NASCAR is a sport that makes me want to change the channel as fast as I possibly can. As my dad joked with me growing up, “They just go around and around and around” a few hundred times.
However, there are a couple aspects of racing I do appreciate.
During a race, the heart rate of a NASCAR driver is the same as a marathon runner.
I also have a lot of respect for pit crews that can change all four tires and refuel the car in about 15 seconds.
I think prayer and pit crews have something in common.
We—you, me, believers and nonbelievers alike—have all come close to turning prayer into a pit stop.
Just as a NASCAR driver pulls into a pit stop to get his racecar quickly serviced, we often do this with God.
Some psychologists have categorized our culture as having “hurry sickness.”
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian cognitive neuroscientist, comments that “our brain is on speed.”
The NASCAR-level speed of society and technology is literally rewiring our brains in order to keep up.
Prayer is the antithesis of this present pace.
I’m not talking about setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier and finding a prayer closet. It’s much more than that.
It’s a search to expose our souls.
It’s what author Ruth Haley Barton calls “a place for the soul to come out … It is the longing to experience God unmediated by words, theological constructs, religious activity, my own and other’s manipulations of my relationship with God … the longing to find ourselves; it is the longing to be in touch with what is most real within us.”
Grab and go
We live in a grab and go world.
We’ve tried to morph our Maker into our own little, personal McDonald’s.
Here’s my fast food order for the day:
“Dear Jesus. Bless my day. I need my family to serve you well today. Let the kids listen in complete obedience. Keep them from getting a cold. Let my spouse and I be on the same page. My neighbor needs to be saved. My friend has an interview later, so can you open that door, Lord? Amen.”
So, we circle around the drive thru, grab the food and go.
In that prayer, we ask for every puzzle piece of our lives to be put in our idea of the proper place.
It’s Burger King’s slogan: “Have it your way.”
No relationship, all request.
Just one touch
I love the story in Mark 5:25-34.
For 12 years, a woman had constant bleeding. No doctor had the slightest clue or cure and her savings account was fried. Through word of mouth, the name of Jesus popped up.
She had to be thinking: “Here’s my complex problem. He’s the simple solution.”
By God’s grace, she was healed, but what’s interesting is the interaction, or lack thereof.
“She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’ … Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told Him the whole truth” (Mark 5:27-28, 33).
Have you ever thought why she just wanted to touch Jesus’ clothes?
Yes, in Christian circles we love to talk about her incredible faith, which is true. Just one touch and Jesus can change any circumstance. Yes, the swarm of people possibly made it difficult to ask aloud. But if you’re desperate enough, you can get someone’s attention (just look at the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof).
I believe she wanted to slip under the radar, get healed and dart away without being detected.
That was her life the last 12 years anyway, according to religious rites. Physical contact was prohibited down to the chair on which she sat (Leviticus 15).
This swift move was a way to stealthily move on with her life.
She could experience physical freedom without even engaging Him who sets us free emotionally and spiritually.
She certainly wasn’t going to stop Him and strike up a conversation if Jesus didn’t stop her (and mind you, He stopped dead in His tracks while on the way to heal a dying girl).
So she told Jesus her struggles, shame and the social stigma of sickness.
In essence, it was a place to share her story—for her “soul to come out.”
Jesus didn’t fulfill her unsolicited request without initiating a relationship. He didn’t want to meet her needs without meeting her.
He wants to change people’s hearts more than He wants to change their circumstances.
Prayer isn’t like “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines. It isn’t merely to fix your problems, it is to fixate on God (Psalm 27:4). It isn’t a pit stop to get your “what, when, where and why” questions answered, but primarily to know “who” God is.
God isn’t a step stool to your goals, like a child using a chair to climb onto the dinner table.
He wants to peel back the layers of our hearts and probe the nakedness of our souls.
1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins ... to bring you to God.”
How often do we enter God’s presence only to exit without ever encountering Him?