My Grandma and Grandpa Bunton were tenant tobacco farmers and lived in an old farm house in rural northeast Guilford County, NC. When they moved into it in the early 1940’s, it was already 100 years old. It wasn’t much, I don’t suppose, but it was the place where I felt the most safe in the whole world.
My parents split up when I was just a toddler, and my daddy and I moved in with Grandma, Grandpa and my Aunt Bet who had never moved out. We might have been poor by other people’s standards, but I didn’t know it — and I wouldn’t have cared if I did.
The foundation for my life was laid in those formative years when we lived with my Grandma Bunton, before my daddy remarried and we moved out. Although she had already raised 11 children, she didn’t seem to mind taking me on as well. And I wasn’t the only one. I have many cousins who would tell a story similar to mine about how Grandma Bunton was instrumental in raising them.
She’d say, “Drag up that stool and he’p me do the deeshes. I’ll warsh and you raynch.” (Translation for you non-Southerners: I was too small to reach the sink. She would wash the dishes and I would rinse them). She would try to call me by name, but it usually came out, “John, Bet, Alvin . . . ” and she’d finally get around to “Dee.” There were just too many of us to keep up with!
Although she never once complained, Grandma Bunton lead a hard life. She lived in that house for over 30 years before she got indoor plumbing and didn’t have to go to the well to draw water or go to the outhouse. She didn’t buy clothes or food from the store — she made it all. She never learned to drive and never had a car.
Some of her children followed her in faith in God, but some took the long way home. More than one of them called the house needing to be bailed out of jail, yet never once did she turn any of her wayward ones away. Each was loved and welcomed as much as the next, no matter what they’d done. She buried her husband, 5 children and several grandchildren, one of whom was murdered, before she died at 92. When I think about losing one of my children or grandchildren, I realize I can’t imagine the heartache she lived through.
She took me to church every Sunday, but that isn’t what influenced me the most. It was what I saw her do at home. She truly lived out her faith. Every year she read her Bible through — from Genesis to Revelation. Then she’d get on her knees by the bed and pray softly under her breath, not stopping until she had called all our names in prayer and thanked the Lord for her many blessings.
This is either my birthday or hers — we were both born in January. I had to be about two years old. She is teaching me to thank God for the food before we had cake — she is teaching me to pray. I wanted to be like her, so if she was a woman of prayer, that’s what I was going to be, too!
She didn’t just teach me to say the blessing at meals. She taught me to pray about everything, in every circumstance. Because of her, there has never been a time in my life that I haven’t had this most important tool of faith.
If you didn’t have someone like Grandma Bunton to teach you to pray, don’t you worry! It’s NEVER too late to learn to take all your cares to God. We can all learn straight from Jesus, just like the Disciples did.
The Disciples knew where Jesus gained His strength, what kept Him close to His Father. They knew He was a man of prayer because they watched Him pray. Just like I did with Grandma Bunton, they knew if they wanted to be like Him, they had to do what He did. Luke records in chapter 11:1,
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray . . . ‘
If you don’t know how to pray, if you don’t have a grandmother like I had, if you don’t have a mentor in the faith, please know you can still learn to pray. The Spirit of God will lead you, teach you, help you, strengthen you and guide you.
We’re all struggling right now. Every one of us. We are nearly a year into a pandemic that has cost lives, destroyed livelihoods, separated family and friends, and been the detriment of physical and mental health. We can’t fix it, but we can pray. We can ask God for help. We can ask Him for strength, guidance, endurance, direction and faith to see us through this nightmare. I know where to go because I learned it from my grandmother. If you don’t know what to do, I invite you to trust God with me. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
There is power in group prayer, so will you join me in taking my concerns to Jesus like my Grandma Bunton taught me?
Precious Lord Jesus, here we are, dealing with a virus that is bigger than us. We don’t know what the answer is, but we know You do. Whether that answer is to come through the medical community or through any other means, we pray You will lead us to an end of this pandemic. All eyes are on You.
While we are socially distanced, divided and afraid, help us to be kinder than ever, more loving, more thoughtful, more like You. May the world see the Followers of Christ as the Love of God in the flesh.
We thank you, Lord, for the great cloud of witnesses who have been giants in the faith, who have taught us to trust You, and we ask You to enable us to lead the next generation to do the same.
Lord, teach us to pray. May all who come behind us find us faithful.
In Your mighty Name and for Your glory, amen.