Vending Machine Prayer

January 30, 2012

Sin, Satan, culture, and even a well-meaning church have all challenged the biblical understanding of God as a tender Father, sovereign King, passionate Bridegroom, and jealous Judge. We’ve believed lies to one extent or another, which has caused us to approach prayer like we would approach a vending machine. Our quantity of prayer and zeal in prayer become two sides of the coin we insert into the vending machine called “God”. Almost automatically, we believe when we press the right combination of buttons by praying with the right scriptures and fasting a large number of days, God is required to dispense an answer because that is simply what He is programmed to do.

We’ve forgotten that prayer is relational, not mechanical. Jesus Himself commanded His disciples to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8) not because He needed them to help Him accomplish something, but because He wanted them to remain in relationship with Him and not give up on their faith in the face of extreme opposition. As it did for the disciples, the means to correct our flawed understanding of prayer does not begin with us, but begins and ends with Him. We will never grow in perseverance by focusing primarily on our understanding of the “mechanics” of prayer or our understanding more about our identity before God. While those things may be helpful to examine at times, they are not the elemental fuel of a persevering prayer life. Christians do not struggle with perseverance in prayer because of a lack of understanding of prayer or of themselves, but struggle because of a lack of understanding of God.

We have access by faith to His heart through Jesus (Romans 5:2, Hebrews 4:16), where we can ask with innocence as a young boy talks to his father (Matthew 7:11), with the tenderness of intimacy as a bride talks to her bridegroom (Ephesians 5:25-32), with the confidence of a servant that the king has the power to do anything in his sovereignty (Psalms 115:3, Matthew 6:8-13), and with fear and trembling as we approach a righteous judge who alone sets the standard of righteousness (John 5:27).

The solution to our lack of perseverance in prayer, therefore, is an ardent focus on the Gospels, where we are beckoned to behold the knowledge of the glory of God as seen in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). For when we see Him rightly, we will relate to Him rightly. When we become consumed with His words, we set our hope on the Day that we hear them with our own ears. Our hearts will long for greater nearness to His, and until the day we see His face here on the earth again, we will pray.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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