When I was a child, our family rarely attended church. There was no animosity toward God or spiritual things, but attending church wasn’t a part of our family routine. Yet in spite of our lack of church attendance, my mom and dad wisely built into our lives small but important markers that helped point us in the direction of eventual saving faith.
At the end of the hallway of our home, there was a framed print of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Years later I learned that it was a rather well-known work of art by an artist named Heinrich Hoffman. But as a child, I simply knew it was someone very special and I must have briefly gazed upon that portrait at least a thousand times.
I’m unsure what happened to our portrait of Jesus. I never saw it after we moved away in 1968. But that piece of art prominently placed at the end of the hall left in me a lasting impression. A little thing that had an impact. But there was more.
My brother, sister, and I learned to pray. Oh the prayers we offered were simple memorized verses, and as a child, I probably recited them with a bit of haste and perhaps with less respect than those moments called for. Before we ate dinner, each of us would bow our heads, fold our hands together, and one of us would pray:
God is great and God is good
and we thank him for this food
By His hands we must be fed
Give us Lord our daily bread
We also learned a brief prayer to close out the day before bedtime:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
These little memorized prayers actually have some depth and meaning and I believe they had a great impact in our lives. Through these words, I began to understand who God is, that He has an interest in my life, and that as an individual I am accountable to Him. Also, I could see that He loves me and I still remember the words after more than fifty years!
Another early spiritual influence in my life was through television. Anytime evangelist Billy Graham was on, my mom was tuned in and I often listened to the message. Graham’s preaching was pointed, relevant, and practical, but with a very clear Gospel presentation. He was very effective at helping people understand that they were lost – hopelessly lost – unless they would place their trust in Christ alone. No feel-good, do your best, and hope for the rest. He made it clear that you could be sure you were on your way to glory.
There wasn’t the hype or the money-talk that pervades much of what passes for television preaching today. The focus was on solid biblical teaching and especially the Gospel – Christ crucified, risen, and calling to you, with the traditional closing hymn of invitation to receive Jesus as Savior…
Just as I am without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me
and that thou bidst me come to thee
O lamb of God I come, I come
These were some of the little things that influenced my life as a child and as a teen. Truthfully, they weren’t so little. I now look back and clearly see that God used each of these and so much more to draw me to Himself. The Bible tells us that God speaks in “the still small voice” but He does indeed speak to us if only we have ears to listen.
© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2021
(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)