Parish the Thought: Old cars and prayer…
“I picked up the car and they said that it would most likely make the trip but I only had 15% of the pads left on the front brakes and the rear shocks were gone. I don’t have time to go rent a car for the weekend. You think it’ll be OK?”
My son was playing in a wedding and needed to leave the next morning for the drive from Boston to Philadelphia. His twenty year old car had been falling apart piece by rusted piece for the past year and had received a real shove toward the junk yard when it was stolen, wrecked and trashed about six months ago. But, it was cheaper to bring it back from the dead than to buy someone else’s problems. “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” says the scriptures, “today has worries enough.” Problem was that the worries of today were multiplying the worries of tomorrow. And there was nothing I could do today so I wouldn’t have to worry tomorrow. Except pray.
“Well, doesn’t look like you’ve got much choice, does it. Drive gently, use your brakes sparingly. And call me when you get there.”
And I prayed. Prayed that his old car would be surrounded by a pit crew of winged angels holding wrenches and screwdrivers; that as the ark of the Lord went before the outnumbered and ill-equipped Israelites when they went into battle, the Lord would go before this ancient, clanking and clattering clunker riding in cab of the Three-in-One Wrecker service truck. Maybe the Lord would grant a pastoral discount on the towing fees, something that would have helped the last time we had to have it towed… from Vermont.
So, morning came and my journal entry for the day was a simple prayer for the mechanical well being of my son’s car. My daughter’s too, since she was driving from Louisville, KY to Atlanta and from there on to the coast, but her car was newer by a third and I’d put a bunch of money into making it fit and reliable since she depended on it to see her homebound patients. I bested the Israelite practice of praying three times a day, by praying about 33 times just in the morning. I fasted for lunch. I went to my auto mechanic and spiritual advisor seeking prayerful support and words of encouragement, but all he said was, “Walt, it’s an old car. Don’t expect miracles.” Great.
So, about 4 pm the call came. “Dad, I just wanted to let you know that AAA is on the way.”
But I had been praying. Why had this happened? Was my prayer ineffectual? Was it me? Had I in some way sinned and mightily offended the Most High and this was the Almighty’s way of getting even? Jesus said, we were to ask, seek and knock; and that nothing was impossible for God. But of course that was well before the age of automobiles, not to mention the age of this specific automobile, which made me wonder if my prayer was less a prayer and more of a test of God’s will and ability. “Ye shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” responded Jesus to the devil when tempted to demand the impossible from God.
“We’re about an hour out from Philadelphia and I was driving along and hit a pot hole and my tire went flat.”
“You’ve got a flat tire?”
“Yeah. I just didn’t see it. The whole sidewall of the tire is demolished.”
“But the car was running OK?”
“The car is running fine. I just didn’t see the pothole. AAA should be here shortly and I think we’ll still make it there for the rehearsal.”
“You’ve got a spare, one of those donut tires, right?”
“Yeah, it’s there. But the jack and tools were stolen when they took the car so I can’t put it on.”
“Oh, that’s right. I remember. Well, guess you’ll have to sit there till AAA gets there. And if they have an air compressor on that truck, have them put the right amount of air in that donut. I bet its low.”
“And call me when you get there.”
So, the question is this. Was my prayer answered? And if so, how? And what do you make of the flat tire? Was it God’s ‘wicked’ (Bostonian language) sense of humor? Should I have even troubled God about the mechanical workings of an old car? Ought prayers be about spiritual things? If I’d tacked on the Lord’s Prayer, might that have helped? And now, I pray, does anyone have a good, used car for sale? Cheap? In Boston?
Prayer: Maybe the troubles of today and the worries of tomorrow aren’t so bad if they drive us to our knees in prayer.