Prayer: The Steam Engine of Leadership

CNR Steam Engine 6069 was built in 1944, it was one of 20 Mountain class steam engines used across Canada. Its last run was in 1963. It is one of three that remain, and has been painstakingly restored and moved to a historical site in Sarnia, ON. 
photo credit: Fred A Collins Jr. (Flikr)

It serves as an imposing and beautiful reminder of power and possibility that served to share resources, connect a country and mobilize people. To stare at the unique majestic design, described by the Sarnia Historical Society in this way: “One of the Mountain class’ distinctive features is its unusual 4-8-2 wheel configuration, with four non-powered leading wheels for steering and stability, eight large driving wheels for motive power, and two non-powered trailing wheels for support and stability.” 

Power. Possibility. Stability. 

Prayer is our relational communication with Our God. Prayer, like the steam engine that propelled these historic trains, provides God’s power, to bring about possibilities that allow for the sharing of resources, and the peaceful stabilization that comes from connecting communities and mobilizing people. Prayer informs and infuses humble, purposeful, and persevering action that seeks the benefit of those around us. 

“Prayer must outwork itself in action, (through) mission and justice. It is about the saying of prayers, for sure, but also about the becoming of prayers in a thousand practical ways.” - Pete Greig, Dirty Glory

I wonder if George Stephenson knew what was possible back at the turn of the 19th century, when he set out to eventually what would become the steam engine?

George Stephenson was born on June 9, 1781. As a young boy from a poor working class family, George made two cents a day to keep cows out of the way of horse drawn wagons hauling coal from the coal mine outside of his hometown of Wylam, England. I wonder that if at a young age, moving cows off the road and watching the wagons roll by, if the idea wasn’t birthed inside of him. 

As he grew older George Stephenson would be employed at that same mine as a picker, cleaning the chunks of black coal, removing stone or slate or any other impurities. 

His daily work didn’t fuel his passion. 

What kept his imagination alive was his off hour time of tinkering with equipment, particularly engines. It is worth noting that at a time when working is what mattered most, Stephenson enrolled in night classes and learned to read, write and do arithmetic. He visited and learned from others who built engines. And then he started making his own design, hammering out each piece in a blacksmith shop, eventually in 1813, George Stephenson had invented the coal fired steam engine. It would forever change the mining industry, the travel industry and bring once distant places together. 
The wagons that were once pulled by horses could now be hitched to the back of his steam engine, more could carried; it could be carried faster; and it could be carried further. Too often our prayer are self-centred and self-serving. Perhaps this can leads to the low view that many people have of God. And yet, in other fleeting moments of stillness, when we watch the world roll past, we can sense a desire for positive change, a yearning for peace, a freedom from struggle and oppression. 

“Time and time again God ignores my most pressing questions in order to answer the deepest longing of my heart.” - (Pete Grieg, Dirty Glory)

In those times, perhaps, like George Stephenson, God is getting us ready for a steam engine moment. 

The steam powered engine is the heart of the steam locomotive. Apart from the engine, the train doesn’t move. Too often we can be guilty of focusing on the cargo cars or passenger cars. 

The function of a steam engine involves water and fire, which is used to create heat. Coal, or wood is frequently the fuel that is used to create the fire. The fire is used to heat the water which in turn creates the steam that causes the wheels to turn. 

Near the rear of the boiler was the firebox. The firebox is the area on the boiler where the fuel is burned and is made with a door that could be opened to add coal or wood for fuel. The heated gases pass through metal tubes that are submerged in the boiler's water and converts the water into steam. This steam can be released manually if the pressure becomes too high, or it can be released into the steam pipes into a cylinder where it moves the pistons. The pistons are connected to the wheels. As the valves release the steam onto the pistons, the wheels move. That’s when a sound was made…choo, choo. The process of the fire and the water, made the whole train go. 

Onlookers may marvel at the cargo or passenger cars but nothing happens without proper attention to the firebox within the steam engine. 

The CNR 6069 Steam Engine has stood still much longer than it was ever in service. The firebox is empty. There is no wood or coal to keep it moving. Even the track upon which it sits is only a fragment. Yet, it remains a powerful wonder to behold, and causes us to consider what was once possible. Unfortunately, many of us have hopes, dreams and visions for the betterment of our communities that remain stagnate and have never moved. But they don’t need to follow the fate of an out of commission steam engine. 

Prayer: Communication with God. 

Prayer ignites the firebox and moves the steam engine of our deep-seated, seemingly immovable possibilities. Prayer is where the burden of our hearts and the causes that are too great for us to shoulder are refined. 

We do not serve causes, serve Our God.

We must not let any cause obscure, become greater than our capacity to relate to God. If we are in a place where we are not being shaped by God’s Word, not taking time to filter our feelings, our preconceptions, our pride. Then we are likely to see prayer as a failing formula, rather than a purposeful refining process through which we serve according to God’s glory.

“The most important discovery you will ever make is the love the Father has for you. Your power in prayer will flow from the certainty that the One who made you likes you, he is not scowling at you, he is on your side.” - (Pete Greig, Dirty Glory)

Therefore we must not ignore the stirring within. Rather we must learn to accumulate the information that is needed. However, we must also stay immersed in the deep well of God’s Word, in order to filter our motives and deepen our commitment to persevere. The fire of His Spirit, works with the water of His Word and begins to ignite our God shaped vision. As the steam rises, the engine begins to roll, and we are carried along a path where He leads. 

Our confidence comes not in our plans, not in our resources, but in the God who loves us and wants us to set out on empowered journeys that will bring people, resources and communities together. 

If I can join you in praying for your steam engine to move, then feel free to send me a message. 

What is dream/vision stirring within the firebox of your life?