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. “Lord I can’t even fake what it looks like to be a godly wife and mom!”

    “Father forgive me for being selfish. Help me be transparent, grateful and softened to Your Holy Spirit. Help me see where I can change and empower me to do it. Please take captive my thoughts to the obedience of You. In Jesus name, love, Me”

  2. I’ve read commentaries on prayer like this one before… this was a good reminder. I have tried to be mindful of my “grocery list” prayers. “Father, I need this, this and this”…much like the vending machine prayer. Those prayers are, “Lord, he is driving me crazy. Can’t you see that I need him to be more attentive, more caring?” A prayer in Jesus’ name would then be, “Father, change my heart to be more mindful of my husband’s needs. Help us to focus less on our own self, but to put the other one first, in Jesus’ name.”

  3. Vending machine prayer…prayer to fix anybody other then oneself…praying in Jesus name…fix anything that needs changes in me.

  4. My prayer is that our marriage would reflect the Holy Trinity by displaying our oneness with each other and, most important, our Oneness with Jesus Christ as we seek Him individually and as a couple. That, also, we would be an example of His grace, mercy and forgiveness as we learn what it means to live with another flawed human who will let us down from time to time.
    To sum it up. My prayer is that our marriage points people to God and not marriage. As God is the ultimate Lover and our marriage should only be a reflection of His love for us. My plea to anyone looking to us as an example of marriage is this: Please don’t look at our reflection for too long, it has some ripples and can be distorted at times.
    If anyone should look at us and get a glimpse of glory, I ask that they turn around and look at who is reflected and reflect on Him.

  5. God we don’t communicate anymore, what’s wrong with me? What do I have to do for him to talk to me?

    God, give me Wisdom and understanding when to speak and how to speak for effective communication with my husband.

  6. Great post and I see this frequently throughout my friends’ relationships and even my own!
    An example of a vending machine prayer could be, “Lord, please help my husband to understand me and why I’m upset with him so that he changes his behavior to what I want it to be and he stops doing ___.”
    An example of that being a prayer in Jesus’ name might be, “Lord, please help ME soften my heart and speak with gentleness and patience when I speak with my husband, lead my words and guide my heart as you show me the ways to discuss this topic with him so that I may understand him better and why he does the things he does. Allow me to seek his heart to discover if there’s hurts in him that I have caused that have lead to this.”

  7. Vending Machine Prayer- “God my husband is not romantic at all, he doesn’t pay any attention to my needs. Can you send me a new husband, who will care?”

    In Jesus Name Prayer- “Father Almighty God, You knows all things. Help my husband in his weak areas, help him to be more attentive to me in terms of romance. Help him to love me dear Lord in all areas. Lord, help me as well to love my husband and to stay faithful to him, in times of difficulties. In Jesus Name. Amen.”

  8. Before: I would run immediately to my spouse with an offense.

    Now, I attempt to pray this: God, please work on his heart regarding this matter and YOU convict him by your spirit if that’s your will. And please at the same time work in my heart and reveal any ways that I need to take responsibility and choose humility. If it needs to be discussed, show me the time and place to bring this up and discuss it with him.

    Very often when I go running straight to my husband, there are a bunch of things missing:

    1) I have not given God time to work in his heart.
    2) I have not given God time to work in my heart.
    3) I don’t know all of the details of the situation and have very often jumped to conclusions.
    4) I have not assumed the basic goodwill of my husband.
    5) I have responded with an emotional, knee jerk reaction that lacked grace.
    6) I have chosen terrible times and places for “discussion” (truthfully, my attack).

    Asking God to bathe each of us in His grace and to reveal TRUTH essentially turns the weapons of offense into tools in our marriage.

    And btw, I’m not always successful, but I’m definitely trying to implement this consistently!

    This strategy is largely a result of:

    – meditating on one of my favorite hymns, “What a friend we have in Jesus ….all our sins and griefs to bear.” I am learning that Jesus is able to handle my griefs as well as my sins. Actually, my sins were relatively easy to hand over to him; my griefs are harder because I typically want
    to handle offenses myself. A terrible plan!

    – meditating on Proverbs 25:11-13 Amplified Bible
    Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    Is a word spoken AT THE RIGHT TIME.
    Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
    Is A WISE REPROVER to an ear that listens and learns.
    Like the cold of snow [brought from the mountains] IN THE TIME OF HARVEST,
    So is a faithful messenger to those who SEND him; (I should not speak any message unless God sends me to do it!)
    For he REFRESHES the life of his masters. (The goal should ultimately be the refreshment of my husband and our marriage, not just making my point and complaining)

    Learning to do marriage God’s way is such a blessing!!!!

  9. “Vending machine prayer:” God, please make my husband love you more so he will be the spiritual leader in our home….

    “In Jesus’ Name prayer:” God, give me the strength to live each day for you, in service to you, and in respect to my husband, all while still praying for him to experience a deeper relationship with you, in Jesus’ name…

  10. And prayer is so much more than asking. It’s acknowledging God. That he has a plan. He has a purpose for my marriage. It’s thanking God for the blessing of my wife. It’s worship and submission. The more I focus on God in prayer the more I am able to see my wife and out relationship and my childish selfishness through His eyes. Prayer becomes transformational.

  11. “God, my kids are driving me crazy. I’m tired of all the fits and embarrassing public outbursts lately. Help them to understand that they need to obey me.”


