Jesus Is Not A Vending Machine

Prayer requires persistence.

In the book of Luke, immediately after teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus says this:

Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.” And suppose the one inside answers, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.[1]

That’s an amazing and frightening way to think about prayer: approaching God with shameless audacity!

This is one of the stories Jesus tells that needs a bit of unpacking because most of us don’t get visits from friends in the middle of the night. Back then, however, it was pretty common. If you had a long journey, you might start at dusk in order to avoid traveling while it was hot enough to crisp a camel. So if you made good time, you might show up while it was still night. But what about the next part, where the neighbor is like, “Why should I care about your little bread situation—me and my whole family are in bed already!”?

This makes me think of the insanity of the “family bed.”

The other night my daughter Maranatha tapped me on the shoulder in the middle of the night.

“Dad, I had a bad dream.”

I looked at my wife, who looked right back at me.

“Okay, baby, you can climb in with us,” I said.

She snuggled in, and both she and my wife fell asleep a few minutes later. Which was sweet for a grand total of thirty seconds. Because once Maranatha was actually asleep, she turned diagonal, stuck her icy cold feet on my shins, and began to mutter. I loved it—and absolutely didn’t love it.

I picked her up like a sack of potatoes and carried her back to bed. She didn’t wake up, praise God, and neither did my wife.

In the story Jesus tells, the whole family is in the same room, and the doors to that room—which were the doors to the house—were shut and locked. So the neighbor in our parable was basically saying, “Man, if I open the door to get you your bread, then everyone in my house, including my kids, are gonna wake up . . . and I have a business meeting in the morning!”

That’s why Jesus tells us to be persistent. Tenacious. Bold. Because he wants us to be the kind of people who don’t give up on something—or on him.

Most of us, when we pray about something that doesn’t happen, we stop praying. And that’s exactly why God doesn’t usually answer our requests immediately. We know God isn’t a cosmic vending machine, but a lot of times we act like he is. God knows our hearts and our natures, and he wants us to learn to seek after his heart. He wants us to become like Jesus, over time.

And just like that we’re back at the bull’s-eye: We need connection.

The spiritual connection we long for doesn’t come from getting everything we want the second we want it. Rather, it happens as we grow in our relationship with God. The Bible uses a picture for that, borrowed from farming. Jesus says, “Abide in me. . . . for apart from me you can do nothing.”[2]

Connection takes persistence. It takes patience and grit and even shameless audacity! But if our prayers have those qualities, we will deepen our relationship with God. Continually seeking God will continually shape us. We’ll be searching the Bible and claiming promise after promise and praying with other believers. We’ll be listening. And all the while we’ll be looking more like Jesus . . . and becoming more satisfied with our spiritual connection.

Not to mention, the Bible tells us God’s timing is different from ours. Persistence is how we sync God’s time with our time.

[1] Luke 11:5-8.

[2] John 15:4-5, esv.

You’ve been reading Daniel Fusco’s Upward, Inward, Outward: Love God, Love Yourself, Love Others. Daniel is an expert on illustrating how Jesus is at street level with you and me. In this book he unpacks how the greatest commandment Jesus gave us is to be lived out today. We only have one life, so we need to live the most meaningful life possible!

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