Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance


A few years ago I was roaming the local Family Christian Store looking for a book about prayer to give to the person, who was on my volunteer staff at the church where I was a pastor to students, that was leading the prayer times for us and with the parent’s when I stumbled upon a book with a peculiar title. It reminded me of a book that my Preaching Lab professor at my Bible college told us about called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But this one was called Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance. So based on the title alone, I decided to buy this one for her and a copy for myself. I had no idea who the author, Donald Miller, was nor had I ever heard of him.

Then a few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine about one of his other books, Blue Like Jazz, and he made a comment about his first book called Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance and I remembered that I had bought that one and never got around to reading it. So when I got home I went into my garage and dug around in some of the boxes of my stuff from my old office and found the book. I started reading it and just finished it today. What a great book! He has re-released the book as Through Painted Deserts, but you can still buy the original through amazon.com and here is their description of the book….

Fueled by the belief that something deeper exists that the casual Christianity by which they’ve lived, Don and Paul are two free spirits who set off on an adventure-filled road trip in search of a deeper meaning for their lives. As they travel from Texas to Oregon in their cantankerous Volkswagen van, the two friends encounter fascinating people, witness unexpected beauty, attempt to solve life’s most perplexing puzzles, and discover anew the amazing God who created them.

As I read this book, I found that yearning in my heart to just go and hit the open road and do the same as these two guys. But I must say that in many ways I have felt like I have been on a similar trip over the past year or two and I haven’t really even left the state of Michigan. But much of what they have discovered about themselves, their faith and about God is what I have been discovering. I am definitely not the same guy who left Bible college almost 13 years ago. One of the things that really hit me in this book is in the following quote….

“What do you mean I haven’t said anything? I’m saying that the only reason we exist here on this earth is to get to know God.”

“Yeah?”

“And God had led us to get to know Him better. It’s obvious by all that we’ve seen and done. He is always reaching out to us.”

“I understand, Don. But isn’t that obvious?”

“Not to me. I don’t think I understood this before. I mean, I might have understood it as a theological principle, but I don’t think I really understood it. Before we left, my paradigm was that I was supposed to serve God. Follow a list of rules. And if I did, God would make my life go better. But it was just a cultural thing. God was kind of like a genie in a lamp.”

“Your faith was cultural? What do you mean?”

It was about going to church, because that’s the way I was raised. I read my Bible because my friends did, because of my upbringing. But now I’ve taken a second look at God, and I believe that what I’ve been looking for in terms of the ‘Christian journey,’ is not the ‘Christian journey’ at all.”

“Explain,” Paul says.

“I think that I was expecting God to do something in my life that was supernatural. But I’ve begun to realize that all of life is supernatural. I mean, what is more miraculous? God healing somebody, or God giving us a sunrise every morning? I think I was differentiating the supernatural from the everyday. So, I was worldly. I mean, I still am. It’s a process, I think. It takes time to begin to connect the mundane with the eternal. But ultimately, life has no meaning apart from an eternal perspective. Maybe that’s what Solomon was getting at in Ecclesiastes. Maybe we just need to learn to open our eyes.”

I know that over this past year, that God has shown me how to open my eyes. I still don’t have a clue where I am going in all of this craziness, but I know that all I care about is my faith is in God and there is no better place that I would rather be. God is an awesome God and His desire for us is to discover Him as we go about our life in the little things, not just the big things. And as we go about that to also share His love with people in those little ways and not just the big ways. And just maybe, we might “learn to open our eyes”.

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Kim, father to Hannah & Caleb, and the connections pastor at The River Church. The thoughts expressed here are my own and not The River Church's.

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