The car was packed. Slammed. The back had suitcases stacked and baby gear carefully stowed away. Josie sat behind us high in her car seat. As we backed out of our short driveway Kristy asked me if we could pray for our drive, a seven-hour journey from Atlanta to Orlando. She asked if we could pray for safe travels.
A normal husband would’ve said yes and prayed. A normal minister would’ve been eager to.
I said I wasn’t sure if I still believed in that kind of prayer, “Kristy, what if the best thing for our family, and even God’s kingdom, is for us to get in a wreck. You know God does that sort of stuff—He wrecks people. He let it happen to Paul many times over. How can I believe that possibility and pray for safety?”
I was probably exaggerating a bit, as to make my point. I do that.
We all pray these safety prayers, and then say God spared us when we have our head on collision and come out of the coma two weeks later. We forget our initial safety prayer and then just give prayers of thanks. So I wonder about the initial prayer. I wonder if God is really doing anything about it. I wonder if it should be a different prayer.
We hear of a friend’s horrific accident and get word of the way God miraculously saved him, so we pray prayers of thanks for our friend but ignore, and often refuse to think about the family in the other car who just lost their daughter. Were their prayers of safety not heard?
I told Kristy I didn’t want to be the kind of Christian who prays for safety hours before getting in a wreck, only to then forget the prayer, letting God off the hook. I asked, “If we’re going to do that, why even pray for safety?”
This upset her, rightfully so. She thought she married a man who would pray for her and her baby, not a wretched doubting heathen of a man.
“Fine, so we’ll never pray?!”
Then I began my back pedal, as I usually do. I said I didn’t think not praying was a good idea. I love to pray. God wants us to pray. I said I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with the limited “safe-travel” kinds of prayers anymore, “Maybe there is a kind of prayer that is better than another. Maybe God is more concerned about rearranging our hearts, the people we are becoming, and not necessarily the events before us.”
But I should tell you before I get too bold, I do have this little girl who sits in the back seat, who I value as treasure, and just in case I’m wrong about this whole prayer thing I often pray for her safety. I hold her in my arms just moments before tucking her into bed and ask God to keep her safe. But even in this prayer I feel I must bow my heart to His care for her, for she is His as much as mine. And as I pray there is this unsettling feeling I have, this thought that pain, in some degree, will be apart of her life no matter what I pray. Pain has been apart of all of our lives, and in most of it with some distance from the source we see good coming from the hurt. We see manure nourishing the flowers.
So perhaps we utter something like this, "Lord, we don’t pretend to understand everything but we recognize you know all and are fully good. We know you love us and your love is better than life. We know you are enough, and we surrender our lives to you, our well being and our futures. Help us to honor you in all things and give us the strength to do so no matter what lies on the road ahead."
Russ Masterson is a husband, father, child, friend, and pastor. He also teaches, through talking and typing. Visit his blog at www.liesioverheardinchurch.com.