You’d better think twice about parking your car at the Denver airport. The rabbit population there has been multiplying since 1999, and the furry little creatures are nourishing themselves in the parking lots. Some cars have incurred hundreds of dollars worth of damage from rabbits chewing through clutch lines, brake lines, and automotive wiring. For many motorists, the telltale sign of trouble is when they drive out of the airport and notice that their oil light is on.

Where’s Mr. McGregor when you need him?

It’s dangerous to drive very far when your oil light is flashing because an engine will burn itself up without oil. The word “oil” comes from the word “olive”—notice the similarity?—and it refers to any chemical liquid that has a high carbon content and is slippery (the technical term is “nonpolar”). The first oils were extracted from olives and other plants, and also from animals (as in whale oil) and from organic remains (as in petroleum). Motor oil is petroleum-based and is necessary for lubricating the moving parts of an internal combustion engine, much as our ancestors greased the axles of their wagons with cooked animal fat.

Oil reduces the friction of the hot moving components of an engine. If it drains away (or rabbits drink it) we’re left with a heavy lump of scrap iron under our hoods. Motor oil has been essential since the very first automobile engine was conceived. When your oil dipper shows full, you have the necessary oil level for a smooth performance. When you’re a quart low, engine performance will suffer.

In our personalities, prayer is the motor oil of the soul. Everything goes better when bathed in prayer and lubricated with the oil of praise. Suppose you have a tense meeting with someone, a meeting you’re dreading. Try taking a half-hour prayer walk, thanking the Lord for the person involved, confessing your sins, examining your heart, and asking God to bless your time, however confrontational or difficult it may be. Ask for wisdom. You can be certain your nerves will be steadier and your results better than if you didn’t pray.

Or suppose you have a problem far removed. You can’t travel to solve it. You have a friend or child in trouble or facing a challenge, perhaps someone in harm’s way. Prayer can travel there in an instant. Your presence—through the act of intercession—will be more instantaneous and influential than if you were physically present. Samuel D. Gordon made this point in his classic book Quiet Talks on Prayer, saying: “Prayer opens a whole planet to (our) activities. I can be touching hearts for God in far away India or China through prayer, as though I were really there.”

I might add that if you’re in India or China, you can reverse that and be touching hearts for God in faraway North or South America as though you were there. When we whisper, our words carry only a few inches. When we speak, they travel a few feet. If amplified by microphones, they might fill a stadium. If carried on radio or television, they might reach a city. But when you pray, your voice instantly circles the globe, touches designated spots on earth, and flies like an arrow right to the heart of heaven, to the throne of God.

When you pray for your children, God will hear and answer. When you pray over matters at home or church, the Lord will respond. Our problems aren’t always solved as quickly as we’d like, but there’s something about the oil of prayer that lubricates all the machinery of our lives. It coats relationships with grace, anoints ministries with power, and perfumes our concerns with the love of Jesus.

If “oil” represents your prayer life, how does your dipstick read? Are you spiritually a quart or two low? Don’t let the little bunnies of busyness nibble away at your prayer time. Take a moment to pop the hood of your daily schedule and tinker with your agenda. Find regular time to pray, for prayer changes things. It’s like oil to the soul.

Check-Up Challenge: Find time today to check your “oil level.” Think about how you can develop a better daily routine and relationship of prayer.