The must-see NASCAR prayer

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By David Whitlock

“Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife…”
No, I didn’t say it! (My wife warned me if I prayed that publicly it might be my last prayer.) Those are the words of the Rev. Joe Nelms, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lebanon, Tenn., praying at NASCAR’s Federated 300 Nationwide Series race in Nashville, on Saturday of last week. Pastor Nelms became an instant star on the Internet with comments about his prayer ranging from “the greatest prayer ever,” to “blasphemous.” 
It is neither.
As far as I can tell, it’s simply the heartfelt prayer of a man, in this case a pastor and life-long NASCAR fan (this wasn’t the first time he has prayed at a NASCAR event), who didn’t want to pray what he called, “ the cookie-cutter prayer.”
Every NASCAR event begins with an invocation, and like most prayers before public events, they are generally quite the same. And most people don’t pay attention.
But Pastor Nelms woke them. The Bible says we should give thanks in all things, and that’s exactly what Nelms did. He thanked the Lord for Toyotas, Dodges, and Fords, for Sunoco racing fuel, for GM performance, and most of all, as he put it, “Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa…’”
Actually, Nelms adapted the line about his wife from Ricky Bobby’s (Will Farrell) prayer to Baby Jesus in the movie, Talladega Nights. Pastor Nelms was, I believe, trying to communicate something spiritual in a humorous way.
Our church custodian picked up on it, although he may not have realized it at the time. On Monday morning of last week, as I arrived at church, he summarized the latest weekend news (he does this most Mondays), and at the top of his broadcast was the story of Rev.  Nelms’ prayer. My instinctive response was, “Well, is she? (Smokin’ hot, that is.)
“I don’t know,” he said, “She must be to him.”
Good answer.
With all the publicity about his prayer, pictures of the Rev. Nelms and his wife were all over the internet. If by “hot” one means a female that resembles Ricky Bobby’s wife, Carley (Leslie Bibb), or Miss Sprint Cup (any Miss Sprint Cup), then Ms. Nelms isn’t there. And some of the snide remarks posted on the Internet made that observation. But they’ve missed the deeper lesson.
If she’s “hot” to pastor Nelms, that’s all that matters. She, or anyone — male or female — doesn’t have to fit the American cultural image of “hot” to be “hot.”
Security in a long-term relationship must have as its basis something more than mere physical attraction. In a recent poll taken by askmen.com and cosmopolitan.com, half of the men surveyed say they would drop their partner if she gained weight. Twenty percent of the women said the same. Maybe we’ve let the Miss Sprint Cup and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader image of “hot” determine what’s acceptable and what’s not for us. But sooner or later, we will be disappointed.
The important thing is to love and appreciate the one you are with, extending unconditional acceptance in relationships.
It works both ways — for male and female — this expression of gratitude for the one you are with. And there are benefits to being grateful; sometimes it ricochets back in unexpected ways.
When things get a little tense on my home front, as they invariably do in most normal relationships, when an annoying habit of mine (Did I just admit to having those?) grates on my wife’s last nerve, when I see those beautiful eyes start to narrow (signaling anger), her right foot begin tapping (a sign of frustration), her pretty face turning away from me (a sure indication of exasperation, warning me of imminent danger), I know it’s time for the NASCAR prayer.
I look heavenward, stretch my arms wide, and utter those words, “Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife.”
Her frown instantly transforms into that familiar cute grin as she coyly turns her face back towards me, rolls her eyes and exclaims, “Oh, you!”
Ahh, God has once again intervened. And lo! I am forgiven.
And then my prayer she doesn’t hear, “Lord, I really do thank you for my smokin’ hot wife…
And for your mercy!”

Editor’s Note: See the NASCAR prayer, go to www.youtube.com and enter Joe Nelms in the search box.

Contact David B.Whitlock, Ph.D. at drdavid@davidbwhitlock.com or visit his website, www.davidbwhitlock.com.