Thoughts From Outside The Vending Machine

The car wash is quite a treat for my children. Not because they get to drive through or watch the brushes scrub the windows from inside the vehicle. That’s not the kind of car wash we go to. We frequent a car wash where you get out and your car is guided through a tunnel. While you wait you go inside to pay your bill and wait for your car to get clean. The trip inside is why my children love the car wash. They get to the office-lobby area where there is housed a vending machine.

vendingSeriously, the whole experience is wrapped up in a machine filled with goodies and buttons! Kati Ann stands fixated on the array of junk food inside the vending machine. She corresponds the numbers on the buttons with the item inside the machine. She is careful to consider her options. And then she turns to her daddy and asks if she can get something out of the vending machine. Jared is a sucker for those 6-year-old blue eyes. He digs in his pocket and finds the appropriate change.

Kati Ann inserts her money, pushes the right button and out falls the white powdered doughnuts she had her eye on. She’s thrilled because she’s never had a white powdered doughnut. (Don’t judge…there are some things better left unknown to children as long as possible. i.e. Chucky Cheese, the toy section at the store and McDonald’s Playplace. If you are a parent, you feel me.) She sits down with her doughnuts and relishes the white powdery goodness.  Her enjoyment is evidenced all over her mouth. She delights in the special treat but when she finishes, she rises from her chair and returns to the vending machine where she hopes for something else.

A vending machine—who knew there could be so much pleasure found from a machine in an old car wash in downtown Huntsville? The reality is that maybe we did know.

Vending machines are a pretty good deal. You put your money in, make a choice and out comes what you want. Vending machines are usually dependable, fairly predictable and meet the hunger of the moment.

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The problem is that sometimes we view God like a Heavenly Vending Machine. Our prayer life can become about what we get from God. We say a prayer, make our request and expect God to drop what we want in the tray at the bottom.

Don’t misunderstand, God wants us to ask Him for stuff.  He wants to know the desire of our heart.  But more than that, God wants for us to know Him.  You know, like a real relationship.

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Over the years, people have developed formulas, techniques and foolproof schemes to get God to say “yes” to their prayers.   I, too, have used some of these methods or formula. I’m not condemning these methods. That certainly is not my place or my intent. Some of these “formulas” have assisted me in presenting myself to God. I have been able to stay more focused and meet with Jesus.

However, as with anything there is a danger to programming our relationship with God. There is a tight line to balance upon when we begin to turn a person into a project. God is not a project to conquer or figure out. He is a person in whom we seek to know. We must be wary of our motives as we approach God in prayer. God is not a vending machine or a cosmic Santa Claus. Our goal is intimacy and a closer, more natural response to God.

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“We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”–Oswald Chambers

Prayer is about relationship with God. When we learn to know God better through prayer , our vending machine mentality is replaced with a more authentic relationship.  Relationship comes through dialogue, conversation and shared-experiences. We talk and listen to the God of the Universe while reaching out to the same God that is closer than our breath. 

When the concept of interacting with God on such a personal level is daunting, exciting and seems almost out of reach, start with being real with God.  If you’ve never been really gut-level honest with God, it will probably seem weird or disrespectful at first.  But give it a shot.  The more you interact with God on a personal level, the more personal He will become.

It is freeing when we discover God is more than a vending machine but the Rock on which we can lean upon.

Question: Have you ever found yourself struggling to have a dialogue with God?  What has helped you come to know and treat God more personally?

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