I’m in my car, driving early on a Thursday morning, when the young woman behind me flashes her lights. Am I going too slow for her? Daring to drive 40 mph because that’s the speed limit? That must be so because she’s trying to pass me, looking impatient when I glance in my rearview mirror to see what she wants. Suddenly, she switches lanes and swerves around me and zips around the next two cars. Seconds later, she swerves back into my lane, speeding ahead only to catch the next red light — along with everyone else she had passed.
My first reaction, sadly, is typical: What is her problem?
It’s the question of the hour these days. Not what is my problem, but what’s the other guy’s issue? We’ve settled into “us vs. them” thinking, knowing full well there’s nothing godly about such a crotchety mindset. I’m guilty, too. More than not, I can be far more concerned about my own life than someone else’s.
The Holy Spirit, however, is our gracious guide. Before the light changes and the young woman screeches off, I find myself heeding His loving nudge to take a second look. Soon a thought occurs: What if this young woman is in trouble or facing an emergency? Maybe she’s racing to the hospital or rushing to work to battle a real crisis or to face unfair criticism.
I can’t know answers to such questions, but I see clearly what I can do. I can pray. Why? Because it is right. Why right? Because God calls us to pray. Jesus, speaking to His sleepy disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, urged it this way:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul, likewise, in his letter to Timothy, said this:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.
1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV)
That’s exactly what I need to hear this morning. Watch and pray. For all people. Not watch and complain, gripe, put down, or suspect the worst of others. The temptation to go negative is so powerful, as Jesus knew, that He calls us to watch out for that risk and then to pray — fervently and sincerely.
So that’s what I yielded to do. Considering the young driver as she slammed on the gas, her car shrieking off, I whispered three heartfelt little words: “Help her, Lord.”
After all, she was in distress. And me? I needed a more loving outlook. I also need daily prayer myself. So help her, Lord. Then, O God, help me.
Funny how praying for somebody else circles back graciously to me — yes, to all of us.
A writer friend, Amy Julia Becker, speaks of that encircling prayer grace in her latest book, White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege. She reflects on the line in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and she writes:
What pops out to me is the corporate nature of those words. It isn’t “Give me this day my daily bread” or “Give my family our daily bread.” [Instead] Jesus instructs us to pray very differently. His prayer includes me, but it is so much bigger than me. Give us. All of us. . . . I’m not just praying for what I need . . . It’s about entering into the needs of others and imploring for all of us.
That includes a young woman I don’t know who was racing through life on that early morning, obviously needing something. First, however, the Lord says she needs Him — so, pray for her. The instruction is so clear, I can’t miss it.
Thus, I humbly propose the same to us this morning. Let us pray. Pray, indeed, for all of us because we all need Him. Even if we don’t vote the same, don’t look the same, don’t pray the same. Or if our problems can seem complicated and a little crazy, and we’re not always sure how to explain them.
Even so, let us pray.