    “Lord, thank you for entrusting me with these beautiful lives that you’ve created. Create in me an obedient heart to your will so that I might be able to lead them clearly by example. Show me places where I can grow to be more like you: slow to anger, patient, kind, and humble. Help me to love them and show them grace the way you do to me as we all grow and learn. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

  12. Vending: Lord, I’m so tired and scared because of my husbands retirement. He has no interests or hobbies. What is this going to mean for us? Amen
    In Jesus Name: Heavenly Farther, I come to you in confession that I have believed the enemy of lies. My trust and security has been in my husband instead of you. Help me Father to replace weary fear with faith and hope that is only found in you. Help me Lord to be his helpmate as he navigates this next phase of life. In Jesus Name Amen

  13. Gary, thank you so much for your powerful words! Even though I not married yet (I am in a serious relationship already for 13 months), I feel this topic of “vending machine prayers” is so true for so many people (including me!). I’d say it is true not only for married couples, but especially for singles (AND those of us dating as well). I remember when I was younger and SO single. Before I realized how wrong I was, I’d prayed “Lord, give me a boyfriend! I just don’t want to be lonely anymore, please Lord, hear my prayer!” way too often! Only after I matured (which was some 6 years ago) I was able to finally pray “Lord, You know what is best for me. I leave the choice in your hands. Please show me – when the time is right – Your will and give me the strength to do what is right.” And He answered indeed! Yes, it took Him 5 more years until He (finally :-)) showed me my current boyfriend, but these 5 years were not in vain. During that time, He was molding me, transforming me and making me more like Him – while I was single. And this process still continues; He’s not done with me by any means. Now I can clearly see how He is working on me through my boyfriend and sometimes it is not easy to handle it! I can imagine that a vending machine prayer for this season of my life would be something like “Lord! Do You see that? Change him! I want him to be more of this and less of that!”. But now I know that a true prayer looks more like “Please, Lord, give me all that I lack so that I can be a better girlfriend. Please lead us so that together we can reflect Your image!”
    God bless you, Gary!

  14. Vending Machine Prayer: “Lord! Why doesn’t he do it my way…why doesn’t he do what I want him to do when I want him to do it?!”
    In Jesus’ Name Prayer: “Lord, help me to see him as You see him, help me to be patient with his response and timetable, and not have to have things my way in order to be satisfied”

  15. Lord, I pray to see my wife through your eyes and not through my selfishness. I pray the Holy Spirit to enable me to respond to her with love, patience and kindness, to lift her up. I pray Jesus that I reflect you to her, your daughter.

  16. Vending Machine: God I can not believe he said that, he is so insensitive. God convict him of his mean words.

    In Jesus Name: God help me not to be so sensitive and read something into everything he says. Forgive me for my judging and critical spirit and fill my heart with love, mercy, and compassion. Show me how I can bless him with my words. May my words encourage and bless others today.

  17. Stella S. Johnson January 11, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Lord, I deeply dislike having to deal with my husband’s ex-wife so frequently and how she interrupts our home and how we raise their 3 children. Could you help me avoid her and make it easy to raise the children in our split custody agreement?
    Lord, forgive my resentment and please help guide me to peace and provide wisdom in how we co-parent these three children. Allow me to see my husband’s ex-wife as you do and give me the ability to love her as you do. Strip me of my pride and need to control and fill those places with the desire to be the wife and mother you intended me to be. I thank you for your presence in this marriage and family and for bringing us so far. I praise you and love you.

  18. Dear Gary,

    Thanks for this insight. I firmly believe that, once again, Holy Spirit has you on to something very powerful. The Bible tells us to ask in Jesus Name and according to His will for us. After reading “Cherish” for the 5th time, I am allowing Jesus to fill me and make His thoughts, my thoughts. Thank you!

    My Vending Machine Prayer would typically be; God, why won’t you change my wife. Everything I say and do is wrong. She won’t follow me or even let me lead in anything, but always has to have the last word. She corrects everything that I say. Help her to want to serve me in our sex life. she seems to not be interested in me. Lord, please help her to see where she is wrong. Amen.. Maybe I did not really say all of these things, but, I have sometimes meant these things in my heart.

    “Prayers in Jesus Name” are more like: Jesus, you gave to me the most wonderful gift, when you gave me my wife. Just like Eve, she is perfect in every way for me. You do NOT make junk. Help me please to see the wonderful gift that you have given and cherish her for every strength and area of growth. Help me to bring her before your throne with great joy and present her to you, Holy and Blameless. Help me to spur her on to Holiness and fan the flames of righteousness in her.. Lord, help me to serve her and listen to the Godly wisdom that you have placed in her heart and soul. Lord, she is your daughter and my spiritual sister. Help me to love and cherish her as you do..

    Lord, I am an empty well most of the time. I need a fresh infilling of your grace and love so that I can overflow into her and the others that you have given to me to cherish and serve. Give me the strength and desire to love and cherish my precious wife, as you have loved and cherished me. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. In my life and marriage Lord, be glorified. In Jesus Name. AMEN..

  19. I’m going through this right now with my family. My dad is getting more hurtful and mean in his verbal communication with my mom and me. I’ve tried talking to him about the way he speaks to us and how hurtful it is and he rebuffs any feedback and won’t take responsibility. I’ve been praying for God to convict his heart and work on him but have changed the focus of my prayers to God, help me to reflect You to him and love him even when he’s hurtful. Help me to allow the verbal abuse to roll off and not affect how I respond to him so that he sees the difference and turns toward you in repentance.

  20. Selena Kogila Munien January 11, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Thank you for the opportunity to share one vending machine prayer- God I can’t handle this marriage – this husband/wife frustrates me. Let him see his ways and change. Prayers in Jesus name – Father I am struggling to understand my husband, open up my spiritual eyes that I may see him through your eyes to love and understand him more in Jesus name Amen