A fellow could hardly believe his eyes when he stopped by a friend’s house and saw him playing checkers with his dog.

“That’s incredible,” the fellow said. “That’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen.”

“Nah, he’s not so smart,” the friend replied. “I’ve beaten him three games out of five.”

We tend to laugh at old jokes like that because they sometimes bring to mind someone we’ve had dealings with over the years who could have easily lost at checks to a dog.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that the guy who thinks he’s the smartest man in the room usually isn’t.

That kind of guy isn’t found only in the political or business worlds. He can easily be in the church world, too.

I once heard a contentious fellow in a heated argument about the proper way to pray, that being kneeling, in his opinion, with head bowed and eyes closed.

Obviously, that fellow wasn’t familiar with the humorous poem by Sam Walter Foss, who has been described as a minor poet with a major message.

Foss obviously had heard debates similar to the one I described, and he came up with “The Prayer of Cyrus Brown.” It goes like this:

“The proper way for a man to pray,”

Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,

“And the only proper attitude

Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”

Said Rev. Doctor Wise,

“Is standing straight with outstretched arms

And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,

“Such posture is too proud:

A man should pray with eyes fast closed

And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be

Austerely clasped in front.

With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”

Said Rev. Doctor Blunt.

“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well

Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,

“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,

My head a-pinting down;

“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there -

Best prayer I ever said,

The prayingest prayer I ever prayed, was a-standing on my head.”

The Bible warns us in Titus 3:9 that we are to avoid foolish debates, quarrels and disputes because they are unprofitable and worthless and in Romans 12:3 to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

I would guess that some of the most effectual prayers ever said on my behalf were said silently by my dear mother as she stood in front of the kitchen sink, up to her elbows in dish water.

There might rather depend on the prayers of a friend who can beat his dog in three out of five checker games, a friend who prays with his hands austerely clasped together, or with his head contritely bowed.

But I will always cherish the silent prayers of that lovely lady with up to her elbows in soap suds.

Reach Roger Alford at (502) 514-6857 or

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