Meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers, I shall be granted to you. (Philemon 22)
Paul wanted prayer that he would arrive safely and on time at his appointed destination.
I ask for that all the time.
More things are wrought by prayer, said Alfred Lord Tennyson, than this world dreams of. Surely, he was right.
We never know when someone is praying, never know when something good resulted from the prayers of our intercessor, and never know when their prayers protected us.
As a preacher supposedly retired, I log some 30 to 35,000 miles a year up and down the highways, primarily to preach and serve the Lord. Last week, ministering in west Texas and in two churches here in Mississippi, I added another couple of thousand miles to the odometer.
Twice in recent history, I have come within a hair’s breadth of buying the farm (cashing in my chips, calling it a day, giving up the ghost; choose your metaphor.). Both times, I was at fault, which is a sobering thought.
The first time I was on the beltway in Charlotte NC.
Tired after a long drive and eager to see my son’s family, I was not as alert as I should have been Where the beltway shrinks to two lanes, I should have moved into the slower right lane. To call either of them slow is a joke; everyone seems to have forgotten the Charlotte Motor Speedway lies a few miles to the East. So, I was in the left lane, when I looked up and saw a huge red pickup truck on my bumper. Where did this guy come from? His truck is ready to climb right over my Camry as though I weren’t even there. And the driver is making crazy motions at me. Is he on drugs, drunk, or just a bully?
Then, he did something even more bizarre.
This nut behind the wheel of the red truck whipped off onto the left shoulder of the highway to pass me on the grass at something like 75 or 80 miles per hour. At that moment I panicked. And whipped into the right lane to get away from him.
Notice this: I whipped into the right lane without checking to see if anyone was there.
That’s when I saw in the mirror I had cut in front of another driver who was now two inches behind me. Wow.
The driver might as well have been sitting in my back seat, he was that close.
I had almost hit him, which would probably have killed us both.
The red truck sped on down the beltway, going forth on his mission to bully other motorists, while I took the first exit and found a place to park, then killed the engine. I sat there, sending up a prayer of thanksgiving, and practicing deep breathing.
Then, I analyzed it. What could I have done to prevent this?
In heavy traffic, I always try to get in the slower lane and stay there. It’s important not to be lane-hopping, but to keep up with the general flow of the traffic. However, on this day, by remaining in the fast lane, I had made myself a target for the terrorist in the blood-red juggernaut.
I shudder to this day on recalling that incident. (Please know I am not absolving the crazy trucker of blame, but analyzing what I could have done to avoid such an incident altogether. My objective is always to arrive alive, not to straighten out every errant driver on the highways. Imagine what an endless job that would be!)
I hope I learned my lesson. Anytime I’m driving through a big city where the traffic is a nightmare and the dangers are present on every side–I drove through San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Baton Rouge this week!–I remind myself: Get in a safe lane (if one exists) and stay there as long as possible.
The other thing happened this week in Texas.
I was driving back home from West Texas in one day, a trip of 730 miles. And by my own mistake, I almost took out two other cars as well as my own.
I’d gotten off the interstate for a quick break, and now was returning. Going under the interstate, I was in the left turn lane, waiting on the traffic to clear so I could go left. Traffic was heavy and a long line of cars was coming at me.
Normally, in such situations, I remind myself to be patient. It’s not like waiting is going to delay me for even a few minutes.
Seeing a slight break in the oncoming traffic, I prepared to turn left in front of a car. There was plenty of room, I concluded. And as I pulled into that lane–directly in front of the oncoming car–I saw for the first time there was another lane on the other side of him and a car was in it. If I go forward I clobber that guy. And if I remain right where I am, the one coming at me hits me. Yikes.
I threaded the needle.
I drove right between those two oncoming cars with hardly any space in between. Not only did I almost have a heart attack doing that, I’m confident I gave those two drivers cardiacs of their own.
“Dear Lord,” I prayed, “Please help me! That was so stupid. What was I thinking? Help me to pay attention and be alert and to be patient. Thank You for taking care of us there!”
And I drove on home, arriving safely and reasonably alert at 9:20 pm. I had left the camp above Uvalde, Texas that morning at 4:45 in the pitch dark. It had been one long day.
You never know who is praying for you.
I’m so everlastingly thankful for those who do.
As a rule, when we pray for a traveling preacher, we will never know whether or how God has answered our prayers. The object of our prayers does not phone us to say, “Thanks for praying; here’s what happened.” He doesn’t know you were praying and you do not know what happened.
If you cannot pray for someone without knowing whether or how God answered, you will quit praying.
Please don’t quit. “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).