Jerry Clower, the late, great Southern humorist, lived in Southern Mississippi, right where hurricanes seem to land with frequency.
A hurricane was brewing out in the Gulf, and Jerry went to prayer meeting at East Fork Baptist Church. If you have never been to old-time country prayer meeting, the format is for people to have the chance to pray out loud about the burdens of their hearts. When there is a silence between prayers it means you can pray or let the silence linger and the preacher will pray and end the service.
Everyone at church was stirred up about the storm. As the prayer meeting began, prayer after prayer was offered up for the Lord to turn the storm away from their community. "Send the storm away, Lord! Send to Alabama or over to Texas. Lord, just send the storm away from us!"
Jerry was listening to the prayers, and his heart stirred. Asking God to send the hurricane to Alabama didn't seem like a very loving thing to pray for. After all, weren't God's children supposed to love their neighbors (no matter how many national championships they won)?
Jerry's heart was troubling him. Prayers had been made begging God to send to storm elsewhere. But it seemed like something was missing.
So during one gap of silence, Jerry began to pray in his loud, booming, call-the-dogs voice:
"Lord, I know you are the God of the storm and the wind. I don't know why there are hurricanes and storms, and I sure don't want nobody to get hurt. So Lord, I ask for that storm to blow itself out in the Gulf. Just let it die there and not come onto land.
"But Lord, I don't pretend to understand all your ways and thoughts. So if that storm has to come ashore, send that storm to me. You've prospered me, and I've got insurance. In fact Lord, it would actually be good if you could blow down that old barn I can't get around to tearing down. Lord, it might do me and my family good to do without electricity for a few days. It might make us appreciate the blessings of air conditioning and hot water.
"Now Lord, I don't want anyone to die or get hurt. But if someone has to die, well, I'm saved and so is all my family. I know if you take us from this earth we will be with you, and heaven will be a fantastic, amazing place. So take us, and spare my neighbors and fellow church members. They don't seem to be so sure they are going to be with you for eternity. Give them more time to get right with you.
"Lord, I'm not asking for trouble. But if trouble has to come, send the storm to me. You got me ready for it. In Jesus name I pray."
The church was silent for long time. Finally, the preacher choked out a closing prayer. Some folks got up and shook Jerry's hand and said, "Thank you, Brother Jerry." A few others got up and gave him a dog-cussing look as they passed.
I don't know if I am as brave as Jerry Clower. I hate to admit my faith may not be that strong. Still, he reminds me to pray, "Lord, if the storm must come, get me ready. My trust is in you."
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church, 1305 Loring Mill Road, www.adbc.org.