Even the smallest of stickers can be a reminder to pray for our elected officials every day.

At the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast a couple of weeks ago, those in attendance had the pleasure of hearing from SC Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. He spoke about the honor and privilege of public service, and the humbling gift of prayer.

You may never have noticed it before, but as Commissioner of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers’ name is printed on the inspection sticker found on every gas pump in this state. In his talk at the Prayer Breakfast, The Commissioner told us about the prayers fueled by those stickers:

It’s an honor to offer a few remarks on behalf of the governor and all elected officials. And I will be brief because I’m reminded that it is scriptural to do so: Ecclesiastes 6:11 says, “The more the words, the less the meaning…and how does that profit anyone.”

I firmly believe that any elected official standing before you would say it is a privilege to serve South Carolina. They might also say that sometimes that “privilege” is more of a labor of love. But they would also be quick to thank you for the prayers you offer on their behalf.

In my four and a half years as your commissioner, I have benefited from the efforts of many prayer warriors—first and foremost, my wife Blanche. When I share with her the challenges that confront me, she always promises to pray about it. But then she also adds, “Well, have you prayed about it?”

I have two good friends in town that many of you may know—Dr. Perry Bowers with Focused Living Ministries and Adrian Despres, the chaplain of the USC football team. They will leave me phone messages from time to time to say, “Hey, I was at the gas pump earlier. Saw your name. Praying for you, man.”

Often when Perry leaves a voice mail, he also asks, “What specifically can I pray about for you?”

And, so now, I’d like to use that question on behalf of folks in leadership at all levels of government, and ask that you pray specifically for us to “use our space wisely.”

Now what exactly does that mean? –Or as they would say in Bowman, “You got some ‘splainin’ to do there.” –Well, I’ll try to explain, and maybe even elaborate:

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the work of Stephen Covey and his book 20 years ago, calledThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Well, he wrote a follow-up book five years ago called The 8th Habit. –Pretty clever title.

The theme of the book is that each of us needs to determine how we are uniquely gifted to make this world a little bit better. Sort of like what would be missing if we weren’t here. –One of the simplest truths in the book is that everyone is blessed from birth with the power of choice. Covey calls it a space.

Now, here are three statements that sum up what I’m getting at, and why I ask that your prayers be specific:

Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In those choices lies our growth and our happiness.

Take the last statement and apply it to the collective leadership of South Carolina, and I believe you could say that the future of our state lies on those choices.

Let’s recall a couple of times President Bush used his space to make choices:

After the attacks of 9/11, he used his space to respond by vowing that we would not be attacked again on his watch, and that we would seek out those who would destroy us if they could.

Now moving to the end of his term in office, it wasn’t as complicated. It went something like this… “There’s a shoe flying at me … I’d better move.” –Now, as I recall, the President did not duck. He just leaned to the right. And Dr. Oran Smith will tell you there’s a message right there: That we can usually avoid trouble just by leaning to the right.

Well, how can Hugh Weathers, Gov. Sanford, Dr. Rex –or any of us for that matter—use our space wisely? I believe the answer is to draw on all available resources to stretch out that space enough to make the most appropriate response.

What resources? Well, one comes automatically—it’s genetic. Some of us are wired with a short space … Shoot first, then ask questions. Others among us are gifted with a naturally long space—they got an extra dose of the fourth fruit of the Spirit—patience. And Psalm 139 tells us that our wiring is no happenstance; God knew long ago how we were wired, and He did not place us where we could not succeed.

Next, there are those around us who can be a resource for stretching that space. Our lives are not intertwined with each other by chance. Acts 17:28, says, “From one man He made every nation of men, they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” So—hey—you don’t like the guy down the street or the person in the next office? Remember, God put him there. And maybe, just maybe, he or she is there for us to engage and to help out in that space between stimulus and response.

And, finally, there’s the strength we draw from our past experiences and our faith. Experience is the best teacher. For instance, I grew up surrounded by females. Unfortunately, they had four legs and swishy tails. But I can tell you that the second kick or swish of a tail from a Holstein cow won’t teach you anything that you couldn’t have learned the first time.

And faith is—well—we are told in Hebrews that faith is, in fact, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In our spiritual life, our faith makes us sure and certain of God’s promises. And in the challenges of leadership, that same faith can make us more sure of our decisions and more certain that we are placed where God intends for us to be.

This morning, I hope that some message in song or word will inspire each of you to add to your prayer life those of us privileged to help lead South Carolina—that we stretch out our spaces to make wise choices using all the resources available to us.

I know from experience that the prayers you offer can help us use our faith in God’s promises to strengthen our faith in ourselves to make wise choices that impact the future of our state.

It has been my pleasure to share with you this morning. It is an honor to serve our state. But more importantly, it is very humbling and very uplifting to know that those we serve would honor us with their prayers.

Thank you, and may God continue his blessings on South Carolina.

Dr. Oran Smith

Former President & CEO


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