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Since the time that our children were very little, our family has always gathered together at night time before bed to pray together. This is always the most enjoyable time of the day. We spend a good while talking together about everything that is going on in their lives and days. We laugh; we cry; we just enjoy being together. And then, after we talk, we find out what and who everyone wants to pray about, and then I pray aloud. That generally lasts five or 10 minutes, and it always feels to me like we are almost physically entering into the throne room of God, even though I know our bodies have not moved so much as an inch.

Just to know that five Wagners are praying together and that the God of the universe is taking time to hear each individual word or thought is utterly breathtaking to me.

Recently, though, that was not the only thing breathtaking during our prayer time.

I remember vividly that I had finished praying for each of the kids and for Dana, and was just starting on praying for a few of our church members who were facing sicknesses and surgeries. And that is when it hit me like a cloud of mustard gas over the Western Front of World War I. I tried to keep praying; after all, being in communication with the King of Kings is a serious thing. And yet, though no sound had been made and I, therefore, could not identify the direction and identity of the putrid personage, the wave of stench continued to buffet me, only increasing in intensity, until finally in desperation I blurted out, "And Lord, forgive whoever did that, and I'm sorry, but I have to go now!"

The room erupted. Some of the occupants were pointing out the assailant. Others were burying their head in pillows as if they were gas masks that could possibly save them from certain doom. The offending farty, um, I mean "party," was rolling on the floor and simultaneously laughing hysterically while apologizing profusely.

I have never, ever encountered an odor like that.

Yes, I know, preacher's families are supposed to be immune from that sort of thing. Even the baby's diapers are supposed to be tidy and pleasant. But there is this thing called "humanity" that happens to all of us, even preacher's families, and even during sacred times.

And I am so glad that all of us are comfortable enough in God's presence just to "roll with it after someone lets it roll." If such a thing was ever done intentionally, I would make sure there was judgment that followed; but when a body just does what bodies do, I am going to trust that the God who gave us laughter does not mind us using that gift at that moment.

We always tell people to pray. Kids grow up hearing us say that, especially in church. And yet the way they often hear us pray, I fear, is in such a way that they view God as "adultish and unapproachable." Yes, we are to realize we are in the presence of the King when we pray. But somehow the standard, churchy, "Oh our beneficent God, thou who inhabitest the praise of thy people whom thou alone hast redeemed for thy glory, may thine eyes of favor be upon us as we prostrate ourselves before thee" does not seem to draw people into a life of prayer. And a life of prayer, not just a church performance of prayer, is in fact what we are called to. Note that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 does not tell us to "pray in church"; it tells us to "pray without ceasing."

And so we have simply taught our children to talk to God. We have taught them to be respectful, but also to be honest. We have taught them that God already knows how they are feeling anyway, so they may as well not pretend in his presence. We have taught them to be real. If they are angry, they know that they can tell him so. If they are doubting, they know they can express that without him being offended in the least. If they are scared, they know that they do not have to pretend to be brave.

We have also taught them not to be afraid to laugh in the throne room of the God who gave us laughter. I believe that approach is one reason that we actually have three young adult praying children.

And so we will simply scrape up the paint that was so unceremoniously and malodorously peeled off of the walls and chalk it up to a very memorable prayer time. I rather suspect that they were doing the same thing in heaven the next day as well, thanks to one of us who shall remain nameless.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner
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