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March 2015

Living Trust


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one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids

by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists


Brother Richard

He sat at the end of a pew on the right-hand side near the front of the sanctuary. A nearby window flooded the little house of worship with sunlight on Sunday mornings. In my mind’s eye, I can still see his distinct silhouette from my perspective from the other side of the church house. Because he was always there, he had become as much of a fixture as the church furniture.

Indelibly etched in my childhood memory were those occasions when my pastor would say, “Brother Richard, will you please lead us in prayer?”

The elderly gentleman would rise slowly to his feet. After a long, deliberate pause he would proceed to talk to God. Judging from his grammar, he wasn’t an educated man. No one was impressed by his eloquence.

What stood out most to me was the comfort and ease with which he spoke to God. It was as though he was carrying on a conversation with an old, familiar friend. I have a confession to make. On one occasion I peeked (but with only one eye), just to make sure the Lord wasn’t actually standing right there beside him.

Another thing that made a lasting impression on me was the consistency of his prayers. As I recall, Brother Richard usually included three specific elements in his intercession. First, he said something to the effect, “Dear Lord, bless all those this world over that duty binds us to pray for.” I suppose it was his way of making sure no one was left out of his prayer.

Next, he characteristically interceded for those in the military when he said with a pronounced southern drawl, “Be with all the boys in the ormed (armed) forces.”

I eventually came to understand why he was mindful to pray for those who were in uniform—he was a veteran himself. In light of his example, we would all do well to remember more faithfully those who defend our country.

Finally, before he said “Amen,” he would utter those familiar words, “And please bless the message burier today.” (I’m sure he meant message bearer.)

I never really thought much about that until I became a preacher. I came to appreciate the fact that there were people like Brother Richard praying for me every time I stepped to the pulpit. (Although, come to think of it, through the years I have preached a few sermons that should have been buried.)

Did that old saint have any idea how intently a little boy was listening when he addressed his Heavenly Father? I doubt it. But here I am, more than 50 years later, writing about Brother Richard’s prayers. So, the next time you pray in public, remember the Lord isn’t the only one listening.


About the Column

One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and the joys of grandchildren.


©2014 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists