License Plate Prayers

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I hate traffic!

license plate prayers

The other night as I was wedged in like a sardine on Interstate 94, I noticed the license plate in front of me was my brother-in-law’s initials, CPW. So, I thought, “I should say a little prayer for him,” and I did.

Then, suddenly I was checking everyone’s license plate to see who I could pray for next. Turns out, I prayed for my cousin Jenny too, JMS, and I think I even prayed for a lawyer… the license plate was ISUE4U. (He probably needed the prayers most!)

What I thought was a losing situation—a 45-minute commute to drive 12 miles—instantly became a win-win-win situation. I was distracted from the angst of the daily traffic rut, I was praying for others, and I was communing with my Creator during my commute.

My life is full of deadlines, meetings, driving, and dishes, and though I spend much of my time sharing the importance of praying with others, the truth is that often my prayer time gets interrupted or shortened. Yet, in some weird way, I recognized a new road to travel amid the rush hour congestion.

Not only did a nutty noticing of initials bring me into prayer, it made me think of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Instead of being discouraged when I’m stuck in a place I don’t want to be or when my prayer time gets cut, I found solace in having the opportunity to heed St. Paul’s words to the people of Ephesus: Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:18). Yep, in the middle of Minneapolis in the year 2013, I took comfort in words to the Ephesians in the first century…and prayed in the Spirit at the one time I wanted to be complaining in the flesh.

St. Paul’s words to pray at all times in the Spirit come on the heels of him encouraging the Ephesians to remain strong in the battle and to put on the whole armor of God. He is telling them, and us, that we are in a spiritual battle, a battle that will require some serious armor.

We know that we have many ways to draw power from the Lord so we can stand firm in our faith on the battle field. We know that as Christians we have truth, righteousness, peace, and faith. We know as Catholics that we have the Mass, the Blessed Mother, the Communion of Saints, the sacraments, the Eucharist!

But in the middle of rush hour traffic, I realized we are blessed not only in being able to don this supernatural armor to protect and defend ourselves, but we also are equipped with armor that takes us on the offense: we have the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (the Gospel)—and we have the power of prayer.

All of this armor gives us the tools to turn any obstacle, spiritual or physical, into an opportunity and eventually, a triumph. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is something that in my life has required a lot of instruction and practice. I look to the Magisterium, good Catholic scripture scholars, and solid Catholic bible studies as my “fencing” coaches and to Lectio Divina, praying the Rosary, and my daily Magnificat readings as my practice time.

The combination of good direction and spending time with the word of God has led me to want to proclaim the Gospel everywhere, and it appears it has led me to yearn to pray at “all times in the Spirit,” even in rush hour traffic.

Today, make an effort to turn obstacles into opportunities. Look for opportunities to pray for another, whether you see their picture, you think of them out of the blue or you notice their initials on the car ahead of you as you slowly make your way to your destination.

Look for ways to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” even if it means praying for the person who cuts you off in traffic or perhaps begging forgiveness for the words that have escaped you in the past in that same situation. And take comfort knowing you are donning the whole armor of God!

Copyright 2013 Kelly Wahlquist

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About Author

Kelly Wahlquist is a dynamic and inspiring Catholic speaker whose gift of weaving personal stories and Scripture together with practical advice allows her audience to enter more fully into what Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict, and Pope Francis have called us into - to be witnesses of our faith and part of the New Evangelization. She is the Program Manager for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, co-creator of and speaker for the Hearts Afire Parish-based Programs for the New Evangelization, editor of Catholicism 101 -a program by Jeff Cavins on the basics of Catholicism- and a contributing writer for CatholicMom.com, NewEvangelizers.com, and The Integrated Catholic Life, an eMagazine about integrating faith, family, and work. Kelly has a blog on her website www.KellyWahlquist.com that focuses on that which Pope Francis has called us to—Living the Joy of the Gospel. She, her husband Andy, and their three children live in Minnesota.

3 Comments

  1. I have done something similar. A few years back my second son was stationed in Afghanistan and there was virtually no contact with him. I knew it was a “no news is good news” situation, but still I worried. I prayed for him frequently but wanted a “reminder.” It was summer time and I was spending a lot of time bike riding. I noticed that as I rode I saw a great number of license plates from other states. I decided that each time I saw one I would say a prayer for my son’s safe return. He did return, safe and sound, after 9 months (the longest ever, even longer than those of my pregnancies). Now my son is stationed in Japan (a much safer spot!) so when I see the out of state license plates I offer a prayer for the different people in my life who are associated with that particular state. I may just start looking more closely at my “in state” ones and use your technique! Extra prayers are always a good thing.

  2. Patrick Santucci on

    Marvelous! I’m always looking for good prayer inspiration, and there you are, Kelly!
    Another driving/prayer story. Several years ago I gave up complaining (actually whining) about other drivers for Lent. I had heard my kids calling other drivers idiots! — my favorite epithet — and realized I was not teaching them to practce charity. The exact opposite, in fact! So that Lent, every time I was tempted to call someone an idiot or complain about their driving, I said a Hail Mary for them instead and asked the Lord to protect them. Granted, sometimes it was through clenched teeth, but the habit quickly became a genuine prayer and — surprise! — my driving stress went way down. More important, I think I may have actually become a little more charitable toward others. Will wonders never cease!?

  3. Good food for thought, Kelly! When I drive my kids to school each morning, we pray a morning offering, some prayers of thanksgiving and petition, and a few other prayers … ending by asking for our favorite saints’ intercession for our day. We always pray the Hail Mary, Memorare, Guardian Angel Prayer, and the Prayer to St. Michael. So often, when we are praying these very familiar prayers, I envision the angels all around us, in our car, in the cars of the other drivers, above us, right next to us … I think of the spiritual battle that is going on, maybe even in the midst of the traffic, and I just feel so incredibly comforted knowing that we are never alone! Our God is so good, and He makes Himself known to us in ALL situations! Thanks be to God!!

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