The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Opinion

February 23, 2010

Prayers remembered

HUNTSVILLE —    The importance of prayer is at, or very near, the center of all things Christian. Most of us could recite the “God is great” mealtime prayer, as well as the “Now I lay me down to sleep” beddy-bye petition, before we could count to 10 or say the “A-B-C’s.”

   We’ve pondered the “pray without ceasing” admonition and Jesus’ teaching His followers to spend much time in prayerful communion.

    The Lord’s Prayer, a model for Christians, has been repeated by millions across the centuries.

   Many prayers surpass, or at least equal, the world’s most beautiful literature. Hebrews 11:1 is a classic example: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    Decorated wordsmith Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote of prayer with wondrous lines, among them: “Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer…her eyes are homes of silent prayer…more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”…

   It is noted, however, that words from mortal mouths do not always come out neatly packaged. Recalled are preachers, and others with microphones in hand, who become tongue entangled or fail to engage brain before speaking. We can but trust that God has a sense of humor, easily gleaning the intent from the content.

   “Goofs” from church bulletins feed on preachers’ prayerful pratfalls, and fleeting thoughts suggest that “there but by the Grace of God go I.”…

   Two legends are Texas A&M’s R.C. Slocum, head coach of the Aggies for 14 seasons, and Baylor’s Grant Teaff, who held the head position for 21 years. They still chuckle at recollections of pre-game invocations voiced a few years apart at Baylor Stadium.

   Teaff remembers the 1975 season opener that followed Baylor’s 1974 Southwest Conference championship season, the Bears’ second in a half-century of trying. That miracle-on-the-Brazos season was still much on the minds of the Green and Gold when the next season rolled around.

   A well-known Texas pastor, groaning for years when the Bears’ won only the coin toss, enthusiastically prayed for the Almighty to “make us humble.”…

   Humble? Baylor?

    During 57 years of Baylor football prior to Teaff’s arrival, maintaining humility was seldom considered. For the record, in 32 of those seasons, BU finished in the half of the conference that made the top half possible.

   Teaff wasn’t sure that he heard the words correctly, but he was sure that the Bears turned the ball over via fumbles six times that day.

   At the post-game interview, Teaff lightened the moment with reference to the prayer. “God’s getting’ on up there in years and maybe not hearing quite as well,” Teaff teased. “He obviously thought the preacher said, “Make us fumble.”…

   The prayer Slocum most remembers was during the Aggies’ visit to Waco a few years later.

   Slocum, himself a churchman, found himself nodding in affirmation of the preacher’s petitions.

   He wilted a bit, though, when it occurred to him that the man praying was HIS pastor from Bryan!...

   The men were model coaching gentlemen, passionate mentors who were committed first to building lives, then football teams. Teaff brought respectability to Baylor football, and Slocum remains the winningest coach in school history. Both have received highest professional awards and have come great distances from their places of birth, Teaff in Hermleigh, Texas, and Slocum in Oakdale, La.

   They are “as good as it gets,” and they “keep on keeping on.” Teaff is now executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, and Slocum is special adviser to the A&M president and works with the A&M Foundation. He also is the current president of the AFCA Foundation. In the words of the old cowboy trail riders, “they’ll do to ride the river with.”…

   Recalled is a story about a fellow who said to another, “I’m praying for you.”

   “Good,” the other answered, “’Cause I need the prayer, and you need the practice.”

   Sometimes, prayer lists are shortened. Uncle Mort, noting that Kenneth Starr has been named President at the world’s largest Baptist university, says Bill Clinton can put to rest any prayers he may have had for an honorary doctorate from Baylor….

   Dr. Don Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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