(This article by Kitty Chappell was first published in The Sierra Star, Oakhurst, California on May 5, 1994 in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer)
I have driven automobiles for over 40 years and I still don’t understand how their engines work. I merely aim the car in the direction I want to go and press the gas pedal. By rote I drive them to places that expose me to hard work, frustration, beauty, fun, and inspiration.
I have learned the hard way that a car won’t go anywhere without gas in the tank, that the battery will go dead if I leave the lights on, that the engine will overheat without water and oil—and that I should read the operator’s manual. Despite my negative experiences and my lack of understanding as to how a car works, I will continue to believe in and drive automobiles.
I have used cameras for the same length of time and I don’t understand them either. I simply aim the lens at something and press the button. I don’t understand how a gadget can clutch from thin air an image of what I point it at, memorize it, materialize it onto a negative and transfer it to paper in a recognizable form. In spite of my ignorance, I have a collection of priceless moments—a parade of precious people and events suspended in time, memories on paper positioned on walls and in albums.
I learned the hard way, however, that my old Ricoh camera required film and what is seen through its lens will appear in the picture—and that I should read the operator’s manual. I have cut off the heads of subjects, taken detailed pictures of my feet, and missed my grandbaby completely while capturing upon print an open toilet and dirty towels on the bathroom floor. I once took 36 shots of the Disneyland Electrical Parade—with no film in the camera. In spite of such failures, I won’t part with my Ricoh.
For over 40 years I have prayed. I understand the functioning of prayer even less than that of my Buick and my Ricoh. Yet, because of my use of prayer I have experienced wonders that surpass those of the automobile and camera. How can one become born again as Jesus instructed Nicodemus in the third chapter of St. John in the Bible? I don’t know. It sounds rather far-fetched. But when I was 14 I left the mechanics of this miracle to God and was born again—through prayer. How could God help a bitter teenager release her anger, forgive her father for years of physical and emotional abuse and almost murdering her mother—and become a happy, fun-loving, responsible and productive adult? I don’t understand how, but through prayer God did that for me.
I have learned the hard way that as I pray, I should read my Operator’s Manual, the Bible, carefully. When I doubt its promises, ignore its warnings and avoid its wise rules for living by substituting my own, I bring about unwanted consequences. Yet, through prayer I know God continues to love me. As with my Buick and my Ricoh, I haven’t the foggiest notion as to how prayer works—but I will use it the rest of my life.