BE MY GUEST: Lorraine Murray 

Traffic jam 1 Pictures, Images and Photos

Stuck in Traffic? Try Drive-By Prayers

The old man inched along the sidewalk toting a grocery sack. His back was painfully hunched and his eyes were downcast. When I spotted him, my heart flinched with pity – and I knew it was time for a drive-by prayer.

Drive-by prayers are little invocations that can be offered for complete strangers who are obviously in need of help. And let’s face it: these folks are everywhere.

There’s the hugely pregnant lady pushing a shopping cart and dragging along a toddler who’s having a meltdown. There’s the teenager in a wheelchair, longing to be on the football field. There’s the heavily made-up woman sitting all alone in a bar.

Drive-by prayers are wonderful ways to pass the time when everything’s going wrong. Let’s say you’re in line at the grocery store, or stuck in traffic on the freeway.

Instead of cursing silently, you can look around and find someone to pray for.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person’s name, because God does. Just try, “That lady in the next car, dear God, the one who looks so sad and lonely – please send someone to look after her.”  Or: “That little chubby boy, God, the one being teased by the other kids – please protect him.”

I first discovered drive-by prayers when my husband and I were driving four nuns from Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, around Atlanta.  Moments after we all settled in the car, one sister pulled out her Rosary beads.

“Let’s say a few prayers,” she said, and everyone joined in.

As the car inched down Ponce de Leon Avenue, we glimpsed the faces of street people, drug addicts and ladies of the night. We also spotted children in strollers, college students on bicycles and business people eating lunch at trendy outdoor cafes.

They were all God’s children sweating under the same noonday sun. And they were all unaware that we were praying for them.

Each day when I open the newspaper, and read about war, poverty and crime, I’m tempted to conclude the world is going to hell in the proverbial hand basket. Then I remind myself there are plenty of opportunities for drive-by prayers.

There are children whose sweet faces somehow show up in the obituary section – and their broken-hearted families need prayers. There are young soldiers overseas, looking weary and frightened. And don’t forget the stunned victims of storms and earthquakes.

When it comes to prayer, you don’t need any special training or technology. Even the tiniest child can chime in, along with the elderly and bedridden.

You can be weeping in a jail cell or dying of boredom in a cubicle. You might be flat on your back in the hospital, or flattened by loneliness in a nursing home.

Everything can be taken away from you, including your freedom, your health and your wealth. But you still have enormous power when you lift your heart to God.

But here’s a disclaimer: Drive-by prayers are not glamorous or glitzy. They won’t make prime-time TV talk shows or the nightly news.

Still, they can work tiny miracles, and in a quiet and mysterious way, change the world forever.

Lorraine is a religion columnist with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the author of seven books, most recently “Death of a Liturgist” and “The Abbess of Andalusia,” a biography of Flannery O’Connor. All her books are available at

Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Share this article with your family and friends via email and social media. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Link to article


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to BE MY GUEST: Lorraine Murray 

  1. Sharon Buttaci says:

    Beautiful story!

  2. Denise says:

    God constantly reminds me to do exactly what this author shared. There are countless opportunities to pray all day. Everywhere I turn, someone is hurting, feels alone, defeated, lost, forsaken, afraid, weary, and so on. Please keep the reminders coming!

  3. Cindy Romano McGraw says:

    I understand Drive-by prayers! I often recognize friends who live downtown, at The WV Manor, walking to Grants on the Avenue to buy groceries or encounter them in the store and even other places, having taken the bus. There is one lady who lives near the church I give rides to, also. Giving them a ride home is such a joy – to me and to them. After years of our outreach ministry to The Manor and getting to know many personally, I reach out to them. I never will forget two ladies who cried because they could buy ice cream, because they would get home before it thawed! Similar experience when someone bought a watermelon. Those treats, to them, were impossible to carry home or arrive home still frozen when taking the shoe leather express or the city transit bus. I pray when I hear an ambulance, fire truck and the air-vac helicopters coming and going at BRMC. Last week I paid for some soap for a lady, who did not have enough money to buy the 5 bar pack, which was just a little more than the two-bar pack. I watcher her count out her change did not have enough and I quietly swiped my debit card. I had a flash-back of a parishioner doing the same for me one day, when I was sick and shortly after Louis was injured. I was buying some things at a local store and I HAD my debit card in hand. I was talking to this man, while the clerk was scanning my items. When I started to scan my card he was punching in his number. Kindness – PASS IT FORWARD! AND PRAY!

  4. I grew up with this. These are simple, pure, and honest: without great show of piety for an “audience”. Quiet, but I know just as powerful and well received just as well. Somehow I prefer this to holding hands in a group.

  5. Donna Musgrave says:

    I often find myself stopping to ask St. Francis’ intercession on behalf of the many stray animals which seem to cross my path. Since I can’t take them all home with me, I pray with Francis that the God of all creation will protect these vulnerable creatures and surround them with his perfect love. (I hadn’t thought of these as “drive-by prayers,” but I guess they really are!)

  6. Paul Wharton says:

    Good comments. Thank you all for sharing. I began praying for whomever was being rushed to the hospital in a loud, lights-flashing ambulance since kindergarten. I’m not sure when I began to pray for the deceased and those who mourn when encountering a funeral procession.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s