We got in the car at 6:00am Sunday for a three-hour drive to a church in the interior of Paraguay where I was to preach. Pastor Ceferino said, “Let’s pray before we set off.” He prayed fervently for safety on the trip. Later, as he was passing a long line of traffic on a narrow two-lane highway with no side berm, I was really glad we had prayed!
Travel in other countries is a real trip! Although some places in Latin America have good highway systems – at least in and around the capital city – many roads are poorly designed and poorly maintained. Even international routes can be just two lanes. Roads are clogged with bicycles, motor scooters, pedestrians, and the occasional horse cart. Cars break down more often; accidents are frequent.
When requests are shared in church, people often ask prayer for friends or family members who are traveling. Drivers often pause to pray when they get behind the wheel before starting the car. It is a habit something like asking the blessing before eating a meal. The sense of danger heightens a sense of dependence on God. We really need His help and protection to get where we are going. I admit that some taxi rides in Latin America have been good for my prayer life!
The thing is I’m old enough to remember when people used to pray before driving in the U.S. Even though our transportation infrastructure needs an overhaul, the U.S. has made great advances in the quality and safety of our highways. There are many fewer old cars on the road; the reliability of cars has improved; breakdowns and accidents are not as frequent. The upshot is that we no longer need to depend on God for our safety. So we no longer pray before starting to drive.
The issue is not the design of the highway, but our sense of reliance on God. In our comfortable culture how many other things do we now take for granted that people used to ask God for? Let’s pause to pray before we set off on whatever we are about to do.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While you are at it, pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.... Pray that we will proclaim it clearly, as we should.” (Paraphrase of Colossians 4:2-4)
written by Paul Olver