Prayer, Plain and Simple

There’s a particular taste to fear, somewhere between bitter and fire-hot. Scientists could probably explain this, something about the adrenaline rush that hits the blood stream the moment of terror. Whatever the rational explanation, the fact remains: fear makes us nauseous.


I tasted fear yesterday. It wasn’t fun. My wife Jill and I were walking down a country dirt road near the cabin in Wisconsin where we spent vacation. It was one of those picture postcard scenes of rural America… until reality hit in the form of a German shepherd watchdog.


We had just passed by a pristine farmhouse and turned to head back home when the beast bolted down the driveway and out into the road, barking and pacing like I sentry and blocking our passage.  It’s the closest thing to real terror I’d felt in years.


“God,” my wife prayed, “Send an angel!”


We stood still about 40 yards from the dog, until it started slowly making its way toward us, hairs bristling on his back.


Just then an old man shuffled out onto the road behind the dog. He looked like some character out of Mark Twain’s Roughing It, maybe 80 years old with a white beard down to his chest and long white hair steaming down the middle of his back.


“Angel,” he said, just barely loud enough for us to hear. “Leave them be.” Then he spoke up to us. “She won’t hurt you, I don’t suppose.”

“Angel?” Jill said to me. “Did I hear that right?” We both wanted to either laugh or throw up. 


When “Angel” saw the old man she bolted and quickly covered the rest of the distance between us. We froze, speaking as softly and kindly as we could. “What a nice dog…” [Supposedly dogs love the word “what”]. Angel pulled up beside us growling and sniffing around the ground around us. Then she broke into another round of barking, loud and deep enough to rattle my ribs.


“Angel, you come here,” the man said in a tone so placid I thought he might be sleepwalking. “Come here for your treat,” he added.


I looked and saw a hamburger bun in the man’s hand. He was baiting the dog off us with a piece of bread? “Where’s the beef?” I wanted to object. But amazingly, “Angel” turned and headed for her treat. The old man slapped on a leash and that was that. Then we all had a good laugh, after the fact.


Truth be told, I felt real fear, something ancient and almost primal. No exaggeration. There’s a particular taste to fear. It’s a taste I don’t like.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us for feeling fear. It’s quite natural to feel the flush of that emotion when some beast threatens to devour your. Jesus does tell us how we can master the fear so that it doesn’t master us. He gives us words to use to calm our own soul.

Here’s another except from Fight Like Jesus.


“Be not-afraid!” (Mark 6:50)


“What do you fear?”                


Tomorrow will be dangerous. A car accident. A child’s cancer. A stock market crash. Dementia. Your enemy plots your demise. Surprise! This much is certain: What you don’t know can hurt you! The other shoe will drop. Bad things will happen. So what are you afraid of?


Jesus himself terrified people. Even those who knew him well never knew what to expect. That frightened them. One stormy night, Jesus walked across Lake Galilee. His boat-rowing followers imagined the worst. A demon? A ghost? Their own insanity? “Be not-afraid!” Jesus answered out of the gloom. “It is I.” Then he climbed into their boat and everything returned to normal. What relief!


“Be not-afraid!” was enough. Jesus’ pointed words struck at the heart of their fears. Fear turns the cogs of this world – until Jesus arrives! “Be not-afraid” does more than banish fear; it established faith in the face of danger.


Today you will face intimidation. Things you cannot identify will taunt from the shadows. The enemy will agitate your fight-or-flight instinct until your imagination runs scared. But terror must not bind you. Jesus is here! Borrow his words and intimidate the intimidator. “Be strong and courageous!” “Be not-afraid!”


Answer wild imaginations: “Be not-afraid!” Answer might-be and could-be: “Be not-afraid!” Answer threats of sickness, poverty, and abandonment: “Be not-afraid!” Answer tomorrow: “Be not-afraid!”


Your mission: Sniff out the rank odors of fear. You’ll find it in your own soul, and the soul of every person you meet. Search and find the pungent source. When you do, let fly your borrowed words: “Be not-afraid!” Relief!


Question: “Where is there fear?” Answer: “Be not-afraid!”


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