Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Prayer Bench by Rose McCormick Brandon

Boardwalk along St. Mary's River at Sault Ste. Marie
I worked in a large office building steps away from a boardwalk that follows the curve of the St. Mary’s River along the Canada-U.S. border. For longer than I should confess, I spent my lunch hours in the mall across the street, running errands and browsing, until one day I looked out the mall’s entrance at rapids glistening in June’s sun and thought, “Shame on you!” The next day I joined walkers, joggers, in-line skaters and nature lovers who spend their lunch breaks by the water.
            Twenty minutes into my first trek on the boardwalk, I noticed a bench perched on a steep bank on the river’s shore, half-hidden in a grove of pine trees. The bench caught my attention for its view of the river but when I sat on it, its solitude enveloped me in arms scented with pine. A not unpleasant fish odor hung over the water. Below, ducklings floated on waves behind their mamas.  I sensed God saying, “This is a place where you and I can get re-acquainted.” 
When I was a stay-at-home mom, I set aside the afternoon hour between one and two for prayer. Television and phone silenced, children either at school or napping, I knelt or sat on the living room sofa for my special alone time with God. This private prayer time reduced my worries because I daily transferred them to Him. Confidence to teach a ladies Bible study in my home, witness to my neighbors and accept speaking invitations came from that special hour. Worries and frustrations shrank when I poured them out in prayer to the Father. I found that prayer increased my creativity, my zest for living and even healed my heart of past hurts. 
            Relinquishing this prayer hour was the most difficult aspect of re-joining the work-force. At my busy desk, I often felt lonely for God and wished everyone would take the day off and leave me alone. It’s not that I didn’t pray before feeding my three children and getting them off to school. It’s just that my rushed mornings weren’t conducive to prayer and my sleepy brain often wandered to my daily to-do list.
            The bench gave me a place to be with God and that was an important element to finding my way back to prayer. I heard a Chinese pastor of an underground church tell how, while imprisoned in a crowded, noisy cell, he asked God to provide a place for him to be alone to pray and worship. Not long after sending his impossible request up to heaven, guards assigned him to lagoon-skimming – shoveling off the top layer of the prison’s sewage reservoir. The stench kept everyone away, including the guards. Alone for hours, he prayed and praised loudly.
            In comparison to a prison lagoon, my riverside sanctuary sits in a corner of heaven. At lunch times, I quickly changed my shoes, nearly running from my busy desk to the solitary bench, hoping all the way that no one reaches it before me. As I neared it, I found myself already talking to God – asking for healing for a friend, a teaching position for my daughter, increased creativity for myself, an opportunity to tell a co-worker about Jesus. Some needs brought tears to my sun-glassed eyes. My bench welcomed me. “Sit. Share your anxious thoughts with Jesus," it seemed to say.
            Do you need an alone place for you and God? Ask Him to provide one. Perhaps it won’t be as sense-satisfying as my pine-surrounded bench but it will definitely be better than our Chinese brother’s sewer. Whatever the location, your private place will become precious for what it symbolizes – a place where friendship with God flourishes.
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Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including, Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. Visit her blogs, Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home. Her books are available here.


Peter Black said...

Thanks Rose. This account of your finding sanctuary and a place of prayer and communing with God, in the midst of life and living, stirs the longing for such a place and experience; a blessed place of wellbeing, where "it is well with [our] soul"! ~~+~~

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thank you Rose for sharing this beautiful account of finding again your place for prayer in a busy life. God's provision in this way is really quite marvellous. Thanks for encouraging all of us who often struggle to find the right time and place for that communion that empowers us for everything else. Warm regards.

Glynis said...

Oh this is so lovely, Rose, and a wonderful reminder to take that time to be still before God and know that HE is God. Your bench sounds like a wonderful place. What a lesson for us all to find a 'bench'.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter, Eleanor and Glynis - Thanks for your encouraging responses. So difficult to put things aside and sit with Him. But, when we do, we never regret it

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