As a child, I vividly recall praying that I would die before my Grandma Bunton — as well as before my dog, Snoop. God didn’t answer either of those prayers. Snoop drew the short straw in a fight with another neighborhood dog when I was in the 2nd grade. Thankfully, I kept Grandma until she was 92 years old.
Grandma and Grandpa Bunton raised 11 children on a farm in eastern Guilford County, North Carolina. They had very little, but at the risk of sounding cliche, they had a lot of love. Grandma, Aunt Bet and Aunt Lillian still lived in the “Old House,” as we call it, when state took the land for the new I-85 bypass, and it was well over 150 years old. From my earliest memories, it was my favorite place in the world.
You can tell a lot about my grandparents by this picture of me on the back porch. Grandma loved her flowers, Grandpa loved his shotgun, and they both loved me (and all of their dozens of grandchildren). I still have that chair in my bedroom, and there it will always stay.
Grandma had a four poster cherry bed, and every night at bedtime she would read her Bible. She read the whole thing through every year. Year after year after year. When she was finished, she’d kneel by that bed to pray. No “Now I lay me down to sleep” for her. Every time I ever spent the night with her, I would lay in bed saying, “Hurry up and finish praying, Grandma! I’m cold!” I wanted her to snuggle with me! But she would just shake her head and keep praying. Her words were muffled, but I knew what she was saying. She called every one of our names in prayer every night — every child, every grandchild, and she wasn’t about to let an impatient little girl rush her time with the Lord.
On one of those nights when I was snuggled up to her in bed, I asked her if I could have that bed when she died. She promised me that I could. And Grandma Bunton never broke her word.
She was the godliest, kindest, strongest woman I ever knew. No matter who you were, you were welcome at her table, and she was the best cook ever. Homemade biscuits at every meal. She cleaned and canned and froze and sewed and every other thing a Southern woman should know how to do. And I wanted to be just like her.
When she grew too old to get on her knees anymore, she would raise up and grip the side of the mattress to pray. She was still kneeling in her heart. Early in the morning on March 27, 1996, she sat up, took a deep breath and laid back down. She wasn’t sick, it was simply time. When she opened her eyes again, she saw the face of Jesus.
I wanted to be like her as much in my 30’s as I did as a child. In her honor, and to follow her as she followed Jesus, I set out to know the Word and be a woman of prayer. For 11 straight years, I read the Bible through, and I continue to be thankful for her example to encourage me to be a student of Scripture.
Several years after she died, I got that bed just when I needed it most. I’ve had people ask me if it bothered me that she died in it. On the contrary, it made it all the more special to me. Luke 16:22 says when Lazarus died, the angels came and carried him to Heaven. How wonderful to sleep where angels had come to carry my Grandma to Heaven!
I felt a bit lost without her, knowing that no one prayed for me like she did. What joy filled my soul when I got to Revelation 5:8 and found out there are
golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.
Every prayer my Grandma Bunton prayed for me, and every other member of our family are still there. They are a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord, and they are yet before Him. They’re still powerful, still bringing results, still a testimony to her faithfulness and love for us. Her legacy lives on here on earth, and in Heaven, in golden bowls full of incense.
If you had a praying grandparent or parent, and they’ve gone on, be encouraged. Their prayers continue on. And if you have been afraid your own prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling, floating off into space, if you thought your deepest anguish was carried away with the wind, not true, my friend. Your heart felt hopes and pleas live on as well.
If you’re thinking, “I haven’t had anyone love me enough to pray for me that way,” you’d be wrong. One who loves you more than anyone else ever could prayed for you, over 2000 years ago! In John 17, Jesus is praying for His disciples, asking God to strengthen and protect them to do His work. Oh but praise be to God, He doesn’t stop with just them. He goes on to say in 20 and 21,
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
He prayed for US — for you, for me. A very specific prayer. He wanted us to be one, not divided. He prayed that we would be FULL of joy and be protected from evil. His prayer wasn’t just for that day. His prayer lives on today in Heaven, in a bowl full of incense, with all the prayers of the saints.
In the times of my life when I’ve felt all alone in the world with no one to help me make it, reminding myself that there are bowls in Heaven that are prayers for me, prayers of those who loved me, and prayers of Jesus Himself, made me feel safe and loved. Rest your weary soul tonight and remind yourself of the same thing.
Thank You, Jesus, for the prayers of the saints, for Your prayers for all of us. Thank You that those prayers are effective even now, in bowls of incense before Your throne. May Your words for us be true — may we be One, may we be FULL of joy, and may we be protected from the evil one. In Your Name, and for Your glory.