Generations of Prayer
[This post is #7 in the series on Heritage. During the month of June, I am celebrating fathers as I look back on the men who have influenced me. I promise, after this month, I will stop talking so much about my family. Maybe.]
Prayers breathed in past generations always reach down to touch us today.
I am convinced that the prayers we offer God, even when we offer them through wordless tears, will be reverberating in Heaven forever. I am especially sure that the prayers of faithful parents are answered by God down through generations. I am evidence of that!
The year I was born (I refuse to say when), my maternal grandmother, Carrie Jim Newman*, wrote Mother a long epistle she titled “Reminiscing.” In it she recalled scattered incidents of family life as the 6th daughter of 9 kids in the early 1900s. It summed up her own heritage of faith. I would like to share some of her memories about her father, William Frank Newman, because, ultimately, his faith has been passed down to me.
From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children.
Psalm 103:17 NIV
Big Daddy, as my mother called him, was married and his family almost complete when he was snatched up by God and converted in 1910. Before then, it seems, he liked to meet his friends at the “Station” and take a drink. But one night he told them he wouldn’t be meeting them there again. His life had been changed. He had met his Savior. From that moment on, he lived his Christian testimony, cherished his Bible, and faithfully taught his children to love God. Carrie Jim declared in her letter that he was responsible for her faith, attitude, and outlook on life for the rest of her days.
She told many stories of him with the family. In front of an open fire on winter evenings, he would take each child between his knees, one by one, and give them big hugs. Some nights all the kids joined him, sitting on one of two big beds, to listen to him read the Bible, pray and sing in his deep, joy filled voice. Other nights, the family would gather around the piano and sing. That piano he purchased for his daughters by selling a bale of cotton from the farm.
Every day he prayed for his family and he taught his children how to pray. But on Sundays, the family divided. For some reason, Momma was a dyed-in-the-wool Methodist and Big Daddy chose Baptist. So, on Sundays, he took part of the kids to the Baptist church and Momma took the other kids to the Methodist.
Our prayers for our children are honored by God for generations.
Over 50 years later, Carrie Jim still vividly remembered the only “whipping” she ever got when she refused to do a chore he told her to. Big Daddy was the head of the house and he taught his children discipline. When there was work to be done at home, the kids were expected to help do it. (Can you imagine feeding, clothing, and caring for 9 children?!) “Mind you” she said, “we were not perfect! When I think back to some of the mischief we got into, I wonder how we lived to tell the tale to our children, and at the same time for Mother to remain sane!” But all the discipline was done in great love to build up and provide for such a big family.
Impressions made on a life outlast the years.
William Newman was a farmer, planting what the family needed to live on. Later, he became a railroad man. Then the family moved to town and lived in railroad housing. Employed by Southern Railway, he worked to become a section foreman responsible for assuring tracks were in good working order. However, on a Wednesday in November 1935, Captain Newman, as his workers called him, went to work as he had done every day for years. But this was not like any day before. That day, as he and his crew repaired track north of Jackson, Georgia, an unexpected freight train came roaring through and caught them unaware. There was just enough time for the “captain” to get his crew to safety; his leg was caught on the track car.
Big Daddy left precious memories and an invaluable inheritance of faith for his family and all who knew him. I have been long exposed to that same inheritance because he taught his children and his children taught their children and, in turn, they influenced me.
He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. Psalm 78:5-7 NIV
This story makes me consider, again, what heritage am I passing on to my family and all who know me now. Will my legacy be as valuable? Will it last as long? Will it make such a strong impact on lives to be lived? I can’t help but wonder. And pray.
Blessings to you!
[*You may want to read the previous posts “My Grandmother’s Gloves” and “Do Talk to Strangers”, both about my grandmother, Carrie Jim Newman.]
Dear Lord, please help me to honor You in my actions and attitudes so that the legacy I live and leave will be valuable to my son and his children and their children. Amen.
A CHALLENGE TO PRAYERFULLY CONSIDER
What have you inherited that is most valuable to you?
What legacy are you building now by the way you are living your days?
Who are you mentoring by default?