Is Prayer Your Steering Wheel or Your Spare Tire?

Is prayer your first attempt or your last-ditched effort?

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who not only survived the Holocaust but also rescued many Jews during this horrific time in history. Her famous quote is a wonderful question to ask today:

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”

This question seeks to understand if is prayer our first hope or our last ditched effort? Do we go directly to God in difficult times or do we utter the appalling statement: “All we have left to do now is pray”?

Can you imagine what God thinks when he hears that statement? We are essentially saying, “God, we have tried everything. We have made all the attempts we know of to remedy our situation. We’ve checked with all the experts and we have come up with nothing. All we have left to do now is pray.”

The psalms show a different type of prayer and worship life. This collection of prayerful songs reveal a people who believe in the power of prayer. Prayer wasn’t a shot in the dark or a final attempt. Prayer was the surest hope.

1 Listen, Lord, and answer me, 
for I am poor and needy. 
2 Protect my life, for I am faithful. 
You are my God; save Your servant who trusts in You. 
3 Be gracious to me, Lord, 
for I call to You all day long.

4 Bring joy to Your servant’s life, 
because I turn to You, Lord. 

5 For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, 
rich in faithful love to all who call on You. 
6 Lord, hear my prayer; 
listen to my plea for mercy.

7 I call on You in the day of my distress, 
for You will answer me.

– Psalm 86:1-7

Is your prayer life today your steering wheel (what drives your life) or your spare tire (something to fall back on if everything goes out)? The psalmist doesn’t leave any room for speculation. He acknowledges his “poor and needy” state and asks the Lord, and the Lord alone, to listen to his case and come to his assistance (v. 1). He realizes that God’s power is his only hope. Prayer is essential in his life.

Here’s a deep question for you today: does God come to the rescue of those who deserve rescuing? 

We often say that God loves us just the way we are and that he always comes to help those who ask.  Why then does the psalmist tell God to protect his life based on the fact that he is faithful (v. 2)?  It almost sounds like he deserves God’s favor and protection. Does God answer his prayer because he is faithful?

Since the psalmist also admits that he is poor and needy (v. 1) and in need of forgiveness (v. 5-6), it doesn’t appear that he wants God to deliver him because he deserves it. 

He believes he is deserving of God’s rescue because he is depending upon God’s rescue. 

He is faithful in admitting his frailty and his need for God. The very fact that the psalmist views God as his steering wheel rather than his spare tire guarantees success.  He doesn’t believe that God is unable to help him, he knows he can and he goes to him first.

No matter what you are going through today, God can come to your rescue.

Maybe it’s not if you call on God, but it’s how you call on God that will make the difference today.

Don’t resort your prayer life to a spare tire mentality. Let it be the steering wheel.

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