The following is from a column I had published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Feb. 23, 2007. In light of the bitter cold and blowing snow we have been experiencing this year, it seemed appropriate to post it again with small modifications. Stay safe!
During the extreme cold spell a few weeks ago, with blowing wind causing white-out conditions, I found myself repeatedly on the road. I just missed being in a 25 car pile-up on U.S 27 south of Ithaca. There were cars ahead of me off the road and rescue workers directing traffic, while behind me I heard the sound of cars crashing and saw the car immediately behind me spin out of control.
These white-out conditions can appear suddenly as they did that day. One minute you are cruising along, then you are blinded by snow and forced to hit the brakes.
Those situations occur in other ways in our lives. One minute we are cruising along, the road clear ahead of us, then we are blind-sided by an unexpected event or tragedy—the loss of a loved one, a call in the middle of the night that a child has been in an accident, a medical test that comes back positive for cancer or another life-threatening illness. We are forced to drive blindly, perhaps following the faint outline of light from the car ahead, all the while hoping we are not hit from behind. All the while praying.
Somehow, on the freeway, I made it through safely. I don’t attribute this to having better driving skills than those around me, nor do I attribute this to prayer, although pray I did. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe God was watching out for me, maybe it just wasn’t my time. I don’t know. I do believe in prayer, and I definitely prayed the whole drive and thanked God repeatedly for my good fortune of making it through safely when others did not.
But I don’t claim it was prayer that saved me. Certainly, there were others in the pile-up who prayed just as fervently as I did. How do we explain why God appears to answer one person’s prayer and not another’s?
I’m grateful for the times God has helped me safely through danger. I don’t attribute this to any merit on my part or special ability to pray. To do so would be to see prayer as some magical formula by which we manipulate God to do what we want. I pray because it is my nature to pray. We are made by God, for God.
There is that within us that naturally calls out to Someone greater. It is as natural as breathing. Even when we are not aware of it, there is that within us that is always at prayer, uttering words we cannot comprehend. As Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 (NAB), “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
And so I pray, not because I believe by doing so God will keep me safe from harm or reward my efforts, although I do hope for the best. I pray because it is who I am. It is human nature to seek to be in relationship with our Creator.
As we go through “white-out” experiences in our life, let us pray because it is our nature to pray and be in relationship with our Creator.