Vending Machine Prayers

Put your money in, push the buttons to indicate your desire, and it is yours—all you have to do is reach in and grab what you ordered. Is this a trip to the vending machine or a prayer?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines prayer as an address (a petition) to God or a god in word or thought; an earnest request or wish.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines prayer as an address (a petition) to God or a god in word or thought; an earnest request or wish.

Foxhole Christianity is a lot like the vending machine approach. So are credit-card prayers that promise remuneration at a later date—they always remind me of the request from Popeye’s friend Wimpy, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Or prayer chain emails that ends with a warning: “if you don’t send it to ten people in the next hour, you won’t be blessed and neither will they.”

God wants us to pray. He promises to listen and to answer.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) There are many more verses that say the same thing. He encourages us to spend time praying.

I am old enough for an AARP card and have been praying all my life: for needs, for healing, for others, for blessing, for comfort, for strength, for forgiveness, for change, for protection, … I will continue to pray, and some them will still probably be one-sided directives in the foxhole and credit cards categories. But what is changing is my understanding of God (even though the great “I AM” is totally beyond my human understanding). I am also spending more time listening to what God has to say. And so my prayers are evolving because my definition of God is changing.

“The picture we have of who God is
affects the way we pray.”

~ Kathleen evenhouse

What is your own definition of God? Pick some words from the following list to help you put your image of God into words. Almighty, Creator, Loving, Savior, Angry, Gracious, Everlasting, Father, Good Shepherd, Teacher, Comforter, Servant, Truth and the Way, Friend of Sinners, Punisher of Sinners, King of Kings, Breath of Life, Author of Peace, Deliverer, Guide, Hope, Holy Ghost, Intercessor, Light of the World, Savior, Refuge, Teacher, The Great Physician, Merciful, Mighty One, … These are just a few of the names of God, and each one has a great depth of meaning behind it.

I invite you to write down the top ten names of God that come to you. These names will give you an idea of your individual definition of God. For example, if you often start your prayers with “Father God,” put it on your list. Study what the Bible says about fathers and match that up with your experience with fathers (you have, had, or are one). Your personalized meaning of fatherhood is a part of your definition of Father God.

Do this for all the names on your top ten list, then add more names and start the process all over again. Pray and ask God to help you knew him more. Your picture of God will grow, and grow, and grow. Your prayers will, too.

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