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What good is prayer? The Difference Between Blessed and Not Blessed
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Written by
Pastor Ty Alexander

Some weeks ago, a man who is a relatively new Christian that I’ve tried to counsel into a life of doing the right things told me about his car catching fire. This is an older, low income man who has lived in bad and criminal ways that are common in inner city urban communities, so after spending a lifetime with bad lifestyles he’s had much difficulty in changing his ways.

Many in the church would label this man, someone’s who’s been a believer for only a few years and is not visibly “converted” into a righteous life, as someone who is not a true believer; unsaved and destined for hell. After all, swear words are still common in his speech despite my reminders to use better language. However, don’t prejudge this, as I have seen many longtime, professing Christians continue to cuss after many reminders it is not how we should speak (James 3:4-12).

Some habits are hard to break, and some sins are more serious to address than others, some of which actively ferment in seemingly converted believers without their knowing. That is a reason why God hates Stay away from me!... I am holier than you attitudes (Isaiah 65:5). That is not how God treats even soiled, “unconverted” believers, like this Christian who told me about his car.

God sees this man as an immature believer, yes, but still one of His own – saved and sanctified in Christ so as to have heaven despite whatever sins he did or continues to live in. The church who would argue against that does not understand how great and wonderful a gift of grace the New Covenant is. But God does see this man as someone who needs more discipline and guidance, and when he told me about his car, I knew God was trying to get him to pay more attention to changing for the better and that my prayers for him did have effect.

He acknowledged this in his words, “Because I know you, God was helping me. Maybe I will become more like you.” What happened to show this man that God and Christ are real and that my prayers to help him were also effective?

I had met him before his car caught on fire when he was trying to fix it in the parking lot of his apartment complex. It was leaking oil and running horribly, using twice as much fuel as it should. It was so bad he could hardly afford to drive across town. After I met him, I asked the Lord to help him fix his car, but a day or two afterwards, he called me to say his car caught fire and he needed a new one, so I prayed for God to help him get a new car.

Now this sounds like a sore deal. I asked God to help this man fix his car and it catches fire and it is destroyed. But at the time, he didn’t tell me the whole story. It was some weeks later when he got a new used car, he told me more of what happened.

Sometime after I left him in the parking lot, his car caught fire while he was working on it. The fire sprung up so fast and hot he had to run away from it, but after some moments he felt he was forgetting something important. Then he remembered valuables in the glovebox and panicked. He quickly wrapped a jacket around him to help shield him from the heat and quickly grabbed what he could. It was so hot, though, he could not get more than what was in the glovebox and stood far away.

The fire department came quickly to put out the fire and when he talked to them, a fireman said he was surprised the car didn’t blow up. Fires like his usually explode quickly. Also the cars parked next to his were undamaged, which was also unusual for this kind of fire. He would have been responsible for liability damages to any other cars damaged by his fire. It could have cost him thousands.

I could already see God helping him at this point. He prevented too much damage from happening too quickly. So much so that the tow truck driver who took his totaled car, bought it from him for $250. Most people have to pay the tow company, which was pretty amusing. Are you keeping track of things? We have four blessings in this incident so far – valuables were saved, the car was relatively undamaged, he got $250 for his car, and the cars next to his were undamaged.

But many people would simply dismiss these things. “So what?” they’ll say. He got stuff out before it was too bad, the fire department put out the fire fast enough so that it didn’t explode, and the tow driver bought a junked car. My friend would likely have reasoned the same way and not give any credit to God, and that would be it - No more faith being built. No divine help being seen. No appreciation for God. No further movement towards living a righteous life. And no affirmation that my prayers for help did any good. Afterall, his car got destroyed after I prayed for help fixing it.

Well, God knows how people think, so what do you think He did to prove His point? Only a day or so after his fire, another car in the parking lot caught fire with no one near it and in the middle of the day at around 11 am with people all around apartment entrance to see. He saw the fire himself from his apartment window. It was a very new and expensive car. What was the difference?

The fire department didn’t respond as quickly as they did for his car and the new car was completely destroyed and unsalvageable. This made him think and he knew I prayed for him, so he started thinking something more was happening. Then he told me how he got his new car. The seller was asking for about $1700, but he was able to buy it for only $700. It wasn’t a pretty car. It’s air conditioning didn’t work, but it ran great. Instead of 20 miles on a tank of gas, he could go 300.

After all these details, I could see God was giving him many strong signs that he was getting divine help, so I told him that plainly, “I asked the Lord to help you, and that’s what He did. Your old car wasn’t worth keeping so He got rid of it, and He helped you get a new car cheap. And He had the other car catch fire to show you He was acting in these things. Thank God for all that and keep working on leaving sin and doing the right things.”

So now you can see the difference with not getting help from God and not having anyone pray for you? The new car owner obviously had sin that got his car completely destroyed, while this “unconverted” believer who still had faith in Christ and is working on his good fight with doing the right things was given divine help because I asked the Lord to help him and his walk of faith.

Count the blessings:
  1. God destroyed the horrible and financially draining car he was trying to keep running.
  2. Valuables were saved from the car.
  3. The car was salvageable even after the fire.
  4. The car gave him $250 when it was taken away.
  5. No other cars were damaged by his fire.
  6. He was able to retrieve other valuables from the car, like his tools, after the fire.
  7. He was able to buy a much better car for less than half the asking price.
Now try to tell me that the New Testament is wrong when it said the church should get their elders to pray for them, and that their prayers - those of a righteous person, faithful in Christ - can accomplish much (James 5:13-16).

Update 9/24/2023
The person that God blessed with help talked to me again and told me about the front tire on his car. It had a slow leak in the valve stem for some time, but then he found it flat one day. He talked to a tire shop and they said they would fix it for free, so he took the car there without any way to pay.

The shop told him they could not fix the tire because it just disintegrated when they took it off. He was really lucky it didn’t fall apart while driving, especially being on the front, which could be catastrophic at speed.

Again this man told me, that his relationship with me and that my prayers for him had God helping him out again. Not only because the tire held together until the shop got to it, but because they gave him a completely new tire for free even though they wanted him to pay for a replacement.

How did that happen? They said they would get a free used replacement from their throw-aways, but when they couldn’t find one of the right size, they gave him a new tire for free. Again, God was helping this man, who needed further reminders to pursue what is right since he got into some trouble lately, which I’m sure would not have happened if he was better at removing sin from his life.

All this happened two or three weeks ago, but I had forgotten to report it because it seemed to be of low priority and I was busy with High Holiday preparations. But then God had me remember when I saw on nightly news a few days ago, a deadly bus crash caused by a blown front tire[1.1, 1.2]. Two people died and many children were injured in that crash.

It’s a sobering reminder that even little miracles, like an old tire holding together until it is taken off and all the help God gave this man I talked about before, should not simply be dismissed, especially when God is trying to tell you that you need to keep getting rid of the sin in your life.

It’s a good thing I remembered to talk about this now as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, has just begun and the services are tomorrow, which very much focuses on asking God for help and forgiveness, so that we can take care of the bad temporal effects of sin – its bad effects in this life. So if you go through Yom Kippur with the usual focus on repentance, be diligent afterwards to continue in a life of repentance farther and farther from sin.

[1.1] Kala Rama, Erin Pflaumer. "Blown front tire possibly caused I-84 bus crash that killed 2, injured 42: state police". PIX 11. 2023 Sep. 22. Retrieved 2023 Sep. 24.

[1.2] Emily Shapiro, Ivan Pereira, Meredith Deliso. "2 killed when bus carrying high schoolers crashes on way to band camp". ABC News. 2023 Sep. 22. Retrieved 2023 Sep. 24.

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