We waited until the dust cloud blew past the little white-washed house on Slate Ridge Road. Only then did
Grandma and I step from the faded gray porch to the old yellow school bus turned church bus that Sunday
morning. It was just a short ride to the Holiness Church, dust rolling in the windows, the old bus rattling and
bouncing down the red clay, red dog road.
When we arrived at the church yard, we waited again for the red dust cloud to pass by before unloading
and the kids bounced out into the church yard. It was full of ladies in their long, wildflower cotton
dresses (with matching bonnets of course), clutching their leather-bound Bibles and kids running circles,
moms yelling, “Now y’all don’t get your Sunday clothes dirty.” The men were mostly back around the side of
the church, getting in the last puffs on their Camels or rolled cigarettes, some throwing out their chaw of
Beechnut, running their fingers around the noose-like necks of their starched white shirts.
Soon, the preacher rang the bell. Everyone seemed to pause a moment listening to its echo from
back up the ridge. The kids were in first, knowing which pew was theirs, followed by moms and grandmas
and even great grandmas. The men, well they mostly lingered a bit outside. Maybe they were just waiting for
things to settle. As the last few stragglers slipped in the old piano played as if from memory the first
I don’t remember when during the service it happened, but I know it was before the sermon. The
preacher wiped his sweaty face yet again and called a time to “give our prayer to Almighty God.” What happened
next was a pure shock to a young boy who only occasioned a northern, proper Presbyterian church.
They all started praying out loud. Not a bulletin printed, all-say-together prayer, but speaking what was on
their hearts and minds out loud. Now, some of the folk were sitting, head bowed as I was used to, but others
were standing lifting their hands up high, and others were kneeling, turned around with their faces in
their hands on the pews.
Over the sound of prayers, I could not pick out a single word anyone was saying. No, they weren’t
speaking in tongues as some have suggested. It’s just that a church full of people all unloading their hearts at
the same time was like thunder rattling the rafters. Then the piano began to play Amazing Grace, How Sweet
the Sound . . . and slowly the thunder became singing and smiling.
There are verses of scripture that suggest going to a quiet place to pray. Many of us are good at
praying silently and listening. But there is something about sharing out loud with God what is on our hearts
and troubling our minds. It seems to lift the weight, remove the tension, free the heart.
The words of the old hymn are true.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry. . . Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry . . . Everything to God in prayer!
And yes sometimes, we just need to go to the quiet place, by ourselves, let the dust settle and talk to God out loud, like he was sitting right there next to us. I know I do!