Monday, January 7, 2008

God is not a vending machine

I recently received an email claiming that if I needed financial assistance, all I had to do was read the attached prayer. The sender claimed that one woman, after saying the prayer, miraculously received enough money to pay off the balance on all her credit cards. I realize that by reproducing the text of the prayer below, I am further propagating something which I despise. But... here it is:

Heavenly Father, most Gracious and Loving God, I pray to you that you abundantly bless my family and me. I know that you recognize that a family is more than just a mother, father, sister, brother, husband and wife, but all who believe and trust in You. GOD, I send up a prayer request for financial blessing for not only the person who sent this to me, but for me and all that I have forwarded this message on to. And that the power of joined prayer by those who believe and trust in you is more powerful than anything! I thank you in advance for your blessings. God, deliver the person reading this right now from debt and debt burdens.

After I read this prayer, I was reminded of a talk I heard in church once titled "God is not a vending machine." I think saying this prayer is like selecting a Twix bar from a vending machine by pushing D4. Except instead of pushing a button you say "deliver me from debt right now!" and instead of getting a candy bar you get a check for $12, 000. I have to admit, at times I think it would be pretty sweet if prayer really did work that way. I think a lot of us could muster up a lot of faith pretty fast. Mustard seed, nothing. I'm talking a whole redwood tree full of faith.

Figuring out how prayer works is hard; and I'm definitely no expert, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work the vending-machine way. I think it requires more give and take. More listening than demanding. More humility and less pride. I'd like my debt erased as much as the next person, but I don't think it will happen if I follow the email's instructions and say the prayer and forward it to 8 friends. And that doesn't mean I'm not praying for help, because believe me, I am. I believe the Lord will provide, but I have to do my part, too.
Doing my part is hard, and entails trying to stick to a budget, avoid incurring further debt, and limiting eating out to only once a week. On second thought, maybe the sender of the email was on the right track. Don't be surprised if you see an email from me in your inbox with the subject "Financial Assistance Available." You only have to forward it to 8 other people, and the results are virtually guaranteed...


Stacy & Mike said...

Amen! I also despise these sort of e-mails. Instead of praying for financial deliverance maybe she should be praying for and practicing financial responsiblity. Faith without Works is Dead. Even if she did pay off all debts does not mean she gained the knowlege needed to make changes in her life because she didn't work for it. These e-mails are like bad multi level marketing schemes via e-mail. If you get 8 people and they each get 8 people and they each get 8 people just think how the world could be so different. What a false sense of how the world and God really works.

janel said...

If only a $12,000 check would settle the debts of a Notre Dame grad. Maybe you can send me that email 8 times, and that might be more in the ballpark of our debts! : )
I've learned there's sometimes a temporary cost for faith and trust in the Lord's plan. (like ND tuition), but I have faith that if you pray this financial prayer for me, and if I don't eat any more Twix bars (or Take 5's), we might, one day, die debt free. We'll see.

Brooke Noel said...

I will definitely be using your metaphor of vending machines and prayer in my life! Kim, thanks for your thoughts, insights and encouragement through your writing. It's also nice to know that a reasonable goal for someone else is only to eat out once a week! I have to limit my trips to Cafe Rio to that number.