My son’s eyes grew wide as he fixed them on an ambulance parked outside the coffee shop where we sat. His five-year-old mind, rich with imagination, sparked a thought-provoking question, “Mom! What happens if the ambulance driver needs help after a crash?” The thought struck me with its depth. In his eyes, the ambulance driver was the ultimate rescuer in life’s status equation. Should tragedy befall this medical savior, who would come to their aid?
His question caused me to reflect on where we go to for help when we are in crisis. Where do we turn when we exhaust the resources of our own self-reliance and can no longer be our own ‘ambulance driver?’ We know that we are called to prayer, but is it the first place we reach for help?
Often, our desire to pray is directly proportional to our sense of need. A friend of mine, who was an atheist, found herself praying in the midst of a near-fatal car accident. Her response showed me that even those who don’t believe in God find themselves in prayer in moments of extreme crisis. It’s desperation that ignites our urge to pray. A part of our human nature compels us to reach out for a strength beyond our own when we’re finally face to face with our own human limits. In such critical moments, prayer becomes an act of surrender, an acknowledgment of the hope that perhaps God is the source of our rescue and the one who can protect us.
Initially, we might try to mend our wounds or solve our problem by ourselves, seeking to bandage them up with online shopping, more alone time, or a weekend away. Depending on the problem, if that doesn’t remedy the situation, we might seek a primary care physician, turn to self-help books, or a friend’s advice. If the severity escalates, we may turn to the E.R. doctor or a counselor; someone who we really think can fix the problem. But often, it is only when faced with a life-threatening situation, something we can’t easily fix, or when all hope seems lost, that we turn to prayer to ask God for help. And in that moment, we come to the end of ourselves and acknowledge our own fragility, asking the mighty God of the universe to step in to save us, our one true ambulance driver.
The beauty of prayer is that it’s a place to acknowledge our own limitations and frailty and to seek God’s help and protection. We don’t have to tough it out or act like we have it all together. We are like plants in a field, sometimes fruitful and growing, but then suddenly we find ourselves at the mercy of grazing animals. We find ourselves defenseless to protect ourselves from a world that often doesn’t play by God’s rules. As our fragile leaves become the food of deer and rabbits, we also recognize our vulnerability to life’s metaphorical food chain through prayer. Recognizing that we are actually in need of God every day, prayer is an admission of our defenseless state, a request for His protection and ultimately a trusted place where we build an intimate connection with the truest of friends, Jesus. I used to watch the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” where the contestant had a series of four multiple choice questions to choose from. If they answered the question correctly, they got a prize of money. But, at times, the contestant was stuck, unable to answer the question. At this, they were given the option to request a lifeline. The lifeline allowed contestants to call a pre-selected friend, relative, or acquaintance when they were unsure of an answer to a question. The friend was at home waiting, available to take the call. The friend was then given the current question wherein they would give their answer in a limited timeframe. We often view prayer in much the same way. If we get desperate enough, if we finally come to the end of our own answers, we’ll reach out and “call a friend,’ God.
But, what if we viewed prayer differently as a place to develop an intimate friendship with the God of the universe as opposed to someone we called upon only when we got desperate enough to need Him? Don’t let prayer become your phone-a-friend, only calling God when you’re really stuck or in need of wisdom. God knows we need prayer and He instructs us to pray at all times, pray until you die, and to pray and never give up. Pray at all times: As scriptures say, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Pray all the time: And also as scripture says, “pray as long as you have breath. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (Psalm 116:2) And never give up: And also as scripture says, “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1)
From the surface, prayer may not appear “productive’” and yet we might be shocked if we knew how prayer enacts real change in the Kingdom. Prayer cannot be measured or quantified, but I can only imagine the saints who had no book deal, Instagram platform, or accolades who committed their lives to prioritizing prayer—it was in conversing with God that so much was accomplished on behalf of their prayers. I’m reminded of Jesus days. He had ended His time of active ministry on earth, He had stopped healing the sick, performing miracles, and preaching, but He still prayed. And within that prayer (John 17), He interceded on behalf of you and me. He prayed for the glory of the Father to be revealed, He prayed for unity among the body of believers, and He prayed that we would experience our Father’s love.
God has entrusted us with a powerful weapon to combat the forces of darkness: prayer. Through prayer, we ask that the power of Christ shake the ground around our circumstances or our friend’s circumstances by praying and agreeing with God’s Word. When believers collectively pray scriptures, it fosters unity. They are essentially coming together under the authority and guidance of God’s Word. May you and I remember the importance of prayer in all things, and urge each other onward in the practice of prayer. Knowing that in all things, prayer makes us even more aware of God’s presence in our midst.
Mikella Van Dyke is a wife, mother and the Founder of Chasing Sacred, ministry that provides resources to help women study the Bible and grow closer to God. What began as a devotional blog became an organization with a team of writers who produce theologically rich Bible Study resources. As she studied for her MA in practical theology at Regent University, she fell deeply in love with the process of hermeneutics and wanted to spread her knowledge and love of the Word to others. She also serves at her local church, Hope Fellowship in Jaffrey, NH where she co-leads women’s Bible study.
Keep up with her on Instagram @mikellavandyke