She Prayed About It, And Then Picked Us
by Ken Gardner

Oprah Winfrey gave away cars the other day. A lot of them. She gave away a brand-new car to each member of her audience a couple of weeks ago. 276 cars in all. About $8 million worth of new automobiles.

One lady in the audience was from Dallas. She decided to get her new car from a local dealership. The general manager of the dealership told the newspaper, “She said she prayed about it, and then picked us.”

I’m sure the general manager was glad to hear that. Imagine—people are asking God where they should get their new cars, and God is sending them to a Pontiac dealership right here in Dallas! Talk about God being on your side! (I guess all the Ford dealers must be a bunch of heathens!)

Now, don’t misunderstand me—I’m all for people praying more. People don’t pray enough, I’m sure, but don’t we need to give some thought to what we pray for? Here we are, living in a world filled to overflowing with sin, sickness and suffering, and we ask the God of the universe to give us divine help picking out a car dealership!

Forgive me if I’m wrong, or seem the least bit irreverent, but I just don’t think God really cares where you get your new car! Yes, by all means, I pray that God will help me make wise decisions, but I just don’t think it matters all that much, in view of eternity, what kind of car I drive or where I get it. By the way, the wisest thing for most people who buy new cars would be for them not to buy a new car—they probably can’t afford it, they probably have little if any money set aside for a rainy day, or for retirement, or for the poor, or for the church! People will sign a contract, make a promise, commit themselves to make a huge monthly payment, for years, but they won’t set a little aside each week for the Lord’s work. People are literally starving to death today, even little children, people are dying of easily-cured diseases, there are wars, oppression, injustice, brutality, and rampant sin and immorality—and we’re praying to God about car dealerships! We’re like that foolish, oh so very foolish and self-centered man in Luke 12 who inter-rupted Jesus as He was literally discussing matters of life and death and asked our Lord to deal with his little petty inconvenience: “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12).

Again, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t ask God to tell me if I should drive a Ford or a Chevy, or if I should a wear a red or blue tie today. I am grateful for cars, and I actually do thank God for paved roads, air conditioning, indoor plumbing and microwave ovens. To tell you the truth, though, I almost fell silly mentioning these things in my prayers—am I that shallow, that these are the kinds of things I concern myself with? I wonder if we are not much different from the “cows of Bashan” condemned by the prophet Amos, people who were rich, idle, and far more concerned about their luxuries than the needs of the poor (Amos 4:1). I worry that we are like the mother of James and John who asked Jesus for special favors for her two sons. What are we concerning ourselves with in our prayer requests? The early church didn’t even have a place to meet other than members’ homes and underground tombs, but do you think they prayed much for church buildings for themselves? I suspect they had much more important things to pray for.

Do we ever, even once, read in the Bible of godly people praying to God and asking Him to help them make petty decisions? Abraham asked God to spare the immoral people of Sodom and Gomorrah, not whether he should raise sheep or goats. Moses’ sister Miriam was foolish, petty, unfair, insubordinate, probably racially prejudiced, and yet Moses interceded for her, that she should not be punished with leprosy. He didn’t pray for himself, what color sandals he would wear. Solomon didn’t pray for wisdom so that he could become rich, but for wisdom to rule God’s people well, so they would be benefited.

Again, we should be thankful for everything God has given us, including our luxuries and modern conveniences, and we should pray for wisdom and God’s strength and guidance, but I can’t help thinking we are far, far too concerned about our wishes. Instead, let’s fill our prayers to overflowing with praise—and gratitude—and supplications, not so much for ourselves, but for others: for the sick, the poor, and most of all, for the lost.

Reprinted from Firm Foundation, November 2004