Tag Archives: vending machine

Prayer and Frustration…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, November 12, 2018

hugs, hearts

Prayer and Frustration…

If I truly believe in prayer, and in a God who answers prayer, that whole premise can be frustrating. I realize that many people have a “vending-machine” idea of a God who grants wishes. For some, like a huge cosmic Genie, except we are not limited to one three wishes.

Why do I believe in prayer, anyway? It doesn’t work. People still get sick, and have horrible diseases, and devastating accidents. Just look at a pediatric ICU ward. (Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers for those suffering, in and out of hospitals and care centers.) Or, stroke unit, or burn unit, or homeless shelter. Or an inner-city police station. Or refugee camp. Or disaster relief center. The list goes on and on.

As Father Nouwen says, “We realize that our world need to change and that no change will ever happen without action, but we often feel lost when it comes to the question of ‘how?’” [1] Actually, two pertinent questions come to mind: “How?” and “How long, O Lord?”

Such desperate frustration does get people up in arms, or confuses them, or causes them to protest, or—in defiance or a wish for oblivion—do nothing, or flee to the bottle or to drugs. Yes, so many are forced to live out their lives in poverty, or pain, or homelessness, or in some other deeply hurting place of body, mind and spirit.

Dear Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. In frustration and agony and surrender, these words come to mind. These words let God know that I realize my dependence on God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. Yes, life is often frustrating! And, yes! God has promised to be with me, every step of the way.

Sure, as Nouwen said, there are ideals of freedom and justice, yet they “are trampled underfoot in everyday practice.” [2] Gracious God, I seek peace, calm, and Your presence. Show me Your love, mercy and forgiveness. Help me to have renewed faith in You, who wants a relationship with me above all else. Even above giving me a soft, easy life, even above any personal frustration I feel on a regular basis. Lord, Your highest goal is to have a relationship with me That’s it. Help me—help us to focus on that aspiration, on that goal. To be loved and known by You, not to get stuff, or money, or power, or prestige. Help me to focus on the things that You want me to. So help me, God.



Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 100.

[2] Ibid, 101.

Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, August 15, 2018

hope heart stone

Wishing, Hoping in Prayer

Father Nouwen had an intriguing definition of hope written by a student: “I see hope as an attitude where everything stays open before me….Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now, or a year from now—that is hope.” [1]

According to both the student and to Father Nouwen, when we hope, hope gives us the perseverance to continue trying, striving. Hope helps us to know we are on target in prayer to pray the prayer of hope.

When “wishes” come into the picture, what then? Is that like going to some sort of giant vending-machine in the sky? Or, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment sort of thing, where wishes magically appear—or magically disappear—as the pray-er wishes earnestly. While this may be one way of prayer, certainly, is it the best way? Ought I treat the Lord God Almighty, who made heaven and earth, like a vending machine? Where I can come up to the “God-o-matic,” punch a number or pull a knob, and out pops the answer to my prayer request?

As Nouwen says, wishes might indeed get tangled up with hope, and “concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it….You wish that…but you hope in….” [2]

Hope is open-ended. Hope is expectation, pure and simple. Hope is simplicity itself. I realize that praying with hope may seem unduly optimistic and pie-in-the-sky. Yet, is this not the way a child comes to their Loving Heavenly Parent and asks? And, am I not described as a child before God? Please, God, help me to embrace that image. Help me to come to You with trust, and love, and hope, just as a child would.

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 72.

[2] Ibid, 73.

Mention Friends in Prayer?

matterofprayer blog post for Thursday, August 21, 2014

PRAY hug friends with prayers

Mention Friends in Prayer?

Periodically, I get comments from random people about prayer. Yes, there are the scoffers who deny the existence of any kind of a Supreme Being. But right now, I’m thinking about people who have lots of different ideas on how prayer actually works.

The last thing in the world that I want to do is to set myself up as a maven of all things prayer-related. Heavens, no! However, I do know some elementary things about prayer and meditation. I try to communicate with God regularly. I try to mention my family in prayer, especially my children. I try to remember my congregation, my friends. And, I try to mention those who people ask me to remember in prayer.

Sometimes, certain people seem to think that God is a vending machine in the sky. They put in their order, or they choose from the selection they see on offer, and they expect God to deliver. On demand. At a time of their choosing. (This is especially problematic when it comes to praying for the outcome of sporting events . . . ) Yes, I have prayed for games and competitions, but I usually pray for each person involved. I ask God to help each one do the very best that they can, and I also pray for clean competition—no fouls or mean-spirited nonsense! (That goes for the fans, too.)

But what about praying for those in poor health? Or for those who are even seriously ill? I am reminded of the U.S. doctor who contracted the Ebola virus some days ago. Today he is being released from the hospital. He worked for a mission agency, and I am sure countless thousands of people were praying for him and his family. I am sure God was concerned about him and his family, just as God is concerned for each and every person around the world who has a serious, life-threatening disease.

I know each person goes through life. Accidents happen. Jobs are lost, companies move, sudden events occur. And I know joy comes into people’s lives: children are born, people graduate from school, weddings are celebrated, people buy houses or businesses or other properties. In other words, life continues to happen. The business of living goes on, in countless lives all over the world.

I want to stress—God is with each of us, amidst the little things. In the center of the darkest night, in the middle of the most joyous event, God is right there, next to each of us. The Apostle Paul comments on this at the beginning of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. He made mention of his fellow believers in prayer. Not only the nearby believers, and not only those in Thessalonica, but also those who were scattered, and far away. In Paul’s time, there were no antibiotics. Few doctors. And many more accidents and mishaps. He knew what dangers were out there. Paul wanted to stress the fellowship we could have with each other—in prayer. Near or far, in encouragement and support.

Remember that old advertising slogan from Ma Bell? “Reach out and touch someone.” That is what prayer can do. That is what prayer can be for each other, whether near or far.

Let’s pray. God, we thank You for the example of our brother Paul. He said in 1 Thessalonians 1 that he made regular mention of the believers in his prayers. Help us to reach out to support others, care for them, and journey with them in prayer. For a little while, at least. Thank You for Your presence with us, through the good times, the stressful times, the scary times, and the sorrowful times. Help us to follow You more nearly, and to pray more faithfully. We pray in Your grace and mercy, amen.


(also published at www.matterofprayer.net Shortlink: