January 11, 2018

Vending Machine Prayers

Gary Thomas — 

In his book, My Name Is Hope, John Mark Comer contrasts “vending machine prayers” with “prayers in Jesus’ name.” When applied to marriage, the analogy is quite illuminating.

John Mark writes, “Vending machine prayers sound like, ‘God, my marriage is a wreck. Fix my marriage. Make me happy with my spouse.

“Prayers in Jesus’ name sound like, ‘God my marriage needs your healing Spirit. Please transform me from the inside out and help me to love my wife.”

Which prayer sounds most mature to you? Which prayer is most likely to lead to spiritual enlightenment? Which prayer is most likely to lead to a marriage that honors God and is ultimately more satisfying?

Pray that prayer.

Another vending machine prayer would be, “God I’m so frustrated about the lack of meaningful sex in my marriage. Would you please fix my wife/husband and make her/him care?”

A prayer in Jesus’ name might be, “Lord, help me to become the kind of loving spouse my husband/wife desires to be intimate with. Show me any hurts or actions that might be hindering our intimacy, and lead us toward a place of generosity and service in this area.”

The right kind of prayer can be so effective, but some “prayer” really isn’t prayer. It’s complaining. It will never change you or your marriage. When a couple comes to me for an hour of “pastoral counseling” and spend the first 50 minutes talking, they don’t leave with much, frankly. Prayer can be just like that. God doesn’t need our “information.” What he needs are humble hearts willing to listen and to be transformed.

We have a lot of readers on this blog so I want to ask your assistance to “finish” this blog post. Just as John Mark gave an example of a common vending machine prayer, and then offered the alternative “prayer in Jesus’ name,” will you take the time to do the same in the comments section? Write out a typical “vending machine prayer” as it relates to marriage and family, and then write out the better “prayer in Jesus’ name.”

I’ve never tried this before—asking readers to write the blogpost. But I know from past comments we have many godly, wise, and gifted readers. So this could be fun…

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38 responses to Vending Machine Prayers

  1. i am learning so much from the comments… thanks for the godly wisdom

  2. Vending Machine Prayer:

    I am so upset at what my spouse did or didn’t do. Help them see how they have hurt me and make them repent. I need You because this isn’t right.

    In Jesus’ Name Prayer:

    I come to You desperate to know You more. I realize how much Your Son suffered to allow me to approach Your throne of grace for help in times of need. This is one of those times. Help me to to see this situation from Your perspective. Help me to love my spouse the way You have loved me. I ask, “not my will, but Yours be done, for Your glory.
    In Jesus’ name,

    I have come to realize that, as quoted often, “God is more interested in my holiness, than my happiness.”

    Thanks for this exercise, Gary. You really made us think!

  3. Vending machine: Lord what is wrong with my husband? He just doesn’t ever get me. I’m so tired of trying to make this a good marriage. Please help us!

    In Jesus name: Father God please open my eyes to the ways I can lift my husband up. Help me to understand his hurts so I may truly minister to him and give him the unconditional love he deserves. I thank you for (list good qualities) the way he works so hard to provide. For his humor and how he makes me laugh. For the way he reaches over and touches my hand You Lord are sovereign and I am not. Your ways are not mine. Help me be still and know that You are God and you’ve got this. In Jesus name. 😋

    • I forgot to thank you Gary Thomas. Your wisdom in Sacred Marriage helped wth my vending machine prayers.

  4. Vending machine prayer: God! Please send me a hot, sexy man that treats me like a princess and is not a jerk!

    Prayer in Jesus name: Lord God, Giver of Life and Lover of my soul…Thank You for Your truth. Thank You for revealing my short comings. I trust You to prepare me for the man of Your choosing in accordance with Your will, if it be such. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and equip me as a virtuous woman for marriage and family to respond to the call You have on my life. I pray for my future husband as an obedient, faithful, honest, gentle, leader and man of integrity. I pray I would follow, love, cherish, and honor Him as well as help to encourage us in spiritual, emotional, physical, etc., intimacy. May we grow closer to You and each other. I believe You can do more than I can ask and imagine. I know You see my need, and may Your Holy Spirit reveal more attributes for me to consider as You know how You made me and know where I need to be stretched. Your love is true, and You desire authenticity to You. I trust You. Thank You for being my help in waiting. In Jesus name through the power of the Holy Spirit I pray, Amen.

  5. Chris McReynolds January 11, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    A vending machine prayer…”Lord, why does she not like me? I don’t understand. I am nice to her and treat her well.” After being knocked to my knees and then some through separation and divorce…I learned the better way to talk with God through Christ.
    “Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to ask for your wisdom in my life. Help me see what it is I need to do to be a better father, man and friend. Help me to lead my girls where they seek your wisdom in all things. Help me show them what grace is in how I deal with them daily. Thank you for your sacrifice Father and teaching me how to let my girls grow and learn life too. In Christ Holy name, Amen”

  6. I read this article earlier today, and as I sit here doing my Bible study, I was directed to this passage from Romans 8:26 “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

  7. My old prayer used to be: “Lord, please help my husband to be less selfish, to be less interested in his friends and more interested in us. Please make him see what he is doing wrong and change.”
    I’ve learned that I need to start with what I can change, myself, and leave my husband’s heart to God. “Lord, please help me to love and respect my husband no matter what. Help me to create a home that welcomes him, to be less selfish with my time so we can do things together that interest him, and help me let go of the anger and bitterness over past mistakes. Thank you for blessing me with a husband and family to love and care for.”
    Though change has been slow, I am immensely happier in my marriage.

  8. Father, I am so frustrated and upset about this situation. I don’t even know what to ask you for, but I know this isn’t right or healthy. Please, help! What is your will and how do we get there?
    (Banking on Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.)

  9. I used to have a litany of prayer requests for my 3 daughters which, if I’m honest, would help me to feel, (if they were answered) as if I had done a good job as a mom.
    God has gently invited me to look at how He has shaped my heart, using methods and circumstances I would not have asked for, and to pray He would give them a Holy ambition, a calling that may not be grand in the world’s eyes, but profoundly pleasing to the Father.
    I guess if I could put it into simple words, it would be moving from “give them..” to “shape them..”

  10. Several years ago, while on my knees, the Lord opened my eyes to my “vending machine prayers”, and how they were all about me. “Lord, I don’t know what to do. I can’t make him understand where I’m coming from. Lord, I’m sorry that I lost my temper with him.” And on and on….

    And the Lord told me “It’s not about you. It’s not about your husband. It’s not even about your marriage. It’s about ME.” And he taught me how to pray….

    “Lord, thank you that YOU are bigger than this issue. Thank you that YOU are the healer of all. YOU Lord, are all merciful, and YOU desire that none shall be lost. Thank you Lord that YOU restore my soul. Thank you Jesus that YOU care about our concerns. YOU are a mighty God. YOU are alive and well! YOU never slumber or sleep! YOUR thoughts and intentions are for our good. I trust YOU Father with this situation and believe that YOU will turn it for good.”

    Well, by now we all get the picture. God is so compassionate. He doesn’t condemn us for our mistakes. Instead he lifts us up and teaches us a new, better way. He changes us. Thank God, he doesn’t put new wine in old wine skins!

    Thank you Gary for this opportunity to “finish the blog.” It was great fun and a fantastic idea. You are so right. There are many mature christians out there who have much wisdom and experience to share. I have enjoyed reading the responses!

    • Thank you Debbie, for that perspective. I had chosen a “word” for this new year — “re-direct”, which fits with your comment. Your comment reminded me that It’s really not about me OR my husband, but about the Lord. Who God is. My identity is in Christ, not my marriage. My life should be “hidden with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3) My validation, approval, and courage and hope all come from Him. “My soul , wait silently for God alone. For my expectation is from Him.” Psa.62:5

      Thank You, Gary, for the post.

  11. Vending machine prayer:
    God, my daughters attitude is out of hand. Please make her act right and respect the rules of our home.
    In Jesus name prayer:
    Lord, I come to you with a concerned heart. I’m not sure exactly what is going on with my daughter. Please give me wisdom to listen and to understand where this attitude is coming from and help me to change the way I am handling my anger with her and help her to redirect her attitude. I pray for a heart of obedience for her and I ,in your name Jesus, amen.