It was back in the summer, when the sun hung high and hot in the sky and the droplets of humidity fell like unwanted drops of rain, that one of my precious friends called.
For over six months, death, tribulations, heartaches and trials had stormed from the blackest, most thunderous clouds to batter her. She is a woman raised solidly in the truth who believes unwaveringly in the mightiest of power. She had been brought to her knees but not broken. The strength she showed in the most trying of times had been nothing short of remarkable and admirable.
When she spoke, she did not cry. Her voice did not tremble. “I need a favor,” she said calmly. Long after I would marvel how the tone had not carried despair. Instead, it was saturated with resolve and humility. It’s hard to hear both at one time in a voice because the emotions tend to be diametrically opposed.
“Anything,” I replied. I meant it. She could have asked me to get in the car to drive a thousand miles and I would, without fuss, gone straight to my closet, retrieved clothes and then been on my way. “You name it and I will do it.” I knew, of course, she was not calling to ask for something that was not within my power.
“Can I come to your daddy’s place and pray? I need an extra dose of power in my prayers and I know, without question, that God will meet me where your daddy knelt to pray.”
It was the first time any friend had ever called to ask that. Oh, we in the family go to that place in the darkest of times. No one ever calls to ask because my family knows that hallowed ground, though on a deed that bears my name, belongs to us all. It is the place where the burdens of Daddy’s heart were lifted and where he gave praise to his Almighty Savior.
It’s not much to look at, I’ll grant you that. It was Daddy’s secret praying place. He would always say, “I’m goin’ out to my prayin’ place and talk over it with the Lord.” Someone once asked where it was, which caused Daddy to straighten his shoulders, tilt his head and level his green eyes. “That’s between the Lord and me.”
We’d probably never have known where except that once after Daddy grew sick and feeble, his once sturdy legs unable to take him far, Mama said, “I’m getting worried about your daddy. He’s gone to pray but it’s been a long time. Go see if you can find him.”
What I found broke my heart and, to this day, brings tears when I remember 20 years ago. Exhausted, Daddy had slumped down on a stump, his hands resting on his knees. He teared and looked sadly toward a place 15 feet away. “I got to my prayin’ place and couldn’t get back.”
It was then I realized — and later the rest would know — that Daddy’s praying place was behind an old, 12-foot, enclosed trailer bed that he had dragged home decades before to use as storage. Later, Rodney, who often knows more about Daddy than any of his children, said that it was relic from a circus. The truck and trailer broke down, they left the trailer behind and someone offered it to Daddy for free, so he took it. My family never turns down “free.” Behind the bed, next to the cattle corral was a kneeling altar of cement blocks. The ground was worn dirt bare from where he had knelt so often.
Later, I met my friend there. We held hands and she began to pray with scriptures, earnestly asking for divine intervention. It was one of the most impressive prayers I’ve ever heard.
And, I am quite certain that I was not the only one who heard it.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.