Vending Machine Prayers
I Prayed. Why doesn't He Answer?
This past week, I was fervently praying for God to give me wisdom on how to solve a problem when I was interrupted by a question.
“What are you expecting Me to do?”
I knew what He meant. He wasn’t saying I shouldn’t ask Him for wisdom. The issue was, I didn’t really want wisdom. I wanted the magic solution. The solution that would make the problem disappear forever without requiring too much effort from me.
Like a vending machine, I wanted to be able to put my prayer in and have the solution come out. Nice and tidy. No need to learn or to grow.
“Just wave Your magic wand, Lord, and make it happen.” After all, He is capable of doing that.
Case in Point
For example, I’m a writer. Occasionally I suffer from writer’s block. I have a deadline to meet, an article to write. But I can’t find anything that inspires me. My screen remains white and empty. So, I pray. After all, I want everything I write to be inspired by the Holy Spirit anyway.
Or maybe I get an idea. But that’s it. I write down the idea and don’t know what to do with it. My cursor sits blinking at the end of the sentence.
Shouldn’t God help me flesh it out? Or better yet, tell me what to write?
Why is it such a struggle to write? Why doesn’t He make it easier? I’m doing this for Him, after all.
Have you prayed similar prayers looking for resolution and it seems you receive no answer?
For years I thought that I didn’t get answers to my prayers because I didn’t have enough faith. Or, I wasn’t holy enough. Or, I hadn’t figured out the correct formula for answered prayer. Or, maybe, God didn’t care about me as much as He cared about others.
Have you had similar thoughts?
Sowing and Reaping
When the Lord stopped my prayer last week with the question: “What are you expecting me to do?” He followed up with a text for me to ponder.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7
And this is what I discovered.
God very rarely interrupts this cycle of sowing and reaping in response to prayer. If we are not sowing, there will be nothing to reap. If we don’t make the effort to reap, we will not enjoy the fruits of our labor.
However, He does provide the tools and the knowledge for us to learn to sow different seeds and thus reap a better crop… if we choose to use His tools and seek His knowledge.
Work Station Woes
Let me illustrate. At my last job, I was really struggling with pain in my lower back. Additionally, the back of my legs started going numb if I sat at my desk for longer than 20 minutes. I went to the chiropractor, did stretches, and prayed fervently that the Lord would fix whatever was going on.
But it continued.
Finally, I went to HR to beg for a stand/sit desk, the only solution that I could come up with.
This was the first time the HR director had heard I was having problems. She came to assess whether or not my workstation fit me. We ended up exchanging the chair for one that fit me and ensuring the seat was at the right height for my legs. Then she moved my screen so it was at eye level and gave me a mouse pad with a wrist cushion.
My low back pain disappeared and my legs stopped going numb when I sat at my desk. And, as a bonus, my wrist stopped aching as well.
God did not take away my back pain because I needed to learn about ensuring that my chair, my keyboard, and my computer screen were adjusted to fit me. This new knowledge has helped me continue to remain free of back and leg problems no matter where I work.
Which reminded me of Hosea 4:6:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
This wasn’t because God didn’t give them the resources to acquire the knowledge they needed. It was because they refused to pay attention to the scriptures they had or the prophets God sent. They refused to learn and put it into practice.
Ask, Seek, Knock Are All Action Verbs
As I was pondering this concept of sowing and reaping, two verses came to mind and I was struck by the action verbs in them:
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Luke 11:9-10
But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
God didn’t promise us that, if we had faith in Him, all our questions would instantly be answered; or that our troubles would disappear. He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have to work to acquire what He has promised. There is a part we play that God cannot do for us.
The Israelites were promised the land of Canaan. God even parted the Jordan river for them to cross on dry ground. However, once there, they spent the next five years in hand-to-hand combat to take the land from the Canaanites. God gave them victory, but they still had to physically go to battle with swords and spears and risk injury or death.
Sometimes it is not a physical challenge but a mental one. Sometimes we have to unlearn false beliefs and misconceptions and replace them with the truth.
Saul, the fanatical persecutor of the early church, was converted when Jesus confronted him on his way to Damascus. But Jesus did not miraculously shift Paul’s entire understanding of the Messianic prophecies. He had to go to Arabia for three years of intense study to unlearn all the false interpretations of scripture and learn the correct interpretation in view of Jesus’ death on the cross. Only then was he ready to become a world-renowned evangelist and prolific author.
So Why Didn’t God Answer My Vending Machine Prayer about Writer’s Block?
When I am spending quality time in God’s presence praying and meditating on His word, often my meditation (see Biblical Meditation: What is It?) becomes fodder for an article. When I neglect to ensure that I connect with God during my devotional time, my writing becomes forced, mechanical, and uninspired.
To be brutally honest, I had been allowing other things to invade my devotional time of late. Consequently, I did not experience any meaningful connections with God through prayer and meditation on the Word.
I wasn’t sowing, so there was nothing to reap.
Additionally, wrestling with the subjects I write about forces me to internalize and apply the principles in my own life. If God dictated them to me, I doubt I would learn much from them. Or, more pointedly, I doubt I would apply what I am learning to my own life.
Exercise strengthens muscles. If God handed me everything on a silver platter, I would get spiritually lazy and weak.
It Boils Down to This:
A strong spiritual life does not come easy. We must be willing to actively seek knowledge and understanding through prayer, scripture, and godly mentors (either in person or in books). We need to ask for help from God and others instead of expecting it to drop miraculously in our lap, or mysteriously be downloaded into our brain by God. We should knock on doors and then walk through them when God opens them.
This keeps our spiritual life healthy, strong, and energetic.
So the next time you discover you are praying a vending machine prayer, stop and ask yourself:
“Is there something I need to be sowing in order to reap?”
Then engage your spiritual muscles. Step up. Seek, ask, knock…and grow closer to God. You may just find that is the answer to your prayer that you needed all along.
All verses quoted are taken from the New King James Version, Copywrite by Thomas Nelson, 1982.
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