I think of his reaction when I’m feeling intimidated about bowing my head and blessing my meal in public. Praying publicly can require us to be a bit bolder than we would like, but you never know who this simple witness of our love for Christ will touch.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a Christian speaker and Amy Award winning freelance journalist. This column was originally published in the Kenton Times. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com