Saturday, June 29, 2002

Don't limit your prayers to stadium

        No offense to the Rev. Billy Graham and the good shepherd's flock, but I prefer to pray alone.

        To me, prayer is something that's just between me and the Big Guy upstairs.

        So, don't look for me to attend the Rev. Mr. Graham's mission this weekend at Paul Brown Stadium. Big crowds give me the heebie-jeebies.

        Not that I'm urging anyone to stay away. Or become an atheist.

        People I know and love are going to be there. They'll be praying up a storm.

        Go to the stadium if you want. Have a good time. Hear the message. Say amen.

        But be sure to heed the message, too. Take it home, take it to heart and put it to good use. That's the only way his mission will be accomplished.

        As for me, I'll be praying for that result. By myself.

Head bowed

        Maybe I'm too shy to pray in a huge crowd. Maybe I'm a loner. Or just a private prayer.

        I just can't bring myself to bow my fat head in a football stadium filled with 65,000 people — no matter who's on the field and needs prayers answered, the Bengals or a reverend named Billy.

        Praying comes easy while working by myself in the garden. Birds chirp in the trees. Squirrels romp across the grass. Bees buzz the clover. In their midst, I'm always in awe and giving thanks for God's creatures.

        A jet airliner skims through the clouds overhead. Its sleek, shiny skin glistens in the sunlight. As I say a silent prayer for those travelers, I think of my niece attending a drama camp in Nebraska. And anyone who's away from home. May they return safe and sound. And happy.

        Saying grace at the dinner table presents no problems. For me, this honored ritual lets you count your blessings and offer good wishes to everyone around the table.

        Besides, there's no fear of praying before thousands. The dinner table group is small. And well-informed. Everyone knows each other. They're family.

        Prayers can be said with both hands on the wheel. And not as the car careens out of control.

        Pray for the deer that's emerging from the woods by the interstate: Don't take the highway.

        Pray for the news makers: Words spilling from the car radio announce that two federal judges in San Francisco have declared reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because the pledge contains the phrase “under God.”

        Pray for a neighborhood and a city:

        Drive through Over-the-Rhine. See buildings of beauty next to abandoned hulks. See people in similar states of repair and disrepair. Pass Findlay Market where nature's bounty is on display in a neighborhood blighted by hunger and poverty. Ask for divine guidance to grant the people of Cincinnati the wisdom to heal the city's aching heart.

High hopes

        Many have linked the healing of Cincinnati's racial wounds with the Rev. Mr. Graham's mission.

        Hopes are high he will directly address the city's problems. One minister has said he's looking forward to hearing the famed preacher declare racism to be a sin.

        The Rev. Mr. Graham could deliver a series of sermons on the evils of racism and bid the crowd to go and sin no more.

        But it's up to the people in the stadium to take his message with them when they leave.

        They have to put his words into action where they live, work and play.

        They can't do it as a group of 65,000. They have to do it one by one. On their own. Praying. Alone.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail

Click through photo gallery
Audience relishes chance to witness historic giant
Excerpts of Graham's sermon
What you need to know about today's services
Young people find a welcome
Slow donations threaten shortfall
Star of Christian music hurts for her hometown
- RADEL: Don't limit your prayers to stadium
Mission Memories
Stadium only one mission location
Bengals stadium shop does brisk business
Liquor stores, bars slow despite crowds
Complete Mission details in our special section