Prayer: Steering Wheel or Spare Tire?

Photo by Louis J Blythe,

Photo by Louis J Blythe,

Prayer is one of those topics that Christians are overly familiar with … we all know it’s important. In fact, there are 650 prayers listed in the Bible (check out the full list here). Through prayer, Moses meets God face to face, dreams are interpreted (and lives saved), the sun stands still (for real!), the life of a king is extended, an infertile woman bears a son, a servant's eyes are open to see the massive angelic hosts of God, the sick are healed, demons are cast out, etc. etc. etc. There is no question that prayer is significant... yet, for some reason, prayer is one of the most under-practiced disciplines and under-utelized practices of the believer today.

My entire life, I was taught that prayer was a required part of being a Christian - just like reading the bible. I knew how to pray. I knew that I had to pray. I knew that prayer was talking with God and that it was powerful. I prayed before every meal. I prayed before I slept each night. I prayed during service. Yet prayer was such a chore to me; there was no enjoyment in it. In fact, although I have been "praying" all my life, I have not really learned to find joy and rest in prayer. I didn't really pray outside of mealtimes, bedtimes, and church service times... except, of course when I needed something - to pass that exam, to make it into that sports team, to not make a total fool of myself at that orchestra concert, etc. For twenty years, I had only prayed as part of some pre-meal, pre-bedtime ritual or as some spiritual 911 call.

But about 10 years ago, something changed. I began an intentional discipleship process under Lydia's father who, among many things, is unquestionably a man of prayer. Through my newfound mentor, I learned of the direct correlation between prayer and my relationship with Jesus. As Jesus became a real man, a real God, a real Lord, a real friend, the role of prayer had shifted in my life as I learned to treat prayer like a steering wheel rather than a spare tire. 

Too many people treat prayer like a spare tire.

So many people I talk with today have difficulty enjoying prayer. They go through their busy lives and are reminded to pray only when something goes wrong; a love one gets sick, an emergency comes up, a near-future event makes them anxious, finances are short, etc.

Growing up, I remember I had about 4 default prayers that I chose from on a regular basis.
Dear God, thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for this food. Bless the hands that prepared it and strengthen us as we eat. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dear God, thank you for letting me enjoy another day of life. Help me to get some good rest and protect me as I sleep. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dear God, help me to do awesome on this test/game/concert. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Dear God, help me (or so-and-so) to feel better and get back to 100% health as soon as possible. In Jesus name, Amen.

First, let me clarify... there is nothing wrong with these prayers. But our prayers should not stay this way. I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. I way I talk to both of them are different - and I expect the way they talk to me to be different - because they are at different stages of development. If, 10 years later, the way that we engage one another were the same, there would be something wrong. As both of my girls (and potential future children) continue to grow and develop, our conversations will, likewise, evolve. This is just a general principle of relationships - as the relationship grows deeper, it also grows more complex. The same is true spiritually. As our relationship with Jesus grows deeper, it will also grow more complex - and our communication (prayer) will also evolve along the way. 

Prayer is meant to be a steering wheel, not a spare tire.

I hope that as my children grow, that our relationship will not only consist of empty, over-familiar, hellos and good-byes. I hope that they will not only come to me when they are in need of something. I hope that they will invite me to offer advice and direction as their father. What I mean to say is that I hope our relationship will have some sort of real substance. That we would actually relate to one another.

I believe that God, as the best Father, desires the same. God has the best advice, His direction is most trustworthy - He is the best leader. It saves us from wasting unnecessary time, energy, and resources (oh, and heartache). This is why Paul advises believers to pray continually for themselves and all the saints - not because it's something we have to do just because we're Christians but because it's something we get to do as Christians. We were made for relationship with God - nothing else will satisfy. We know this. Yet how can we have a relationship with someone we don't talk to? Why wouldn't we want to develop a relationship with the One who has nothing but the best for us in mind?

In Matthew 11, Jesus invites all who are weary and burdened to yoke themselves to Him. This isn't an invitation to just throw all of our responsibilities at Him and do our own things. This is an invitation to an intimate relationship; to be led, directed, and sometimes even carried by the most trustworthy friend and leader. This is what the invitation to prayer actually is.

Prayer is not just something we have to do as Christians. it's something we get to do. We don't pray just to be "good" Christians. We pray because we have an opportunity to grow closer with the only One who can satisfy.

So take a moment to pause and pray with me. Not because you have to but because you get to. Not as a reaction to something but as a response to someOne.

Lord, speak to us, even in the midst of the busyness of our lives. We respond to your invitation to go deeper with You. Speak to us; give us guidance and peace. We love You. (Oh, and thank you for this beautiful day. Help us to enjoy it to the fullest with You today.)
In Jesus' name, Amen.

"Is prayer your steering wheel or just a spare tire?” | Corrie Ten Boom.
Samuel Won. You are a wise man.

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