Hit the diff...and pray

Ronald Annett

4.11.2023 | Mission in Ireland, Farming & Rural Life

In his latest blog Ronald Annett is reminded of a biblical truth when listening to a line in a song about a tractor’s differential lock, or diff-lock – ‘hit diff and pray’… To find out what it is…read on. Basically, with the diff-lock applied, both wheels turn in unison and at the same speed enabling the tractor to move forward over difficult terrain. Without prayer, the Christian life lacks power and traction.

Modern technology has transformed our lives in many different ways, not least in how we listen to music. Thanks to the smart speaker, we no longer need to purchase a CD, or vinyl record, we just have to make a request - and it responds.

In the Annett house, there is one song that seems to get played more often this way than any other, and that’s Marty Mone’s farming classic, ‘Hit the Diff’.  It’s a firm favourite with many a farmer, both young and old, and tells of the exploits of a farming contractor and the huge variety of jobs he gets up to with his tractor.

The differential lock – a definition

For those not mechanically minded, the ‘diff’ refers to the tractor’s differential lock, or diff-lock, as it’s commonly known. The standard open differential on a tractor allows both wheels on each axle to rotate at different speeds, which helps avoid excessive tyre wear while driving around a corner.

However, with an open differential, if one wheel loses traction it will start to spin, while the other wheel may barely turn at all. With the diff-lock applied, both wheels turn in unison and at the same speed, so as long as one wheel has suitable traction, the tractor is able to move forward. Very useful for climbing a steep silo face, or when the tractor gets stuck in a muddy field!

The song’s lyrics continue with the words “Hit the diff and pray”. The more often I hear them echo around our house, the more I am convinced they contain an element of biblical truth.

Connecting God’s will with ours

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus provides His followers with a framework for prayer, which we commonly call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. In it He encourages His followers to pray “‘your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:10). In these words, Jesus is instructing us to ask that God would transform our thoughts, desires, hopes, plans and actions here on earth, and bring them into unison with His own perfect and sovereign will. You could say that prayer is like a ‘heavenly diff-lock’, connecting God’s will with ours.

For the Christian, prayer is also a powerful weapon. James 5:16 tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power”, and it’s when we pray that God’s power is displayed. You have to look no further than the book of Acts, where daily devotion to prayer was a top priority for the Early Church (Acts 2:42). Without prayer, the Christian life lacks power and traction.

It is however a fact that many Christians (including myself) spend so little time in prayer. It must have been the same for the disciples, for the Lord Jesus encouraged them, as He encourages us, to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

In many of his letters, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Church to pray, for example, he says “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If the Lord Jesus and Paul were keen to encourage us to pray, then it must be important! Prayer can change things; it can also change us, especially if you are not a Christian, and you would like to come into a relationship with Jesus and know the salvation that He alone can offer.

But one last thought. When growing up, we had an old tractor on the farm whose diff-lock had seized up, through lack of use. Perhaps your prayer life is a bit like that at the moment. So let me encourage you to ‘hit the diff’ today - and pray!

Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains.  He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.

His blog appeared in today’s Farming Life, a fortnightly column entitled ‘Good News for the Countryside’, where people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life.

You can read Ronald’s other contributions and look at other reflections in this series of blogs here.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at ruralchaplain@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 07938 488 372.

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