Example: [Collected via e-mail, December 2008]
Shaken by the incident, She drove to her father's home to tell the story and to have him check the car. He had purchased what he thought was a good reliable vehicle for his daughter and was angered to hear it had failed when it mattered most. He went to check under the hood to see if he could find the cause of the problem and found the battery had been completely removed. There was no possible way the car could have started.
Origins: Although this particular rendition of the disabled car miraculously coming to life in time to transport to safety those who were about to be victimized reached us in December 2008, we've been hearing versions of it for years, and one of our site's visitors heard it as far back as 1974. Sometimes the vehicle's distributor cap, alternator, or battery has been removed, sometimes the fuel line has been cut. The pious folks whose prayers for deliverance are answered are almost always exclusively female, either a lone gal or two friends traveling together, with only rarely a
While the previously-mentioned details are mutable, the story is consistently rendered with a plot of prayers resulting in the miraculous starting of a vehicle that previously had resisted all attempts to get it going. The tale completes with the discovery (usually the next day, and usually by the woman's boyfriend or father) that the vehicle was either missing a key part that would have kept it from starting or had been tampered with in such a way that it could not have been brought to life. It is this last plot detail upon which the tale swings: without it, one could plausibly explain away a car that suddenly rumbled to life; with it, only divine intervention could have sped the victim to safety.
While the legend is meant to impart the lesson that the Heavenly Father looks out for those who pray to him (especially those who turn to him when their lives are in danger or their need is otherwise especially great), like so many other glurges it simultaneously imparts another, far darker, message.
That dark message is also part and parcel of a story that is almost this legend's twin, the tale about a woman traversing an alley who is spared from harm because her prayers result in her assailant seeing a pair of guardian angels protectively walking beside her. In both tales, the prayers of menaced women prompt miracles to be sent their way which work to forestall them from coming to harm. "Saved by prayer" tales imply that folks who do fall victim to the machinations of the ill-intentioned either weren't pious enough or didn't pray hard enough, else their assaults would likewise have been miraculously prevented.
The truly worthy, the truly unworthy, and all manner of folk in between can and do get raped, beaten, and murdered. While it might be comforting to believe that a quick, heartfelt prayer to one's higher power would get an endangered person out of harm's way, the reality is far different. Good people, even prayerful people, can have bad things happen to them. To think otherwise is to draw comfort from the notion that all those who have been victimized mustn't have prayed hard enough, or that deep down they just weren't good people after all.
Barbara "strikes and spareds" Mikkelson
Last updated: 7 April 2011