By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 6, 2014
I had a serious case of cabin fever and couldn’t wait to get out of the house after the recent ice storm that shut down the city for days. The streets looked clear so I decided to head to the grocery store to replenish supplies.
As I was approaching the stoplight I heard a resounding crash and then watched in horror as a huge slab of ice, which had suddenly dislodged itself from the roof of the car, slid forward and landed squarely on the windshield, obscuring half my view.
Did I mention I was praying the entire time? “Dear Lord, sweet Jesus, please help me get through this.” And after inching my way down the road without crashing into anything, “Thank you, Lord!”
In the parking lot I used a handy ice scraper to hack away at the offending frozen slab, smashing it to smithereens and clearing the windshield of the obstruction.
Later I realized how often I pray in cars. I remembered many years ago when my teenage nephew had just gotten his license and how proud he was. I was delighted too—until I realized he was offering to drive me to the airport.
What could I say? “Congratulations, but I don’t trust you to drive me two blocks let alone that distance?” Instead, I smiled broadly and climbed into the front seat of his VW bug.
And off we went with me praying fervently that we would not have a terrible wreck. The boy could drive, but as we approached a stop sign, he didn’t hit the brakes until the very last second. This meant I was literally pushing my foot through the floor of the car as I worked my imaginary brakes, all the while keeping up a steady stream of prayers.
Today I often find myself praying up a storm when I’m the passenger in a car driven by a tailgater, since nothing terrifies me as much as being inches away from the bumper of the car ahead. Invariably I beseech heaven with such zeal that it’s a wonder the skies don’t open and angels come streaming down to surround me.
In most cases the driver in question has no idea that I’m praying with every ounce of my being. Often the person will attempt to carry on a normal conversation with me, not realizing my eyes are dilating in fear and my palms are awash in perspiration. And all the while I’m repeating silently: “Lord, have mercy on us!”
I also pray quite a bit when my husband and I head down I-75 to Florida. Invariably we encounter those blasted orange plastic barrels, which I predict will be on the roads well into the next century. Somehow these things make the lanes seem impossibly narrow—and if you add a few tractor trailers to the mix, you have the perfect scenario for me to be praying so passionately that I half expect to be lifted a few inches off my seat in some sort of rapture.
My husband, meanwhile, is totally nonplussed. There could be a huge storm with rain cascading down so hard that visibility is reduced to zero, trucks growling all around us and a sea of those orange barrels. Still, nothing daunts this man who remains calm and focused while I maintain a death grip on what my niece calls the “oh shoot” handle on the passenger’s side of the car.
And oh how I pray! I beg God over and over for mercy. I pray to be calm and courageous. I pray for the seven hours to go by in three.
When people say their prayer life has become too routine, my advice is to climb into a car. Maybe you’re the driver or maybe you’re the passenger. It matters not.
I can assure you that at some point you will encounter the orange barrels of Beelzebub, the tailgaters of terror and even a surly slab of ice—and in seconds your prayer life will be revitalized and redeemed.
Lorraine Murray’s new mystery, “Death Dons a Mask,” features Francesca Bibbo, Father Brent Bunt and the crew at St. Rita’s church. Artwork is by Jef Murray. Readers may write the Murrays at firstname.lastname@example.org.