Prayer at the Pump?
by Katherine Britton
"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:7-9)
We know God cares about something as small as a sparrow, because he says so. But does he care about the price of gasoline?
My husband couldn’t help stirring the pot during a recent youth group discussion, and pulled out a news story on a subject. Down in Dublin, Georgia, one pastor is leading his congregation in literal prayers at pump once a month, where they ask the Lord to drop the price by at least $1.50. And they pray for prayer at the pump to spread across the state.
The pastor of Beacon of Light Christian Center, Marshall Mabry, says, "I don't understand how anybody can say God doesn't have anything to do with gas sprices. God has everything to with the country.... Prayer is always my foundation, and I can always go back to God in prayer."
Do you agree? The kids in our youth group found themselves first agreeing, then questioning, then agreeing, and so on for the whole discussion. The idea of praying at the pump generates some fundamental questions, such as: Why do we pray? What good is prayer? If God knows what we need, why ask? What should we pray about?
I’m certainly not going to try answering all those questions in the span of one devotional, but I will point back to the ultimate model for our prayers: Christ’s example in the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s consider just a couple things embedded in that prayer:
God wants us to pray. That’s why Jesus bothered to provide us with a model for how we should go about it. We’re told to pray even though God already knows what we need. That means he is not bothered by our prayers, but wants our attention and our trust.
Only one line in the prayer is about stuff. As a man, Jesus required the same necessities we do, but "give us our daily bread" is all he says about food, shelter, and clothing. He asks for just enough to sustain him day to day, and then moves on. Why? Because he knew that God always finds a way to provide, even if it’s in unexpected ways.
We're praying to "Our Father." We don’t pray to a sovereign deity who deigns to give us good weather if we offer the right words and rituals. Instead, Christ’s directive indicates that we pray to a Father who loves and cares for us – and desires a relationship with us. That relationship status automatically directs our prayers beyond our wants and needs.
Intersecting Faith & Life: You’ve probably heard the acronym "ACTS" used as a prayer guide – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Notice how the bit in which we ask for our needs comes at the very end, after we’ve spent time admiring who God is in light of who we are and what he’s done for us. It’s a lot harder to stay focused on those truths than we realize. This week, try using ACTS as a reminder. And most importantly, get praying!