The other day, my brother and I were talking about prayer. He mentioned that some people see God merely as a Vending Machine. And sometimes ask my brother to pray only because they think he has better luck with The Vending Machine. Isn't that so true! I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid I thought of prayer mostly as a means for getting things I wanted or not getting things I didn't want, like a spanking. And no, it didn't work.
I asked God to pleeeease make Mom and Dad give me the ice skates I wanted for Christmas, to make me get a good grade on a test for which I'd not studied one iota, to make the sun stand still so I wouldn't have to get on the bus yet, to make other kids not mad at me, to perform a miracle of 'healing' when I'd broken a plate that was special to Mom, to make my brothers get what they had coming to them, etc.
And as we become adults, we tend to continue to treat God as a vending machine. We ask God for a good job, for good health, for good kids, for good money, a good home, good friends, etc.
Jesus, however, obviously didn't view God as a vending machine, and we have been told by Jesus to pray as He did,
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I don't know about you, but it takes a lot of effort and self restraint to pray selflessly like that, spending time in worship first, seeking God's will, rather than jumping right in with the wish list. Jesus said that we have not because we ask not, or that we ask with wrong motives, so that we can heap it upon our selfish selves.
But what if we're not praying selfishly? What if we're praying about really important things. What if we're praying about something like cancer, and still God doesn't give us what we want? I've thought about that and two people come to my mind. Paul and Jesus. Paul had some 'thorn' in his flesh that God chose not to take from him. I don't know what it was and I don't know why God didn't take it from him. I doubt it was because Paul didn't have enough faith or that he didn't phone enough people on the prayer chain.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus begged God, 'If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,' referring to his imminent death on the Cross, where he took all our sin upon himself, was separated from God, and suffered the the full wrath of God for our sins. You'd think that Jesus of all people, God's perfect Son, would have enough pull to get what He wanted, but God said no. Jesus submitted himself to the Father's will, 'Yet not as I will, but as You will.' Jesus was obedient, even to death on a cross.
So first of all, I need to remember that my desires need to be in alignment with the way Jesus prayed. Am I really praying for God's will to be done, or am I simply hoping the Vending Machine God will cough out my will in return for my sincere five minutes worth of prayer.
And then, sometimes when I am praying in God's will and lay my requests before Him, I need to remember that He may say 'No.' Will I respond the way Jesus did and say, 'Yet not as I will, but as You will.' ? Or, will I angrily shout, 'How could a loving God...!!'
Please remind me of this when I get to a place in my life where you see me forgetting what I know to be true and right. We are here to help one another. I will need your help at that time. I will need you to remind me of who God is and who I am. I will need you to pray for me and help me get back on the right path, to submit my will to God's will.
Note to Steve in case he's reading: This post was written on Friday, October 22, FYI :-)