Prayer – The Steering Wheel or a Spare Tire?

Corrie Ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” When she compared prayer to a steering wheel, I’m relatively certain that Corrie Ten Boom didn’t know anything about a modern GPS system—the navigational system many people have in their cars today.

As you probably know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It’s a radio navigation system that allows land, sea and airborne users to determine their exact position. It relies on 24 satellites in orbit above the earth—positioned in such a way that four of them will always be above the horizon, anywhere on the earth.

A GPS receiver, like the ones many people have in their cars, has a computer that receives bearings from three of those four satellites and then triangulates its own position—normally accurate within 10-15 feet.

The GPS receiver often includes a display screen showing a map, giving the result of the signals received by the onboard computer. Like so much of the technology available to us today, a perfect understanding of how the GPS system works is not required in order for someone to utilize and benefit from it.

Practically, in one of its most basic uses, a GPS system in a car or truck enables the driver to input the desired destination into the onboard computer, and then the GPS system, via information from satellites, provides audio directions as the vehicle moves down the road.

A disembodied, computer-generated voice gives the driver instructions about where to turn the steering wheel so that the driver can successfully arrive at his/her destination.

One of the spiritual truths about an analogy between a GPS system and prayer is that the necessary direction and guidance comes to us from above.

When he offered examples of how prayer can help us navigate the pathways of our lives, Jesus directed our attention to our relationship with God as our father and we as his precious, loved children.

This relationship we can have with God is of paramount importance, and although God is often called “Father” so many people go off track here, right at the beginning.

They accept the idea that is given to them of a God of wrath, a God of vengeance, a God of eternal retribution and torture. Jesus begins the prayer with “Father”—not interrogator, policeman, jailer, prison guard or executioner.
Grace-based prayer flows out of trust. Trust is the very foundation of grace-based prayer, for it helps us realize our place in the universe.

To return to the GPS analogy, prayer gives us our true spiritual bearings, the sense of direction that enables us to live lives of hope, filled with joy, knowing that we can absolutely trust the directions we receive so that we might navigate the hazards of life’s journey.

Addressing our Heavenly Father is based on trust—based on reciprocating the love he has already shown us, and demonstrated to us in and through the Son, who gave his life for each of us. 1 John 4:18 tells us that there is “no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

Christ-centered, grace-based prayer is a response of trust to God, because of his love—as opposed to fear.

Of course, some people do pray out of fear—but they do so because they are trapped by Christ-less religion and they do not know the one true God. They pray out of fear because they have been led to misunderstand God. They pray out of fear because they are afraid of God’s punishment—but in so doing they have completely misunderstood God.

Prayer helps direct us, it reminds us of where we are going, as that old book whose title I’ll never forget said, If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.

Prayer is our spiritual steering wheel—a vital part of our spiritual journey—it’s not at all like our spare tire, which of course is for emergencies only.